Packing in the Classics

After the weekend with the homophobic and verbally abusive neighbour from hell, which I might share with you at some point though as the police are involved am not sure if I am allowed, I then had the joys of babysitting my 4 year old twin cousins before coming to Grans where I will be staying for a while. It has already been a whirlwind with a big hospital visit today and then I needed to go out and do some chores and shopping so while I have dinner on and she is gripped by Strictly It Takes Two (don’t ask) I thought I would finally share a post on the books I have packed for this stay, and as you will see I have gone for some classics of all era’s…

Packing in the Classics

I have been thinking about my reading habits and I do seem to spend a lot of time reading those shiny new books. This is no bad thing of course yet I do think this means that I tend to miss out on the classics, be they modern or canon, and I want to address that and so I thought that this trip might just be the time and so I smuggled, well shoved, this five motley crew of a selection.

‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a series I have read but these I have brought as comfortable tales I can revisit, also (most importantly and meaning these will be my main reading fodder) they can be read in random sittings when I am not rushing around. The others however are just books I have meant to get on and read for a while. ‘Madame Bovary’ because both Polly of Novel Insights and Gran herself have both said that it has ‘a real bitch in it who you might really like’; I am taking that as a compliment of sorts. John Wyndham is an author I have always wanted to try and ‘The Chrysalids’ is meant to be very accessible and has an apocalyptic theme which might stand me in good stead if everything kicks off in a few weeks on the 21st ha, ha. ‘Miss Smilia’s Feeling for Snow’ by Peter Hoeg sounds like a literary crime thriller that I would love and some say is the first Scandinavian crime, lovely stuff – I am craving crime at the moment. Finally there is the one I am most nervous about ‘Great Expectations’ by a certain unknown author called Charles Dickens. In fact I think I want to move on swiftly or the worry might start…

Anyway I wondered what older classics, modern or properly olde, you have been meaning to read or revisit of late and why, and if you too ever feel like you end up reading more new books than old or the other way round?

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58 Comments

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58 responses to “Packing in the Classics

  1. I’ve had Bleak House on my must read for 2012 list. I guess it will be fine to read it for his 201st birthday celebration, right? I love the old stuff. Really old Greek stuff. But this year I have been busy with shiny new books as well. I go in cycles.

    Here are some Shakespearean insults for your neighbor from me:
    *Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.
    *Thine face is not worth sunburning.
    *Thou art like a toad; ugly and venomous.
    *Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!

    There. I feel better.

    • Hahahaha those are hilarious, thank you, mainly for making me laugh – I don’t think that I will use those comments though as I am finding that silence is a much better way to deal with it. She’s been dealt with, sort of.

  2. Sorry to hear about the abuse you’ve been subject to; I hope it didn’t ruin your weekend completely.

    Coincidence: I’ve recently bought Madame Bovary too! It’s been on my figurative TBR pile for aaaaages, so I thought I should finally suck it up and read the thing. I’m not sure if anybody else feels like this, but I get on with classics much better in Winter than I do in Summer.
    I find John Wyndham to be really hit and miss. “Chrysalids” and “The Midwich Cuckoos” are fantastic, but I’d warn you against reading ‘The Kraken Wakes’, which I thought was utter dross…

    Tom.

    • Awww cheers Tom, was just a shock. I thought people had moved on from all that bigotry, silly me.

      Oooh, maybe we should have a Bovary co-read in the Summer or something? Or maybe in the early spring as you mentioned you prefer these books in winter really. Oops.

  3. I LOVE the Sherlock Holmes stories so much. They are always perfect to re-read and I think the first one has my faves in it – The Speckled Band and The Redheaded League. Enjoy!
    I also have Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow on my TBR list…it’s a very long list!

    • Aren’t the Sherlock stories just AMAZING?? They are probably my favourite turn to stories and can be read again and again and again.

      I have the same issue with a loooooong loooooong TBR, but I want to read more classics on and off when I can and when the mood takes me.

  4. Also, your neighbour sounds like a total f**ker. Sorry to hear that such people exist.

  5. Your neighbours are idiots – sink yourself in the lovely books you have and escape! I read “Smilla” some years ago and really enjoyed it – I think you are in for a treat. Also with the others – the Holmes stories are particularly good.

    I read “Bleak House” many years ago too and would love to summon up the stamina to revisit it – but I’m struggling with a 700 odd page chunkster just now so I will need something short and sweet after that!

    • If Great Expectations carries on the way it is I may very well end up giving Bleak House a go at some point, I don’t want to jinx my Dickens reading though. The signs are good though.

