Monday, December 11, 2017

2018 Back to the Classics Challenge



This blog needs a reboot, and I need some inspiration. For the last few years, life has thrown enough challenges at me that I've just tried to keep my head above water. But I'd like to at least try to choose some of my own challenges this year.

So I'm going to try the Back to the Classics Challenge. And just to make it more interesting, I'm going to restrict myself to books I already own--as much as possible, books I own but have not read or at least have not finished. (According to the rules of the challenge, it doesn't count if you start before 2018, but I assume it's OK if I go back to the beginning.)

And, as part of the rules, I have to post reviews of each book, so that will top my posts this year as a start.

Let's see how it goes:


1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

The Master of Ballantrae, Robert Louis Stevenson. Picked up at a library sale sometime. Never read.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. 

The Fall of Arthur, J. R.R. Tolkien. Recently published, but definitely written before 1968. Gift from a co-worker last year, haven't really gotten to it yet.

3.  A classic by a woman author. 

Unless I think of something else for this slot, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I started it last year but didn't finish.  I'll have to start over, which will be annoying. Don't remember where I got it; it's one of those nice Barnes and Noble editions, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new.

4.  A classic in translation.  

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I've read it before, but it's been about a decade. Also I think this translation might be different than the one I read first, from the library. Picked it up at a used bookstore a few years ago.

5. A children's classic.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. This will probably be a family read-aloud. I think I read it once as a child, which was about the least number of times I've read any children's book on the shelf. We have a nice annotated one I found at a library sale.

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Can't get much more crime than that. No idea where this one is from; the print is tiny but the book looks new.

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. 

Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Dana. Bears all the hallmarks of a long-ago library sale.

8. A classic with a single-word title.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, because I don't think I've ever actually finished it.

9. A classic with a color in the title. 
I was going to pick The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane. I think I tried to read this about the age of 10 and didn't really get it. But then I realized that the copy I have is a Watermill, and my experience of those is that not only are they abridged with a machete, they then lie about it. So not that one.

I'll do The Scarlet Letter instead. I've read it before, but not since my early teens.

10. A classic by an author that's new to you.

Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy. I probably won't like Hardy. But I've never given him a try. Probably library sale.

11. A classic that scares you.

The Aeneid by Virgil. Somehow I've never been able to get into it--not even a retold version. I shall try again. Part of my Great Books of the Western World, which was a wedding gift.

12. Re-read a favorite classic.

Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton. I got in the mood for reading Heretics after watching a Murdoch Mystery in which H. G. Wells featured, and once I finish it I'm sure I'll want to do Orthodoxy. Long-ago Christmas present. I have a lot of Chesterton.

7 comments:

Uglemor said...

This challenge sounds great. I think I'm in as well. It would be so nice to have an excuse for reading books for once. I'll link to yout blog as well, as I would never have heard of this challenge if not for you.

Darren said...

This is great! I'll look forward to the reviews.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

Good list. I look forward to your impressions.

Master of Ballantrae is good. Not in the pantheon like Treasure Island, but good.
I really like Frankenstein. It sparked a good discussion with my daughters when they read it.
Crime and Punishment is probably the best intro to Dostoevsky, if you haven't read him before. Not nearly as all over the place as Brothers Karamazov.
I really love Two Years Before The Mast, in significant part because of his descriptions of the California Coast before it had cities - I can recognize so much from his descriptions - he's a good writer.
Yeah, you should finish Ivanhoe. Disney cribbed from that book a LOT.
The Scarlet Letter is better as an adult. And BOOOO! to abridged editions.
You will probably hate Jude the Obscure. It is probably the most misogynistic book I have read - although Hardy DID have a horrid marriage, so some of it makes sense if you know the back story. But boy does he hate women. Don't take it as necessarily representative of Hardy's other books though. He wasn't always a bitter old man.
I hope you have a good translation of the Aeneid. I didn't find it as good as the Odyssey, but better than the Iliad, in my view.
Anyway, have fun, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Queen of Carrots said...

I'm curious whether I will find Hardy's misogyny more annoying than Milton's. I think forthright loathing would be much less annoying than patronizing.

Unknown said...

What a great list! I'm unfamiliar with a few of them and can't wait to dig around and find out more. :) Amy@hearthridgereflections

Diary of an Autodidact said...

That's a good question. You may be right that patronizing is worse than loathing. And, as Dorothy Sayers so memorably put it, it is more offensive to be told “women are divine creatures” than “women are the weaker vessel.”

The thing of it is that I haven't found Hardy's earlier books (at least what I have read) to be any more sexist than other Victorian novels. Clearly, his experiences with his wife embittered him, and he did put some thinly veiled autobiography into Jude. I am really curious to know what your thoughts are on that one.

Beth Gould said...

Great list! The Aeneid is the book I have picked for "a classic travel/journey narrative" so maybe we can compare notes on that one. (My "classic that scares you" is Augustine's City of God. It's a group read for January-March...)