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.
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.