Classics Club

joseph-heller-catch-22-vintageI recently came across the Classics Club via twitter. It was set up in 2012 to encourage “more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere.” Classics are here loosely defined as books that are at least 25 years old; readers make a list of a minimum of 50 books that they intend to read – and write about – within the next 5 years. I’m not sure about blogging on all the books on my list, so this is going to be more like hanging around outside the door of the club, thumbing through pages in the alleyway and looking up occasionally to peer inside and catch a glimpse of what other people are reading.

If you’re casting about for books to read, the list that inspired me to start was the one I came across by Jacqui Wine here, and I’ve just spotted another good list from David Hebblethwaite here. You can follow them both on twitter at @JacquiWine and @David_Heb, and you can find the classics club at @ourclassicsclub.

My own list of 51 books is mostly gathered from books I already have in some format. This means they’re books I had already decided I wanted to read before compiling this list. It’s an important point – the Classics Club is not meant to be an exercise in dull worthiness. I haven’t read any of these books before, which I suppose is kind of embarrassing and/or astonishing. How have I not yet read Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea? The way to look at it is: how lucky I am to be reading these books for the first time. I have already started two of them in advance of compiling the list, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and the medieval Icelandic Njal’s Saga. As my list is taken largely from books I’ve already got, some of them are a bit of a cheat. For example, quite a few of them are from the Penguin Little Black Classics series, which is why I have on my list Samuel Pepys ‘The Great Fire of London’ rather than the complete diaries, and ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ by Giorgio Vasari, rather than Lives of the Artists. Classic doesn’t have to mean doorstopper. They’re all texts from before (well before) 1989, and I intend to read them by 2020. And blog on at least half of them. My first and only five year plan.

In no particular order:

1. Joseph Heller, Catch-22
2. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
3. James Joyce, Ulysses
4. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
5. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
6. Amos Tutuola, My life in the bush of ghosts
7. John Steinbeck, East of Eden
8. Nicolai Gogol, Dead Souls
9. Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
10. Ernest Hemingway, The old man and the sea
11. Nicolai Gogol, The Nose
12. Apollonius of Rhodes, Jason and Medea
13. Herman Melville, The Maldive Shark
14. Brothers Grimm, The Robber Bridegroom [seven stories]
15. Joseph Conrad, To-morrow
16. Ovid, The Fall of Icarus
17. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited/The Cut-Glass Bowl/The Lost Decade
18. Samuel Beckett, The Expelled/First Love
19. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
20. Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles
21. Charles Portis, True Grit
22. Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr Ripley
23. Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
24. Leifur Ericksson (translated Robert Cook), Njal’s Saga
25. Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Murder in the Central Committee
26. Shirley Jackson, We have always lived in the Castle
27. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5
28. Chester Himes, A Rage in Harlem
29. Dashiell Hamnett, The Maltese Falcon

30. Wang Wei/Li Po/Tu Fu (translated G.W. Robinson and Arthur Cooper), Three Tang Dynasty Poets
31. Robert Henryson (translated Seamus Heaney), The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables

32. Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead
33. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
34. Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers
35. Aeschylus, The Eumenides
36. Euripides, Electra
37. Euripides, The Phoenician Women
38. Euripides, The Bacchae
39. Shakespeare, Richard II
40. Shakespeare, Richard III

41. Jorge Luis Borges, The Perpetual Race of Achilles and the Tortoise
42. Charles Dickens, Night Walks
43. Michel Foucault, The spectacle of the scaffold
44. Bell Hooks, Ain’t I a Woman?
45. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
46. George Orwell, Why I Write
47. Samuel Pepys, The Great Fire of London
48. Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo da Vinci
49. George Augustus Sala, Twice Round the Clock – 24 Hours in Victorian London
50. Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques
51. Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific

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6 Responses to Classics Club

  1. JacquiWine says:

    That’s a great list of books. I’m sure you’ve got much to look forward to there! The Talented Mr Ripley is terrific…you might find yourself hooked on the complete series.

    Thank you for the kind mention – I’m delighted to see others joining in. 🙂

  2. Anarchivist says:

    Great list! How could I have forgotten about George Sala? I’m going to steal that one. I guess that’s why I’m trying the Classics Club, as a way to organize and actually read more of the cool stuff I come across, and then never got around to following up on. 🙂

    • I only came across George Sala because of another blog,, which posts quotes from various Victorian sources to accompany its pictures around London. I’d downloaded ‘Twice around the clock’ and then, exactly as you say, never got around to following up on. Until Classics Club!

  3. Pingback: Classics Club: appendix | Crista Ermiya : Marginalia

  4. Pingback: The Testament of Cresseid: Classics Club notes (book 31) | Crista Ermiya : Marginalia

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