A Five-Year Challenge: The Classics Club

After much deliberation, I've decided to join The Classics Club in order to prevent me from avoiding classic novels any longer. It's not that I don't enjoy classic reads; on the contrary, I generally love them once I'm past those initial 50 pages, and often end up wondering why I waited so long. With so many great contemporary novels hitting my blog feed and tempting me each visit to the book store, it's been a real challenge. Reading classics has sadly been an exercise relegated to the TBR-at-some-point-in-life list. After a little tour of the Northeast with J, and the historical gems that we stumbled upon again and again, I realized there were so many classical authors that I needed to spend a little more time getting to know. I asked myself, could you really visit Walden Pond and feel that awe without ever reading Thoreau's Walden? Not likely. Could I visit Nathaniel Hawthorne's home, which was also once the home of the Alcott family, without reading anything other than The Scarlet Letter? Yes, but it just wouldn't be the same. So, I've decided to give the following 50 titles a go with a goal to complete all by August of 2017. 

None of these titles are rereads (crazy). There are so many I'm shocked I've never read, and many by authors that I've never had the desire to read, like Hemingway and Twain. I'm pretty excited about including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow into the RIP Challenge in the fall, and finally getting around to reading The Hobbit so J and I can finally nerd-out about a work of fiction together. I'm looking forward to engaging with the community that brought The Classics Club to life, and all those eager participants who are making the pledge. For details, visit:

1 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte

2 Shirley Charlotte Bronte

3 The House of Seven Gables Nathaniel Hawthorne

4 Villette Charlotte Bronte

5 The Mill on the Floss George Eliot

6 Dracula Bram Stoker

7 The Wings of the Dove Henry James

8 Summer Edith Wharton

9 The Return of the Soldier Rebecca West*

10 The Well of Loneliness Radclyffe Hall*

11 The Pursuit of Love Nancy Mitford*

12 Tess of D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

13 Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston*

14 The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien

15 The Beautiful and Damned F. Scott Fitzgerald

16 Rebecca Daphe Du Maurier

17 O Pioneers! Willa Cather

18 Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

19 War and Peace Leo Tolstoy

20 Dead Souls by Nikolay Gogol*

21 Walden Henry David Thoreau*

22 Hocus Pocus Kurt Vonnegut 

23 The Moonstone Wilkie Collins

24 The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman

25 Bel-Ami Guy de Maupassant*

26 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

27 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

28 East of Eden John Steinbeck

29 Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh*

30 A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway*

31 The Invisible Man Ralph Ellison*

32 Siddhartha Hermann Hesse*

33 The House of Mirth Edith Wharton

34 Howard's End E.M. Forster*

35 The Hounds of the Baskervilles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*

36 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

37 Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson*

38 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou*

39 The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood

40 A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass*

41 As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

42 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Washington Irving*

43 The French Lieutenant's Woman John Fowles*

44 Moby Dick Herman Melville*

45 Eugene Onegin Alexander Pushkin*

46 Franny and Zooey J.D. Salinger

47 All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque*

48 Catch-22 Joseph Heller*

49 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith*

50 If on a Winter's Night a Traveler Italo Calvino*

Feel free to offer introduction suggestions to me by the authors that I've never read before if you feel there's a better title I could include. See * for authors I've never read before. 

Five years will probably be here before I know it, but, for now, this is a perfect way to ease classics back into my reading diet without feeling the pressure of deadlines that offer no flexibility. 


  1. It's so easy to just sort of power through contemporary novels. I'm reading Ivanhoe right now and the pacing is just so different. I have to remind myself that it's ok to not finish the book in a few days and to take the time to enjoy it.

  2. Lindsey,
    I completely agree. The pace and language are so incredibly different, and if it's a novel from someone like Tolstoy, you're also scrambling to educated yourself on the political climate and social norms of the day. Definitely worth the work though. I'll be sure to remember your words if I'm ever feeling like I'm just slogging through a book.

  3. What a great challenge! There are so many on your list I've been meaning to read myself - most notably A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Rebecca. I'm also really interested in Dead Souls.

    Of those on your list that I've read, my two favorites are The Mill On the Floss (my very favorite Eliot!) and The Moonstone. Great choices!

    1. Brenna,
      Yes, it's definitely going to be a challenge. I just got a new edition of Rebecca that I've been meaning to actually read. And Dead Souls was on the classics challenge list that I never managed to complete.

      The Mill on the Floss was one that I considered a while before finally adding it to the list. Thanks, Brenna!

  4. What an awesome list!! I'm excited to see Summer by Edith Wharton on your list. For some reason, that Wharton book in particular keeps calling me...

    Walden? I highly recommend it. :)

    1. Jillian,
      Thanks! & Thank you for taking the time to start something that's taken flight! I am so excited about the opportunity to participate! I've really loved Wharton in the past so she's a go-to classic author for me.

      And Walden has been on the list for ages, so it'll be nice to finally get around to it. I just discovered that you were located in Atlanta as well. I get really excited when I see bloggers from around the area - so it's great to meet you here!

  5. Yes, Dracula made the cut! And Villette - that's my favourite book by any Bronte, ever, so I hope it makes the same impression on you. Actually, looking at your list,we have lots and lots of the same books so it'll be great reading your reviews of all of these.

