Friday, October 17, 2014

The Classics Club: Midpoint Report


It's been two and a half years since I joined The Classics Club on April 15, 2012. My goal at that time was to read 50 classics in 5 years. I made a list of 50 books plus 5 personal challenge books, and figured one every month or so should do it. Complete details can be found on my Classics Club page.

To date: I have read 25 of 50 books

Brontë, Anne - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Brookner, Anita - Hotel du Lac
Buck, Pearl S. - Imperial Woman
Calvino, Italo - If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Capote, Truman  - Breakfast at Tiffany's
Christie, Agatha - And Then There Were None
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Eliot, George - Middlemarch
Gaskell, Elizabeth - North and South
Greene, Graham - The End of the Affair
Jackson, Shirley -  The Haunting of Hill House
James, Henry - Washington Square
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hemingway, Ernest - The Old Man and the Sea
Plath, Sylvia  - The Bell Jar
Pym, Barbara - A Glass of Blessings
Pym, Barbara - Some Tame Gazelle
Stewart, Mary - The Ivy Tree
Strachey, Julia - Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Tanizaki, Junichiro - The Makioka Sisters
Thackery, William Makepeace - Vanity Fair
Thirkell, Angela - High Rising
Wharton, Edith - The Age of Innocence
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, John - Stoner

Surprisingly I am on track, yet my reading has not been entirely consistent.

  • 2012 - 6 classics (in 8 months)
  • 2013 - 13 classics, a banner year
  • 2014 -  6 classics to date

I'm willing to cut myself a little slack this year since two of those six books were 800 pages or more, Middlemarch  and  An American Tragedy. 

Additionally, my male/female author ratio is 11/14, but nearly all authors are British or American.

An interesting observation: 12 of the 25 books read have involved other readers. This includes 6 read-alongs or buddy reads and 6 Classics Spins sponsored by The Classics Club.

My conclusion: Classics are better with friends!

Moving ahead: My original list is now fluid, or evolving. When a book interests me, I add it to my list. Also, I need to get to those non-American/British authors on my list.

And of the books I've read...

Most Anticipated:
An American Tragedy  by Theodore Dreiser - It had been on my shelf for nearly 35 years.


Most Beautifully Written:
Stoner by John Williams

Most Disappointing:
The Bell Jar  by Sylvia Plath - I should have read this book in my 20's.

Most Surprising (in a good way):
The Makioka Sisters  by Junichiro Tanizaki


Most Memorable Characters:
Tess and Alec from Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Most Recommended to Others:
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
North and South
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
The Makioka Sisters

Do you enjoy reading classics? Have you joined The Classics Club?

42 comments:

  1. Wow, good work! I enjoy a classic now and then, but I haven't wanted to commit to the 50 required for the Classics Club. I promised to read the books my daughter gets assigned in high school English along with her, though--that's certainly going to lead me to reading a few over the next couple of years.

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    1. Leila - One of the reasons I signed up for The Classics Club is because I made that same promise to read my daughter's HS English books, but didn't follow through on it. I've always enjoyed classics though.

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  2. Impressive JoAnn.

    I liked - The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki a lot.

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    1. Diane - Thanks. I keep meaning to read some of Tanizaki's other work, but haven't gotten to it yet.

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  3. I agree, an impressive list! Seeing The Makioka Sisters reminds me that you introduced me to them, and I'm so grateful :) I feel like I read more classics and older novels than newly-published ones, but this year may be an exception. I look forward to your next 25 books.

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    1. Lisa - I really enjoy a mix of old and new books, but this year I seem to be reading so many new releases. Need to pay closer attention to my reading choices next year.

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  4. As a new book blogger and very recent member of The Classics Club I'm really impressed. I hope I do as well. I have wanted to read American Tragedy since I read your review. I have yet to do a read-a-long but think it would be fun.

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    1. Emma - Readalongs have been a lot of fun for me. They don't all work out and I didn't manage to complete the one I hosted a couple of years ago (Clarissa by Samuel Richardson), but I've met some of my favorite blogging people that way.

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  5. Awesome! I went on a Dickens reading binge a few years ago and read more than half his library. My list is still super long, but I haven't set any goals as far as classics go. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I need to get smart about it, like you. =)

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    1. Crystal - That's a lot of Dickens! I've only read A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and Bleak House, but have David Copperfield on my CC list. The Classics Club has been a great way to focus on classics and I've met some new bloggers, too.

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  6. North and South is going to be one of my top books of the year. Good job on the challenge. I really want to read Middlemarch.

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    1. Heidi - North and South was one of my favorites a couple of years ago, and I loved the miniseries, too! Middlemarch was very good, but it won't make my list this year. Glad I joined the club :)

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  7. Well done! Hard to believe so much time has gone by so quickly. Definitely agree that Classics are better with friends - Clarissa will never be forgotten! I'm also very flexible with my list and constantly adding and changing. I don't think I would achieve so much if I couldn't do that.

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    1. Cat - No, I will never forget Clarissa, lol! The flexible list has definitely made reading classics more fun, but I know I won't be adding Pamela any time soon ;-)

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  8. Great job! I've yet to fully start mine but I'm determined I'm going to get all mine read. You got some pretty intense books read. I remember loving Tess in high school but I'm not sure I have the emotional stamina to read it again!