  6. AstroSkyeTaz

    I know you’ll enjoy Smilia – I got that as a Christmas pressy last year after meaning to read it for years – the plot is quite convoluted (well, it was for me anyway!) but it is stunning and Smilia herself is a fantastic heroine. Definitely my favourite ‘cold’ read.
    I’m going to reread some John Wyndham next year – after your podcast about passing over older books for new I realised I had so many on my shelves that I always say one day I’ll read that again. So I’ve decided that 2013 will be that year! My rule will be that every other book I read will be one I’ve read before – on the pile already is all the John Wyndhams, some D H Lawrence, a Graham Greene and The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. I’m really looking forward to it actually! Oh, and I should really add Rebecca to the pile I guess!

    • I think the cold feeling is what I am looking forward to with Hoeg’s book. It also is meant to be one of the first real Scandinavian crime novels. So I am hoping I will be hooked.

  7. Sharkell

    Sorry to hear about your neighbour. I have had The Hobbit on my shelves forever and I really want to read it before the movie is released after Christmas. Best wishes to you and your Gran.

  8. Looks like a very good pile to me. I loved Great Expectations. Wonderful book and on the short side for Dickens. I thought The Chrysalids was terrific and Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow is wonderful up until the last two chapters or so when it gets a little bit too weird for me. Bovary is excellent, though I didn’t like it.

    • I am enjoying Great Expectations so far… I don’t want to jinx it though. I had to give The Chrysalids back, though actually with the whole Mayan apocalypse going on I got a bit bored with end of the world talk.

  9. rosemarykaye

    Great Expectations is wonderful, and Dickens is easy to read, with such great supporting characters – Bleak House is also a brilliant book. I tried to read Middlemarch when we were on holiday a few years ago, but although I got to the end I’m afraid I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about – my failing, no doubt. Had the same problem with Madame Bovary, which we were force-fed for A-level French – I think I should probably give Flaubert a second chance.

    I really love many ‘children’s’ classics – some of my favourites are The Wind in the Willows, The Treasure Seekers, the Otterbury Incident, Magnolia Buildings, the Family from One End Street, Dr Doolittle and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    I read many novels from the 1930s – 1950s: Barbara Pym is my very favourite author, but I also love Angela Thirkell, DE Stevenson, RC Sherriff, EM Delafield, Monica Dickens, Dodie Smith – the list is long!

    Enjoy your reading.

    • I always forget about the childrens classics that I have missed and I wonder if maybe I should give some of them a whirl too actually now you have pointed them out.

      Lots of the authors you mention will also be in my Persephone Project, see I have a plan even if it sometimes looks like I don’t. I must try Barbara Pym.

  10. Oh dear, seems like you have had a bad week indeed. Blame it on the effects of the full moon. It’s made everyone a bit barmy. I always read older books. Feels safer that way. I have a rough idea whether they’ll be good or not.

    • Oooh someone else mentioned that on facebook when I mentioned the whole neighbour thing. They said it also might be part of the reason I was having insomnia back at the start of the month… which has annoyingly come back.

  11. I love John Wyndham, The Chrysalids is a great choice. And the Sherlock Holmes stories are always fun. I understand your nervousness though, I’ve always had trouble getting into Dickens.

    • It had to go back, but I will get it out again. I actually think I might have a copy of The Day of the Triffids somewhere so maybe I should actually start with the ones that I own.

  12. Deirdre

    I read Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg about 15 years ago. It must have been re-released under a new title. I enjoyed it but remember feeling cold most of the time I was reading it. There are a lot of descriptions of snow and ice and frost and hoary frost. I don’t like being or feeling cold. Brrrr!!!!!

  13. Laura Caldwell

    Before I followed as many book blogs as I now do, I read mostly non-fiction and a few newish fiction books. It is blogs like yours that have turned my focus to “old books.” My favorites now are from the first half of the 20th century and also into the 19th. Book blogs have opened a whole new world to me. The other thing that has influenced my reading is that when I home-schooled my children for part of their schooling (they both went to high school away from home). I read aloud books like Robinson Crusoe that helped train my ear and mind (and mouth) to be able to read classics that were written in a very different style than most books today. It is still a good idea when struggling with “old-style” language, to read it aloud to yourself. (I recommend this with parts of Middlemarch. It helps considerably.)
    I am watching the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes shows as my escape vehicle right now.
    As for your neighbor, gift him/her with a book or two. Perhaps one with a message that you would like to convey. People who are that abusive have issues in their lives and great needs. Or …give a baked good with a razor inside–ooops! no, I didn’t mean that! ;)

    • I like what you say about reading aloud, I have been getting my other half to read some of Dickens aloud to me now and again, he is very good at doing voices.

