Classics Club Project: It’s A Wrap!

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Flush with the success of completing my Booker Prize project, I’ve now reached the finishing line on a second long-term reading project: The Classics Club.

This was a project started in August 2012 to read 50 classics of literature over the course of five years. That “deadline” came and went. As did the sixth and the seventh anniversaries. But I was determined I would have this done before the eighth anniversary rolled around.

I made it with three months to spare.

Thankfully my final book was a pleasure to read: Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope which is book number four out of the six that form his Chronicles of Barsetshire series.

What else did I read as part of the project? You can see my full list of titles here as well as the books I couldn’t finish, I actually listed far more than 50 titles when the project got underway because I wanted plenty of choice. So there are another 30 books that I never got around to reading.

The books I chose were a combination of authors I’d never read previously (like

was an attempt to fill in the gaps in my reading of the great and the good from the literary world. The eagle eyed among my readers will notice that there are more than 50 titles listed here. The reason is simple: I wanted plenty of choice so I could pick a novel to suit different moods. 

Some of the authors I selected were people I have never read before such as Honore Balzac and John Steinbeck. Others were novels I had read previously but at age when I don’t think I fully understood them  (such as Mrs Dalloway). I mixed in a few favourites like George Eliot; some novels translated from their original language and some Welsh classics.

I used a very loose definition of “classic”. I didn’t take it to mean just old (though I did read a few Greek tragedies). Nor did I interpret classics as those books appearing in “xxx books you must read before you die” lists. I wanted books that had endured the passage of time; that could be considered “important” or “significant” in themselves or in terms of the author’s body of work.

So I ended up with books spread across the centuries starting from Euripedes and Medea, both believed to have been written around 431 BC. I managed one eighteenth century novel in the form of The Vicar of Wakefield and 18 novels from my favourite literary period. To my surprise the majority of books I read were from the twentieth century, starting with Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career in 1901 and ending with The Human Factor by Graham Greene in 1978.

Was it worth doing? Yes absolutely, I read some fabulous books and found some authors that I want to discover further.

Will I do it again? I know there are some members of the Classics Club that are on their second cycle. I have 30 books already identified and it wouldn’t be too hard to find another 20.

But I’m not going to commit myself at this point. You all know I don’t like projects which involve reading from lists plus I have a few other projects i’d like to complete first. So I shall pause for this year at least.

Which were my favourite books? I’ll share my list of 10 favourites and (maybe) 10 disappointments with you soon but will just leave you with my top 3 selections for now.

The 3 Favourites

L’Assommoir by Emile Zola: My love affair with Zola continued with this novel from 1877. It’s set in Paris, tracing the miserable existence of a woman who tries to make something of her life but keeps getting pulled down by a lazy, drunkard husband. Simply superb.

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West: A wonderful tale of a recently woman who decides, in her late 80s, to exert independence for the first time in her life.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: I read this on a flight from UK to USA and, for once, did not want the journey to come to an end. I was quite resentful when we landed and had to unbuckle before I had read the last few pages.

Would these be among your favourite “classic” reads? Are there any books you think I should add to my list if I decided to do a second round of the Classics Club? By the way if you’d like to join in with this project, just visit the blog site Classics Club via this link.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on June 8, 2020, in Classics Club and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Congrats! Not surprised to see Zola here!

  2. Congratulations! I’m currently putting a list together to start the 50 Classic club book challenge later this year 🤞 and will certainly check your list out. 😀 Good luck with your other projects.

  3. Wonderful, wonderful!!! Congrats! It’s always inspiring to see people finish. I bought the Vita Sackville-West a while ago on your recommendation. 🙂 Your description of L’Assommoir by Emile Zola sounds good enough I reckon I’ll TBR it as well.

  4. Wow!!! You completed your Booker and Classics challenges! That’s amazing! Congrats!

  5. Congratulations! 🙂

  6. Congratulations! And the prize is reading so many marvellous and unforgettable stories 🙂

  7. Congratulations! This year has been odd in yet another way–I’ve loved reading from lists. Usually I lose all interest once I make the list lol. Do what I normally do–just read, then periodically look at the list or challenges or whatever and fill in the blanks or check off what you’ve read!

    • There’s probably a good psychological explanation for that – maybe with all the chaos in the world, you felt you wanted some order in your own life. Reading from that list could give you the order and structure you wanted

  8. Congratulations! I am still stuck on my Classics club project, might have to pick a few recommendations from your list.

    Now that you’re done with the Booker and Classics club, do you have any reading goal in mind?

    • I still have a few other reading projects on the go – reading 50 novels by authors from different countries across the world (I have 10 to go); and my Emile Zola project are the two big ones.Plenty to keep me occupied

  9. Congratulations! It’s always such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you finish a project. Well done.

  10. Congratulations! I too started with a long list and I’ve read well over 50 of them – but I’m only half-way there when it comes to reviewing. So my deadline will certainly be extended. Like you, I loved All Passion Spent.

  11. Congratulations on finishing! It is quite a long committment and some of the books that appealed to me four years ago when I started have lost their shine a bit now. But I think I’ll do it again when I finish, and I hope that after a good break you might find your enthusiasm returning… 😀

  12. Congratulations! I began my list in 2018 and extended it to April 2020 -mmm I’d better extend it again!! I still have 8 left to read.

    I also thought All Passion Spent is a wonderful novel.

  13. Many congratulations on finishing your list! I’m still some off completing mine but the periodic spins certainly help. I need to form the habit of including a title from my list in my reading schedule each month.

    • I went in fits and starts with mine, sometimes going for half a year without reading anything from the list. In an ideal world I would have done as you are planning, and that would have made it much quicker. I just kept getting distracted

  14. Congratulations! I definitely need to get more classics back into my reading so will take this as inspiration.

    • The classics club challenge is a really good one to do – the organisers are good at giving you nudges along the way to help you read more…

  15. You are amazing and inspiring! 🙌🙌🙌

  16. With these two projects finished, you really will be ‘free-range reading’ this year! Well done.

    • I have one big one to finish – my world of literature reading project has 10 more countries to visit. I’m doing it the hard way by reading authors born in a particular country. If I did it just based on where the novel was set i would be much easier to find titles. But some countries seem to have so little literature in translation

  17. Congratulations – what an achievement! And so pleased Crime and Punishment made it into your top three – what a book! 😀

  18. Fantastic! What a great achievement.

  19. Did you ever see the serialised adaptation of All Passion Spent? It was excellent and well worth seeking out if you missed it.

  20. Congratulations on completing your Classics Club list!

  21. No arguing with L’Assommoir, years since I read it, but I loved it.

  1. Pingback: Dr Thorne by Anthony Trollope: Troubled Love : BookerTalk

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