    I was going to put War & Peace on my list but then I figured that as I've read Anna K (which was all kinds of awesome), I could give myself permission to avoid it for a bit longer :P

    1. Sam,
      Your post encouraged me to finally join! I'm very excited and think I'll include Dracula on the RIP Challenge book list.

      I've been eyeing Villette for sometime, so I am really anticipating it. I know you'll speed through many of the titles before I even begin to make a dent, but it will be fun to share along the way.

      I only thought it fair to add War & Peace considering how much I loved Anna K. I'll admit that I'm intimidated, and had planned to read it, but the challenge certainly acts as a swift kick in the pants!

  6. This is a great idea! I too feel like I need to step back and read some classics - I have read so few and I feel like I'm missing out. I think I avoid them because the ones I have read (or tried to read), I struggle with at the beginning. It's not a style of writing we're really used to anymore so I find it takes more concentration and dedication to read them. Which isn't a bad thing, but like Lindsay mentioned above, sometimes it's hard to accept that it's okay if a book takes you longer to read than contemporary novels.

    What will you read first?

    1. Brie,
      I felt it was the only way to really hold me accountable for reading classics. I'll admit that it wasn't always like this; I read them fairly often. Lately, though, I've been obsessed with contemporary reads on hot lists. It's time to take a step back and challenge myself on another level.

      Sometimes classics are a bit easier to walk away from because of the inherent difficulty. But there are some that are so moving, and offer so much, that you're thrilled you've actually finished. Maybe you can participate along with others in The Classics Club as an informal member?!?

    2. I will have to think about joining. While 50 in 5 years doesn't sound so bad in theory, that's 10 in a year which seems like a lot! ;)

    3. You could always choose to readalong with a classic that appeals to you! :)

  7. This looks like a nice list. Best of luck with it. I'm trying to transition back into reading the classics myself.

    1. Thanks, Lori! It's certainly going to be a challenge, but I think I can do it.

  8. This is a great idea. I've read a good many of these books, but, like you, I fins myself shunning classic books. I should do something about that. If you asked my opinion (and I know you aren't) I'd encourage you to start with either Dracula or All Quiet on the Western Front.

    1. Ryan,
      I've started with Pride and Prejudice and hope I'll get through it. I will! I'm saving Dracula for the RIP challenge, but I might incorporate AQotWF soon. Side note: I was late to work today reading your reviews! Ha.

  9. I love that joining was partially inspired by visiting some literary locales. I hope you love reading some of these as much as I have!

    1. Yes, it was certainly a kick in the pants. Very excited.

  10. Start off with "A Study in Scarlett" for your Conan-Doyle reads - a brilliant, surprising novella with all of Holmes' and Watson's backgrounds and first meeting filled in. As a very old person (45!) who has the opposite problem to you, of sometimes feeling that I read nothing but classics and should try to find out more about contemporary fiction (which is why I'm reading lots of young peoples' book blogs) I think that the more you read of them the easier you will find it to just pick one up and dive in. You might enjoy my recent blogposts about Austen and Woolf -

    Have fun!

    1. Judy,
      I used to actually read classics pretty regularly. It's funny because I didn't actually start reading contemporary until I started the blog-- now I'm inundated with new books. And very old?!? No way!

      Thanks for the advice with Sherlock Holmes. I intended on researching it a bit more before starting, but that is exactly how I should begin. Thanks for sending over the link. I didn't add Woolf to the list, but probably should have. I'm currently reading Austen and am quickly realizing it might not be for me!

    2. Please please please read Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" - one of the best books ever. Sorry you're not enjoying Austen - I don't know what advice to give - hang on in there? Judy.

  11. Hello Beth! I found you through the classics club as I'm also taking part. I think you've got a really interesting list. I made my list up of all new reads for me too :-)

    1. Jessica,

      Thanks for taking a peek. I really wanted to focus on completing books I hadn't challenged myself with before, but rereads are definitely a good idea! I'll have to check your list out too!

  12. I look forward to reading your thoughts on these books. There's some overlap between our lists, but I haven't heard of a few of these books (wasn't aware of Wharton's "Summer" for instance or Vonnegut's "Hocus Pocus").

    1. Yes, I was actually not familiar with Summer either. I love Wharton, so it's one of my most anticipated. And I've heard that Hocus Pocus is really good. I've had it on my shelf for years so I thought it the perfect opportunity to pick it up. I just found your blog so I'm looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

  13. Oh dear. I'm signing up for this, and I'm holding you responsible.

    Seriously, though - great list! I'm giving myself a list of 75 from which I'm aiming to choose 50... otherwise I'll start to feel too locked down as I near the end. What a fun challenge!

    1. Kerry,
      Haha. The same thing happened to me! I've been meaning to get around to classics so this was just the thing. I tried sticking to books I already owned, but also snuck some in from the 1001 books book that J's mom gave me for Christmas. That way I'm working through it and improving my reading skills.

      I can't wait to see your list. I've only completed one so far but it's better than none. Plus, the site and the participants are pretty awesome so it should be fun.
      Happy reading!


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