      I am not giving my neighbour anything… not even some a smile anymore ;)

  14. My mom recently read Madame Bovary and LOVED it – I really need to get to it. Like you (until recently!), I have never read a Jane Austen, so i also feel like I need to give her a try soon.

    And for the last MONTH, I have been working my way through Middlemarch by George Eliot. I am down to less than 100 pages now. I’ve definitely enjoyed it, but it is a loooong one. if you want to read it by March, you might want to start it soon!

    Enjoy your comfort books and classics and good luck with your Gran.

    Sue

    Book By Book

    • Jane Austen is so much less twee than you would think which is what I loved about her when I tried her.

      I might start at the end of January with Middlemarch. I might do 100 pages a day like I am planning with Les Miserables when I start that on the 1st of Jan. I want to read it before the film comes out here.

  15. Ruthiella

    Sorry your neighbor is an ass. What does “vernally” mean? Did you mean to write “venial?” Or is this British slang? I think you will get on well with the John Wyndham. I read The Chrysalids many years ago and liked it. I actually read Madam Bovary in college for a French class and even wrote a paper on it, but I’ll be damned if I remember any of it. Good luck with Chuck Dickens. I love his books and I think if you allow yourself, you will enjoy him too. If not, well, you gave it a shot!

    • I meant verbally, have changed it ;)

      I am quite enjoying Dickens so far, some of its a bit waffle filled for the sake of word count but it has made me laugh a lot. I hope I stay liking it!

  16. what? you mean i’m not the only one with an ass for a neighbour?? shocking.

    best of luck with your sweet gran and the classics.

  17. Gerald F. Miller

    I have always wanted to read all of the short stories of Hemingway and John Cheever especially “The Swimmer”.I have wanted to read something by Poe. I am not big into really old classical stuff but I tried the old warhorse “War and Peace” and failed miserably.Of course I like to read Raymond Chandler but I find that many of these novels have had so many adaptions on film and TV that I might lose interest when I read a passage and think to myself “hey this is boring”.My greatness reading fear.ger

  18. I decided that I hadn’t read enough of the ‘classics’ so now I read about two or three ‘new/modern’ books followed by a classic. The last one I read was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass (as I love the Disney film so much, I figured I should read the book) and next up I have The Old Curiosity Shop. Sometimes the language that the classics are written in can be a little tough going, so I find that interspersing them amongst my normal reading makes them more enjoyable and easier to digest!

    • Oooh maybe I should have a ratio of sorts, I hadn’t thought about that. Maybe one a fortnight or something, though then that kills my whimish reading plans for 2013, we will see.

  19. David

    “Vernally abusive”? I had to laugh – bloody springtime haters. And in December too. On a more serious note, the neighbour sounds like something you could really do without, so I hope you get it sorted out soon.

    Like you I tend to read mostly shiny new books and am forever putting off the older stuff I keep meaning to read. I read quite a few of Steinbeck’s novels a few years ago, but would love to both revisit them and read more. I’d also like to read more Thomas Hardy and Graham Greene, as I’ve liked what I’ve read of both of them. Arnold Bennett’s books appeal to me too and I think I’d like DH Lawrence and Edith Wharton. As I get more into short stories I know at some point I’ll have to read Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Katherine Mansfield and more Alice Munro as they seem essential to being able to talk about the form in any meaningful way.

    I did read Hemingway for the first time this year though and wasn’t particularly moved to read more.

    As for modern “non-canon” classics, this year I’ve read Randolph Stow’s 1965 book ‘The Merry-go-round in the Sea’ and would recommend it to anyone, and only yesterday I read the first couple of chapters of RF Delderfield’s ‘The Dreaming Suburb’ and fully intend to read the whole book (and its sequel) soon. And the forthcoming new editions of Rumer Godden’s novels will hopefully give me the excuse to read more of her (another author whom I binged on maybe ten or twelve years ago). And for years I’ve been meaning to get around to Paul Scott’s ‘Raj Quartet’ and Anthony Powell’s ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’… there are just so many!

    • Yes sorry about that, changed it to verbally, oops.

      Oh how to respond to you and do your comment justice. Oh, I can’t.

      I will say though, as usual, you have made me add a whole load of books and authors to my mental/notepad wish list, thank you as always.

  20. gaskella

    There are too many to mention, but I will be doing CBJames’s Double Dog Dare from Jan 1 to March 31st and will only (with book group exceptions) reading from my TBR piles – so I hope I’ll get to read some of those books I’ve been meaning to get to, including many modern classics, and maybe even some older ones.

