Gearing Up For A New Reading Project

As I near the finishing line with my World of Literature reading project, I find I have a hankering to begin a new project.

The key word there is “project” — I don’t have any interest in reading “challenges”. I did a fair number of these when I first started blogging but pulled back from them entirely two years ago because I felt under too much pressure to read X number of books by X date.

I opted instead for short reading events. Some lasted just a week like this year’s 1954club, others ran for a month like Irish Reading Month and Wales Reading Month. The only multi-month event i’ve joined has been #20booksofsummer.

They’ve been fun and I love that feeling of camaraderie and the connection to other bloggers that results. As I’ve said many times over, the social element of blogging is by far the thing that keeps me going. Without it, blogging would be just a form of vanity publishing.

The downside is the sheer number of these reading events. I felt I was hopping from one to another with little chance to catch my breath before it was time for the next one. It’s time now to slow down and take a gentler approach methinks.

The easiest solution would be to forsake all reading events and projects. To just read what I want, when I want. It’s tempting but I tried that once before and discovered that I’m a person who needs some structure in their lives. Not a massive amount but some.

So going completely free-form is not going to be the answer. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come around to thinking that a long -term, multi-year project is the answer. One I can do at my own pace.

The big question is: what kind of project?

The possibilities are endless. I could go travelling around the world again, choosing authors from countries I didn’t get to first time around. That could get really tough because, as I’ve already discovered, there is little fiction available from some of the smaller countries.

An easier approach would be to pick books based on their geographic setting. I could roam around the world or stay in one continent. Tempting but if the author doesn’t come from that particular country, I’d be concerned that I wouldn’t get an authentic flavour of that country.

A different option would to go for a time-themed project as Simon (Stuck in A Book) did with his A Century of Books. But that feels a little too restrictive.

In the end, there was a really easy answer to my question. It was one that was literally staring me in the face.

As I did yet another “tidy-up” of my bookshelves I realised just how many of my unread books are classed as classics. I’ve been chipping away at them gradually, but there are still scores of them that have lain untouched for decades.

New project takes shape

And so my project began to take shape. Now of course the simple thing would be just to read those classics I already own. But one thing led to another and I started thinking of all the classics that I’ve neglected over the years. The list of books to read got longer and longer with each passing day.

I now have a list of 100 books that I’d like to read. The full list can be found on my Classics Project page where I’ll track my progress and add links to reviews.

Image of bookshelves of old books with the headline The Classics Project and text describing a reading project to read literary classics

i’ve put them into four categories that reflect my main reading interests:

19th Century Classics: My favourite period in literature. This list includes my well-loved authors such as George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell but there are a few names I’ve not read previously like Mary Braddon and George Gissing.

20th Century Classics: My cut off point is 1959. I’m figuring that a book has to have been around for at least 60 years for it to be deemed a classic

International Classics : I’m including countries other than UK, Canada and USA. France is well represented through Emile Zola and Honoré De Balzac. Germany includes Thomas Mann and Hans Fallada. There are smatterings of Russians and one or two authors from Japan and Africa.

Celtic Classics: Here I’m listing authors from Wales, Scotland and Ireland

As part of this project I’m going to sign up again for the Classics Club Challenge. I joined this in 2012 and finished it in 2020 . So it took me took me eight, not five years, to read 50 books from my list. But it didn’t matter one jot. What I learned from that project was that you can more or less go at whatever pace suits you best. So although technically if I sign up now, I’m “supposed” to read 50 of my 100 titles by June 2027, I don’t think anyone is going to care if it slips by a few months or even years.

Second thing I learned was to list only those books I think I will enjoy reading. My mistake with my initial classics club list was to include books I thought I “should” read because they are deemed exemplary or noteworthy works of literature. But my more mature self has decided that I don’t care how many times a particular title appears in “100 best books” type listings. If a book doesn’t appeal to my interests, it’s not going on my list.

So here goes with my new project. I hope I’ll be as enthusiastic about it a year or so from now. I’ll keep checking in with you to let you know how it’s going.

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

40 thoughts on “Gearing Up For A New Reading Project

  • June 24, 2022 at 11:23 pm
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    When I read: “my favourite period for literature” my eyes lit up. Surprised that we can both have that interest and every name you mentioned, I’ve never heard of. What a great period of art.

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  • June 23, 2022 at 12:57 am
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    I need someone to inspire me to get back on the reading trail. Health problems have decimated my reading excitement. Your post has really picked me up and I have a Penguin project I am going to embark on. More on that soon (hopefully). All the best with your plans and thanks for the motivating proverbial kick in the behind!

