Classics Club Project

classics club

Project completed June 2020

The idea of The Classics Club  is to make a list of fifty or more classics you want to read within the next five years. There is no strict definition of what constitutes “a classic”. 

For the purposes of your project list, it’s your choice, really. Modern classics, ancient classics, Eastern canon, Western canon, Persephone, Virago, African literature, children’s classics… You make your own goal, and you decide what is “a classic.”

 I finished book number 50 on June 4. This is way beyond the five years the project was meant to take but who cares! 

About my Classics Club list 

The list of books I put together 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 listed here are people I have never read before (mainly the non British authors like Maupassant or Voltaire).

Others are novels I feel I ought to have read but somehow never got around to it (Crime and Punishment; Washington Square for example).

There is a third category of novels I read long long ago as a teenager (Mrs Dalloway; The Plague) and frankly didn’t understand but I included them in the hope my more mature self would do better.

And for those days when I need a book that feels as comfortable as a hot water bottle, there were my old favourites of George Eliot and Jane Austen.

All titles marked ** denote that they are re-reads. The books are listed in order of publication date.

Books I read in the Classics Club Challenge

Links are to my reviews

Medea:  — Euripedes about 431 BC Read Nov 2012

Electra – Euripedes about 431 BC Read Nov 2012

The Vicar of Wakefield  — Oliver Goldsmith 1766. Read March 2019

Old Goriot  — Honore Balzac 1835 Read October 2015   

**Mansfield Park   — Jane Austen 1814 Read May 2015   

Old Curiosity Shop  — Charles Dickens 1840 Read March 2015

Mary Barton —  Elizabeth Gaskell 1848 Read May 2019

Little Dorrit  — Charles Dickens 1855  read Feb-March 2013

North and South  — Elizabeth Gaskell 1855 – read Oct 2012

Dr Thorne  – Anthony Trollope 1858 – read February 2017

Adam Bede  — George Eliot 1859 Read Nov 2015

Framley Parsonage  – Anthony Trollope 1861  read May 2020

Wives and Daughters  — Elizabeth Gaskell 1864 read Dec 2014

Crime and Punishment  — Fyodor Dostoevsky 1866 read Feb-March 2013 

The Fortune of the Rougons  — Emile Zola 1871 Read May 2015

The Kill/La Curée – Emile Zola 1871-2 Read April 2019

L’Assommoir — Emile Zola 1877 read March 2014

Washington Square/Daisy Miller  — Henry James 1879 read January 2015

The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola — read March 2018

The Diary of a Nobody  — George Grossmith 1888 read April 2017

The Turn of the Screw Henry James 1898  Read June 2015

My Brilliant Career — Miles Franklin  1901 Read January 2019

A Room with a View  — E M Forster 1915  Read March 2014

Return of the Soldier  — Rebecca West 1917 Read January 2019

My Antonia Willa Cather 1918 Read May 2017

Age of Innocence  — Edith Wharton 1920 Read April 2020

**Mrs Dalloway  — Virginia Woolf 1925 Read February 2016

Farewell to Arms — Hemmingway 1929 Read March 2013 

All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville West 1931 Read September 2019

A Room of One’s Own  — Virginia Woolf 1932 Read August 2017

Turf or Stone  — Margiad Evans 1934 Read March 2020

South Riding Winifred Holtby 1936. Read November 2018

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier 1936  Read June 2017

Of Mice and Men  — Steinbeck 1937  Read April 2013

**The Power and the Glory  — Grahame Greene 1940 Read December 2013

Never No More – Maura Laverty 1942Read January 2020

Cannery Row  — John Steinbeck 1945 Read Dec 2013

**Cry, the Beloved Country  — Alan Paton 1948 Finished April 2015

Heart of the Matter  — Grahame Greene 1948 Finished August 2013

The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey 1948 Finished May 2019

Love in a Cold Climate  — Nancy Mitford 1949  Read August 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote 1950 Read July 2019

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore 1955 Read November 2019

Things Fall Apart  — Chinua Achebe 1958 Read March 2015

The Country Girls  — Edna O’Brien 1960 Read June 2013

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson 1962 Read August 2017

The Girls of Slender Means  — Muriel Spark 1963 Read Dec 2012

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  — Maya Angelou 1969 – Read Nov 2012

Bottle Factory Outing  — Beryl Bainbridge 1974 Read August 2013

The Human Factor — Graham Greene 1978 Read October 2017

Abandoned Books

Pamela  —  Samuel Richardson 1740 did not finish

Tale of Two Cities  — Charles Dickens 1859 – did not finish

The Leopard  — Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa 1958 did not finish