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    1. Katherine - I had Tess assigned in college, but never read it... such an amazing book. It redefined my ideal of a tragedy! Now I need to read more Hardy.

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  9. I do, and I really should join, because lists like yours are so inspiring! (I also know that there are a lot of classics that I should read and haven't yet.) Congrats on your impressive progress!

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    1. Audrey - For some reason, I thought you already joined! Reading The Age of Innocence and meeting you at The Mount is one of my classics club highlights!

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  10. Very impressive, JoAnn! And how rewarding to set yourself a challenge and be on target. A nip in the air always makes me want to read something Victorian so I've chosen East Lynne by Ellen Wood for November. Can't wait!

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    1. Darlene - That nip in the air has turned into a few snowflakes here! That makes me want to read the Russians... maybe this winter;-)

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  11. I read The Makioka Sisters for my Classics Club challenge as well, and I loved it. I put 75 books on my list, and I think I'm up to #49, Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant, which I am really enjoying.

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    1. Karen K. - Congratulations on your progress! The Classics Club has been a great experience... will hate to see it end.

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  12. Congrats on staying on track. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about these classics.

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    1. Pat - I was surprised to have exactly 25 books read at this point... you'd think I actually planned it that way, lol!

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  13. Great going!

    I am a big fan of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, but The Makioka Sisters is one I still haven't read.

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    1. Readthegamut - I'd appreciate recommendations for other Tanizaki titles. The Makioka Sisters is the only one I'm familiar with.

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  14. Congrats on reaching the halfway mark in all ways possible (I'm not sure I'm brave enough to do the stats on mine!)

    Delighted to see 2 of my TBR list on your highly recommended (North & South and TOWH). I'm also looking forward to Stoner (you're the 2nd mention tonight...it could be a sign).

    I'm glad you've enjoyed the social side of the Classics Club as much as I have. It was much nicer reading Tess again, knowing that I was sharing it with someone - thank you :-)

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    1. Brona - You are in for a treat with North and South! I'm looking forward to reading more Gaskell now. Tenant of Wildfell Hall was also wonderful... I'm not really sure why Anne is considered the lesser Bronte. She was definitely ahead of her time with that novel.

      Tess is also one of my most memorable Classics Club reads... it changed my way of thinking about tragedy.

      Stoner is simply one of the most beautifully written books, ever!

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  15. This is incredible! You're halfway there! I love your comment about "Classics are better with friends!" I completely agree. Some of the most memorable ones I've read were part of a readathon. I've found other readers help me notice things about each novel. Also, you prompted me to finally start American Tragedy and I'm halfway through it now!

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    1. Melissa - Readalongs have definitely roved some of my most memorable reading experiences, too. I can't wait to hear what you think of An American Tragedy... hope you are enjoying it!

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  16. Classics are better with friends! I like the way you put that. I've always been a classics reader, but I find myself encouraged to read some of the toughies (those long Russian ones, for example) by other classics readers. And I love the discipline of the reading schedules that read-alongs provide.

    I'll have to check out Stoner--never heard of it!

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    1. JaneGS - I could definitely use some encouragement to tackle the Russian novels on my Classics Club list. I haven't read any of them! May give Crime and Punishment a try this winter. We'll see...

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  17. Classics ARE better with friends! I haven't been doing very well on my Classics Club list (thank goodness no one is actually going to kick me out at the end of five years), but most of the reads I have done were readalongs and I'm hoping for more next year.

    Love how you've laid out your stats here. I haven't analyzed my list in great detail but it's such a great idea!

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    1. Trish - Some of my favorite classics experiences have been readalongs. I'm pretty sure Wuthering Heights was my first one... hoping for more in 2015, too!

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  18. You don't know how badly I've wanted to sign up for this - for years! I hate to put obligations on myself at this point in time since life itself is just too stressful. Maybe if I find the time to make a fun/stress-free list.
    Great job JoAnn! You inspire me :)

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    1. Stacy - I know exactly what you mean! In fact, I'm amazed anyone with young children can even find the time to read and blog, let alone sign up for challenges, etc. Kids eventually grow up (thank God!), but in the meantime I like the idea of making a fun list :)

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  19. Oh yes, classics ARE better with friends! I've done well with my informal not-really defined goal to read more classics and most have been readalongs or audio or some odd tendency to try chunksters which I used to avoid. Great job being half way through the list and half way through the time goal.

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    1. Thanks, Care. I'm surprised at the number of chunksters I've read, too... mostly with a little help from readalongs and audios. Wonder which ones will call to me in 2015...

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  20. I've read about 13 of your 25. Some great books on there, and no clunkers as far as the ones I have read. I have been feeling lately like I should read the Plath just so I that as context for readerly discussions with other book people.

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    1. Thomas - I was a little disappointed in The Bell Jar. Probably would have loved it in my 20s, but felt like I'm just too old for it now... kind of like "The Catcher in the Rye effect". Still, it seems like one of those books every reader ought to read and I'm glad I finally got around to it.

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