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    • June 23, 2022 at 6:00 pm
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      Just been catching up via your blog and it does sound as if you’ve had a miserable time with the eye problem Pam – has it improved at all since your last catch up post?
      Now you have me curious to discover your Penguin project …..

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  • June 20, 2022 at 1:00 pm
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    Congratulations on avoiding a century of books – I’ve got really bogged down in mine as there are just some years nothing I fancy at all seems to have been published. Apart from one book I chose myself for its year and four a friend bought me to fill in years, I’ve done it “organically” and I haven’t filled in a new year for ages!

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    • June 20, 2022 at 4:38 pm
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      Hearing your experience Liz does make me relieved I didn’t choose century of books. Nothing worse than feeling constrained to read something you’re not keen on

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  • June 20, 2022 at 1:25 am
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    Yes! This sounds like a FANTASTIC project (love your reasoning behind framing it that way, as opposed to a “challenge”) – very similar to the one that started Keeping Up With The Penguins, actually 😉 Eagerly awaiting your reviews and reflections!

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    • June 20, 2022 at 4:39 pm
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      somehow calling it a project makes it sound less onerous

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  • June 19, 2022 at 11:55 pm
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    Sounds like a good project! Yes, on my second CC list I also went more for books I expect to enjoy than books I feel I *should* read – we all have limited reading time, so why waste it on books that don’t appeal? And while I joke regularly on my blog about failing to meet challenge deadlines, in reality I don’t care. But challenges, or projects, do motivate me to keep going back to the various booklists rather than reading a constant diet of new shiny books. Hope you have fun with your list!

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    • June 20, 2022 at 4:42 pm
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      I’m wondering if the project will help “cure” my tendency to go for new books – often only to be disappointed. There are some excellent contemporary writers but I’ve also found a lot of the much lauded ones to be rather disappointing

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    • June 20, 2022 at 4:46 pm
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      Just read your post Mary – really interesting to see your comment about how emancipating it is to get away from numeric goals and focus more on themes

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  • June 19, 2022 at 3:47 pm
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    Bon voyage with the project. Because your project is tailor made, you should actually enjoy the books as opposed to slogging through books for a Challenge, racing to meet the deadline. I tried a Challenge once, and that was enough – didn’t enjoy. But: each to their own.

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    • June 19, 2022 at 4:56 pm
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      Thanks Alison, I did spend a lot of time thinking of what books to put on the list. It would have been quicker to just copy from all the “best classics” lists but so many of them really don’t appeal

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  • June 19, 2022 at 8:18 am
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    That’s quite a project. But you’re doing well. It looks as if this is a challenge that suits you well.

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  • June 19, 2022 at 8:18 am
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    Well, I’m going to enjoy this because I grew up on the classics and I love reading reviews with a contemporary take on the ones I read a long time ago:)

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    • June 19, 2022 at 10:28 am
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      Well now my stress levels have rocketed, knowing that my reviews will be on books you may have loved 🙂

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  • June 19, 2022 at 8:00 am
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    I’m glad that you found your ‘groove’ even if it was looking right at you. Happy reading.

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  • June 19, 2022 at 12:39 am
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    You are a far better reader than I ever will be; I find that I like reading less now that I am older than when young because the mind was innocent and pure. I did not question what I read or why I enjoyed a book after having read it. I simply read and enjoyed some books while others I did not. In reading your list; I see quite a number that are familiar to me; in that, I have read them or know of the authors and have read another of their books. It is good that you challenge yourself and try to stick to it.
    I did push myself to read more for postings in June (in reading cozy mysteries) and I have been fortunate to have received some free books online to try and read; although they are not necessarily of my choosing and I am sorry to say, one, in particular, I did not like but I made myself read it entirely and all the while asking myself why. I have just started another cozy reading with an Irish author Keane and her opening in the book, is that she tries to explain some of the Irish Lexicon things like policemen and how they don’t carry a firearm but batons and some other dictions. It is wasted on me because once you’re reading the book, it flows plainly and I don’t yet see the depths of this reading but I am only in the first or second chapter; plenty more to go and I hope to enjoy this read better than that Italian/American/Voodoo in New Orleans with some Russian twists to it.
    —————–
    I agree with what you said about reading for fun and taking your time and your own twist to things; this is best for me as well. Reading should always be pleasurable and fulfilling; in that it helps to pass time in another dimension be it a worlds away or just being enrapture in that reading at that time.
    I have gone on and perhaps made not sense but ire. I am sorry and good luck with those lengthy reading lists.