    Sorry to hear about your nasty neighbours – I hope it gets sorted out very soon and you can live in peace.

    • Maybe I should give the double dog dare a try, I will go off and find more. I must read more modern classics as well as the, erm, classic classics haha.

      Neighbour situation is blissful at the moment, she has gone away for a while.

  21. Sorry to hear about the nasty neighbours. I had one who accused me of being a prostitute once: men in and out of the flat at all times (hardly, and the most common visitors were gay!) and it really saps you.

    I re-read some classics in my month of re-reading in July (Jane Eyre and Northanger Abbey) and am aiming for another Austen in the next re-read. Plus have been reading a Hardy every two months with a friend’s challenge. Very comforting.

    I read a mix of newish (not brand new: in paperback) and older Viragoes and biographies and general non-fiction. Lots of mid-20th century stuff.

  22. So sorry to hear you’re dealing with an a$$hole neighbor. Hope he/she moves or gets hit by a bus. (Sorry, just read a book where someone got hit by a bus so its on my mind.)

    I am a wishy-washy flip-flopper when it comes to deciding what I’m going to read. If I decide I want to read classics for a while suddenly the best-seller list becomes irresistible…and vice versa. Weeks after signing up for The Classics Club I started avoiding my self-made classics list. I also signed up to read 3 books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge and have only read one so far all year (and it was great: Anna Funder’s All That I Am). But late last night I started reading The Thorn Birds finally and am completely sucked in. When I was a kid the TV series was a big thing and I can see now why all the adult Catholic women in my life loved it. (I am not Catholic so did not grow up a cruel nun tormenting me, but my friends & aunts told me plenty enough horror stories that I can relate to poor little Meggie.)

    • I wouldn’t want her hit by a bus. I would just like her to move.

      Challenges can really help can’t they? That said they can also feel too much, I am glad I am reading Dickens but I do feel slightly like I have made myself race to a deadline now. Ugh!

  23. dickens and holmes for me ,sorry hear about neighbours terrible thing to put up with ,all the best stu

  24. I too, always come back to Dickens and Holmes, as well as Bronte. I can’t recommend Great Expectations highly enough (although for me it’s a tough call between that and Bleak House…)

  25. Rhian

    Sorry to hear about your neighbour. You really don’t need that sort of thing.

    I loved Smilla – though I read it so long ago I can’t remember why I loved it.

    Madame Bovary I read at uni, but didn’t love. Mostly I think cos I thought Emma Bovary was a spoilt little madam who needed a good smack!

    My reading seems to veer mostly between olde classics like Trollope (who I love, including The Warden) and books that are light to trashy! However David’s post has reminded me of one comfort read author – Delderfield. David, do finidh the Dreaming Suburb, and when yo’ve read the sequel try A Horseman Riding By, God is an Englishman and To Serve Them All My Days.

    • David

      Rhian, the only reason I didn’t continue with ‘The Dreaming Suburb’ is that I thought it would be a nice book to read over Christmas so I’m saving it until then. Good to hear you rate him as an author. I watched the TV adaption of ‘To Serve Them All My Days’ a couple of years ago and loved it, which is how I became aware of Delderfield (don’t know how the TV series compares to the book).

  26. Sorry to hear about the trouble with your neighbor :/ I’ve recently been revisiting the Sherlock Holmes stories too after watching the TV series, doing a little comparing/contrasting. Had to go back to the originals to see if Sherlock was really as creepy/crazy as the television portrayal! (He’s not, I don’t think).

    • have you been watching the new adaptations of the Sherlock stories? I want to see the very new new ones with Lucy Lu as Watson, I like that idea, hopefully they will hit terrestrial telly here at some point. Oh I mean freeviewable channels, terrestrial tv, who watches that anymore?

  27. Tom Perkins

    Madame Bovary is a great read, you will enjoy it. As to Sherlock Holmes, always a good read. Sorry to hear about your troubles with the neighbors, there is always one.

  28. I tend to not like crime but I did enjoy Smilla quite a lot. Dickens is someone I really should like, but I can never get into his work. I like other Victorian authors, but not Dickens. I think it may be all the humorous character names.

    • I am pleasantly surprised by Dickens and thrilled that though you don’t tend to like crime you likes Smilla. That makes me think it must be quite special, hence the modern classic status maybe?

  29. elizabeth

    i have a tendency to read more new books now that i listen to so many podcasts with good recommendations. you have some great classics on your list though.

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