Friday, August 27, 2010

56 Classics in Review.

Like I mentioned in Wednesday's post, I am celebrating one year of my challenge complete. And while I thought I would be further along than I am, I have checked off 56 titles from my list of 250. I feel I should point out that "56" also contains all three Lord of the Rings novels, as well as the nine novels and collections of short stories that make up The Complete Sherlock Holmes, so the actual number of physical novels read is 66. :)

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to give you a recount of what I have read this past year and give you some fun and different links to each of the titles I finished. They will go month by month, so if you are a recent follower, perhaps some of my early titles will interest you!

(I feel I should also point out that near the end, there may not be a link, as my posts for my most recent books haven't made it up on the blog yet!)

September 2009:
I began with The Odyssey and had an uncomfortable moment when I finished it. Next up was Crime and Punishment and I was grateful to get one of the most intimidating books on the list out of the way. I was actually surprised how easy it was to read! I also had a funny run-in at the library. Next up was E.M. Forster's A Room With A View, which my readers voted for. I fell in love with one character in particular. The last book in that first month was Pride and Prejudice, which my sister picked out for me to read next. I found some great author criticisms to make me laugh.

October 2009:
October began with some Shakespeare as I re-read Much Ado About Nothing and I fell back in love with Shakespeare's beautiful gift with words. I decided to then get in the Halloween spirit and read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I had somehow never read before. I then felt it was time to bond with Tolkien and revisit old memories, remember the Ents, and come to the end of all things with Frodo and Sam. Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea found me remembering fishing with my grandfather with its beautiful language and story.

November 2009:
November started with the creepy story McTeague by Frank Norris and I was left feeling somewhat disturbed by its dark and morbid tale. I then bit the bullet and matched off with my arch-nemesis Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. He made me fall asleep, procrastinate, and then turn one of his characters into a sandwich. I was then moved by Toni Morrison's beautifully written The Bluest Eye. Last, I turned to Albert Camus' The Stranger and was left feeling uninspired.

December 2009:
December was an emotional month as my wedding day was fast approaching. I was also absorbed in Emile Zola's Germinal for the greater part of the month. When I finally finished it, I felt like I was somehow much older and wiser. The second book I squeezed in before the holidays was Richard Adam's Watership Down, which made think of bunnies in new ways.

January 2010:
The new year dawned and I attacked with a vengeance. I read Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck as Matt and I traveled half the country to and from our honeymoon. The mood and tone of the novel reminded me how much I love the country I live in. I returned to an old and trusted friend in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome which only confirmed my mad love affair with Edith. Next was D.H. Lawrences' Sons and Lovers and it left me feeling hardly anything. That all changed as I read the heart-breaking The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow and stayed awake for a week thinking about my own life. The cold month of January ended with my second foray into Shakespeare with The Winter's Tale.

February 2010:
I rediscovered my love for Tom and Huck in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and scared Matt by telling him I want a boy just like Tom. I then felt sorry for poor Catherine Sloper in Henry Jame's Washington Square. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot reminded me why she is one of my all-time favorites with the tragic elegance of the story and her writing style. Book 23 was the always entertaining and scary Animal Farm by George Orwell which made me contemplate that tricky area of politics. I was then upset by the lack of emotion I felt with Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, which I had high hopes for. I turned to Willa Cather's O Pioneers! next, as a way of conquering an old demon...and I ended up loving her style. The month ended with a long-time favorite, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

March 2010:
The third month of 2010 was a great success, with more novels read in those 31 days than in any other month. It began with "the green light" and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I then tackled a complete unknown in one of the Bronte sisters (Emily) and her Wuthering Heights. Even thought I hated everyone, I still loved the book. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood reminded me I need to read more of her work. Golding made me feel creepy with his Lord of the Flies and I determined it just wasn't for me. Miller and his Death of a Salesman left me contemplating the American Dream. After finishing Moliere's The Misanthrope, I felt like I should have participated in drama in school! I rounded out my time with plays with Anton Chekov's last play, The Cherry Orchard and left it feeling like I just didn't get it. I began my journey with Holmes and Watson in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four before turning to another old favorite in Virginia Woolf's lyrically beautiful Mrs. Dalloway. The month ended with the thought-provoking The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, with the hope I could one day teach it to students.