Remaining From Original List

Evelina  — Frances Burney 1778

Ormond – Maria Edgeworth 1817

The Black Sheep  — Honore Balzac 1842

Bleak House  — Charles Dickens 1852 (did not finish)

Basil – Wilkie Collins 1852

** Can You Forgive Her  — Anthony Trollope  1864

Last Chronicle of Barset – Anthony Trollope 1867

** Anna Karenina  — Leo Tolstoy 1873-77

The Way we Live Now  by Anthony Trollope – 1875

Daniel Deronda  — George Eliot 1876

The Brothers Karamazov  — Fyodor Dostoevsky 1880

New Grub Street – George Gissing 1891

Lord Jim – Joseph Conrad 1899

Anna of the Five Towns  — Arnold Bennett 1902

The Secret Agent  — Joseph Conrad 1907

Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett 1910

O pioneers—  Willa Cather  1913

The Voyage Out  — Virginia Woolf 1915

Gone to Earth  — Mary Webb 1917

**The Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf 1927

The Last September—  Elizabeth Bowen 1929

Old Soldiers Never Die – Frank Richards 1933

**Frost in May — Antonia White 1933

The Grapes of Wrath  — John Steinbeck 1939

Goodbye to Berlin – Christopher Isherwood 1939

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith 1943

**The Plague  — Albert Camus 1947

The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles 1949

Troy Chimneys  — Margaret Kennedy 1952

The Quiet American  — Graham Greene 1955

The Fall Albert Camus 1956

Love in the Time of Cholera  — Gabriel Garcia Marquez 1985

  1. I like how you list the changes you’ve made to your list by year. I just revised my list for the second time and color-coded it a bit, but during the first revision, I didn’t keep notes. Sad to see you’ve removed Moby Dick. I hope he gets back on your list one of these days.

  2. A v good list (I do The Classics Club as well). I saw the “did not finish” by Tale of Two Cities, haha – an honest reader 🙂 I have a few of those myself (Moby Dick, Midnight’s Children and Ulysses, come to mind). I’ll keep an eye on your blog.

  3. I love how you add to your list with changes. I suspect I’ll end up doing that as well. And you’re making great progress! I might add a couple of these to my list. 🙂

  4. Just googled it and I am right, it’s Old Goriot. I read it fifty years ago so I wasn’t sure, but it appears in this instance my memory didn’t fail me!

  5. I’m pretty sure it’s Old Goriot by Balzac, not Old Gariot!!

  6. I love Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov and The Master and Margarita…well, I guess I love Russian literature. The Tale of Two Cities had an ending I’ll never forget, but it is tough getting there. As Bleak House was a bit tough going.

    • The tale of two cities is one book I absolutely cannot get through and I struggled with bleak House so much I’m not sure I will finish it. Brothers Karamazov does have an attraction for me though.

  7. Great list you have here, we have some of the same books on our lists.

    I really look forward to reading your review of North & South, not sure yet whether I”ll read it before or after I read the book myself.

  8. Karen, please please please read Half of a Yellow Sun very soon! I saw Chimamanda at the Hay Festival. She is well worth travelling to see. Something very magical about her, she’s totally delightful! It has opened my eyes to Nigeria and sparked (another) interest. I haven’t read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart yet but have just started his latest novel which tells the history of the Biafran War which is the backdrop of Half of a Yellow Sun. Without a shadow of a doubt it is the book that has probably had most influence on me 🙂

  9. Dragonflydaydreams

    We share lots of the same titles…but you are the only other person, so far, that has Silent Spring on their list as well.

    • I love being different don’t you!. It’s been on my shelf for a long time – I keep dipping into it periodically and though i don’t understand a lot of the science, the beauty of her writing is astonishing. Karen Heenan-Davies


  10. I have Gaskell on my list as well – somehow I’ve never read anything by her. Unfortunately, I just finished The Moonstone – the day before I signed up for the challenge. 😉

    • Moonstone could still count – I don’t think anyone is paying that close attention!

      The only Gaskell I have read is Cranford which I found rather insubstantial but others who know her work better tell me that North and South has much more depth Karen Heenan-Davies


  11. This seems like a good list, got a bit of everything. 50 classics in 5 years, would be like 10 a year — sounds maybe manageable eh? I’m considering whether join the club as well. I’m a bit on the fence

    • I’ve no idea whether I can do 10 a year to be perfectly honest, particularly since I’m also doing a Booker prize challenge and studying for a children’s lit degree. But I thought I would give it a go on the basis that if I read 40 or 30 its still more than I would have done without the challenge. Give it a go – you may be surprised. Karen Heenan-Davies


  12. Welcome to the club! The Quiet American is on my list as well.

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