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    • June 19, 2022 at 10:32 am
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      What an interesting point you raise about the different ways in which we read over our lives. I did a course on children’s literature once and there was a theory that as children we read to learn about the world -to gain knowledge – whereas as adults we read to understand what we have experienced.

      There is indeed pure joy in reading as a child. Once we’ve gone through an education system which teaches us to analyse and question what we are reading, some of that joy goes.

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  • June 18, 2022 at 8:43 pm
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    Good luck with this! I used to take part in a lot of challenges and events, but now just join in with a few that particularly appeal. Your list of classics looks very interesting and varied – I’ve read quite a few of them, but there are also a lot I haven’t read and some I’m not familiar with at all.

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    • June 19, 2022 at 10:34 am
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      It’s easy to get drawn in to all the events and challenges – I fell into that trap and found I was reading just for events rather than what I felt like reading at the time

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  • June 18, 2022 at 8:37 pm
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    Yes to reading books you think you will enjoy! Although I have found it worthwhile to read some books I didn’t like just to see what the fuss was all about, I’m not feeling motivated for that these days. Hope it all proves satisfying for you.

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    • June 19, 2022 at 10:37 am
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      Like you I’ve tried books I didn’t think would be to my taste but I wanted to push myself out of a comfort zone. That worked occasionally – it’s how I discovered Emily St John Mandel. But often didn’t and I couldn’t finish the book.

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  • June 18, 2022 at 8:22 pm
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    I’m a sucker for a reading event – especially if I can make one book fit more than one! I must admit I’m not a great reader of the classics so the classics spin has never appealed – but I’m sure you’ll enjoy your new project.

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      • June 19, 2022 at 1:03 pm
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        I’m the opposite, I think of myself as a big classics reader but I’ve only read 12 from your list! (I think it’s because I avoid C20th classics – much more of a C19th fan).

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        • June 19, 2022 at 4:57 pm
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          At one point I thought about focusing only on the 19th century – it’s definitely my favourite century too. But I also have so many 20th century ones on my shelves..

    • June 19, 2022 at 10:39 am
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      I like the idea of the spin but very rarely managed to read what book it resulted in – it was that sensation of “having” to read a particular book that put me off.

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  • June 18, 2022 at 8:00 pm
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    Well, that’s a great project – very impressive! I totally agree with you about wording – Project is the thing, not challenge, because it needs to be enjoyable. Your list is excellent I must say and I have read a few off it (though there’s plenty I haven’t). I’m a huge fan of the classics so I’ll follow your progress with interest!

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    • June 19, 2022 at 5:01 pm
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      If I hear/see the word challenge my brain starts thinking of goals and deadlines – just as if I were back in work and having write my plan for the year. Had enough of that thanks….

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  • June 18, 2022 at 6:40 pm
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    My most recent project is to read From the Newbery Awards (I have a page in my blog menu)…….but after checking off all I had read, the first two I read were DNFs! So discouraging. There’s lots of wonderful literature that never makes a list! So maybe I’ll curate my own MG award list!

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    • June 19, 2022 at 5:03 pm
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      Ugh that’s not a good start is it. I did think about doing a project based on reading all the winners of a prize – Pultizer maybe — but then I looked at the list and there were so many that didn’t appeal. Making my own list was far more fun

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      • June 19, 2022 at 5:33 pm
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        I agree with making our own lists! 🙌

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  • June 18, 2022 at 6:23 pm
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    Yes to everything you say here except that I prefer to think of ‘prompts’ instead of challenges or even projects. Those we think up ourselves could be time-constrained (like my 21 TBR Books in ’21) or open-ended (I must get back to my Library of Brief Narratives soon), but above all *we* set the rules, *and* we can interpret them at will… Anyway, good luck with yours, and I eagerly anticipate what classics you will be choosing!

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    • June 18, 2022 at 7:15 pm
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      By the way, I see I’ve only read five in your list, The Secret Agent, Ethan Frome, Brave New.World, The Thirty-nine Steps and of course the Tolkien. I’m currently reading some Gogol (which includes ‘The Nose’) while Emily is irritatedly polishing off her aged copy of Daniel Deronda which she last read in the 60s and which is shedding leaves as though it was autumn…

      Reply
    • June 19, 2022 at 5:04 pm
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      I like the idea of prompts. Marina at findingtimetowrite always comes up with interesting ones.

      Reply

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