April 2010:
I began the month with another Shakespeare play, Macbeth, and remembered my fondness for the witches. Vonnegut reminded me why he is so wonderful and weird with Slaughterhouse-Five. I continued with Sherlock and Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and read Jack London's The Call of the Wild in one sitting for the read-a-thon. I read the one unknown Austen novel left on my shelf, Persuasion, and realized that I am growing up. This was also the first month I participated in a read-along and I flew through my second Dostoevsky with The Brothers Karamazov.

May 2010:
May began with a monster when I completed Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo for the Classics Circuit past the date I was assigned (oops!). Once again I was swept into 221B Baker St. with Holmes and Watson in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes where Doyle finally killed off Holmes (for now). I explored my first dive into Thomas Hardy with The Mayor of Casterbridge and explained my fondness for wonderfully written characters. I decided to get a high school classic out of the way with Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and again, felt hardly anything when I finished it. Book 44 was another old friend, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, with its famous one sentence chapter and the emotions it evoked when I set it down. I took another adventure with my Baker Street buddies in The Return of Sherlock Holmes and discovered how Holmes was "resurrected." Lastly, I took a big risk by reading a novel surrounded with controversy, but I ended up falling in love with Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.

June 2010:
June started with another trip with Watson and Holmes as they solved the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Pumped up, I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark and left feeling like once more, I was missing the point. I then went to a deserted island with Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and was surprised to find that I liked the island narrative. Who knew? Once more I contributed to the Classics Circuit by reading Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons which has sparked within me an interest to read more Russian literature. During this packed month I hosted not one, but TWO read-alongs. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift was a reread for me, but offered a lot to discuss. I also read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell with a great group of people!

July 2010:
This month began with some time with an old friend, The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton and found that life experience changed my reading experience. I traveled to the United States and back in my Sherlock Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear. In the middle of the month, I traveled on vacation and enjoyed some fun reads that were not from my list. But I also managed to host another readalong, this time over Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude.

August 2010:
One year later has brought me to August, where I am still checking off titles on my list of 250. This month I completed the monstrous An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which I had been lugging around with me since early July. A friend at work convinced me to finally read James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans and I may be throwing my dislike for Cooper out the window. I also took my last two trips with Watson and Holmes in His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. With all of the hype, I also managed to fit in The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins as books I really wanted to read. After reading Collins' work, I was worried nothing would catch my attention, but I reread Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club in one sitting. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is my next novel and I am looking forward to revisiting a novel that I loved the first 2 times I read it. I am also hosting another readalong for William Shakespeare's The Tempest, as well as meandering (torturing myself is more like it) my way through Bleak House by arch-nemesis Charles Dickens.

I am looking forward to another year of great classics! Happy Reading everyone!


  1. If you really think about it, that's reading more than one classic per week, and some of those are LONG so you're really doing a great job on your list. Especially sticking to it for so long! When I make long lists like that, I get really bored after a few months.

  2. Wow! When you read your list and all that you read, I can remember back life going on as you did. You've come a long way in the past year. Be proud and thanks for the memories. Love, Mom

  3. Kudos to you. That is quite an achievement.

  4. Allie this is AWESOME. It's so awesome, I just bookmarked this post. I love love LOVE reading about your honest experiences with these classics, and I think it's cool that you honestly admitted to not liking every one after you finished. But be able to read all these classics - some of which are pretty dang hard to read - that is INSPIRING. Steph is right - KUDOS to you!

  5. Amanda: You make a good point. Before I committed myself to this project, I was reading MAYBE 10 classics a year, and half of those were simply rereads of favorites. Most of my reading was YA, Fantasy, or sci-fi. And I am surprised I am still here! Thanks for all the encouragement!

    Mom: Awww shucks. Thanks. :)

    Steph: Thank you very much!

    Amelia: Thank you! I'm honored! In some ways I feel like I have come very far, and in others...not so much. But I am enjoying this process. :)

  6. Thats quite an achievement - I bet modern books will read so easily after your done ;)

  7. You've done a wonderful job. Just committing to read all of these is admirable, but you've made some serious headway!