Classically Challenged… Part II

So last week I told you of my plans with my friend AJ, of AJ Reads, to start challenging ourselves by reading some of the classic canon authors that are heralded by many as the greatest writers of all time, and yet are a selection of writers which neither of us has read. We chose Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton (who I had completely forgotten was American but we are going with it regardless), Thomas Hardy and George Eliot as six authors to focus on over six months but asked you to vote for which title by each author we should read. Well with the exception in the case of George Eliot, as we decided we needed to take on ‘Middlemarch’. Well you responded in your droves, and before I reveal which titles will be read and when, technically on your say so, I wanted to share some exciting news about the project…

The lovely people at Oxford University Press, after a natter with them, are rather thrillingly coming on board with the whole project. Who really could be better with all the Oxford World Classics they print (we have even been talking about doing a European version this time next year with Zola etc)? Now they aren’t sponsoring us or anything but they have kindly offered to help with some special posts and excitingly for all of you (and AJ and I as we have parcels on the way) give away copies of all the books that we will be reading over the next few weeks and months. Starting with a giveaway of the first read today, more on that in another post but that does link into what you voted for!

Both AJ and I were really thrilled with the amounts of votes on both our blogs and on GoodReads and the diversity of titles was quite interesting to see, some neither of us have heard of. Yet the figures have spoken for themselves and AJ has done some magic in making pie charts for each author and how the votes fell. I have made them small so that if you aren’t bothered on anything but the results you can scroll on, if you are more intrigued you should be able to click on them and make them bigger. Anyway, first up Jane Austen…

It seems this October we will be, on the last Sunday of the month as will become the routine, discussing ‘Persuasion’ which was a huge favourite with you all and surprised me as I was almost one hundred percent sure that it would be ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and might have to wade my way through the first fifty pages again. Seems not!

Next up in November will be ‘The Warden’ by Anthony Trollope, I was quite pleased at this because ‘Barchester Towers’ was initially doing really well but, as you may all know, I do like to start a series at the beginning and unlike some of the selections its relatively short.

December will be Dickens. Now here we have a slight problem and so the voting is remaining open, as ‘Bleak House’ and ‘Great Expectations’ are currently in a tie. So we need you all to vote for just one of them and say why. And if you do this in the comments of the post below you can win a copy of ‘Persuasion’ for persuading us, see what I did there?  There will be a second chance to vote again tomorrow with another giveaway.

In January we will be heading to ‘The House of Mirth’ with Edith Wharton which I am rather excited about. I have realised with both Dickens and this title I will get to see Gillian Anderson, who I love, in the adaptations I will watch after, no bad thing that.

February, we will be seeing the spring in with ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’. It was very nearly Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’ which lots and lots of you said I would really like. Why? I have heard this is the most depressing book on earth, what are you all inferring? Ha!

Finally in March we will be reading the aptly titled ‘Middlemarch’ which by the length of it I won’t be starting in the middle of March but more likely at Christmas and reading it in parts, as it was serialised after all. Phew, that is the lot! If you are a little puzzled as to the chronological order, keep your eyes peeled on the new ‘Classically Challenged’ page on the blog which will be updated with a simpler schedule later.

In the meantime get voting for which Dickens novel we should read in the previous post (and/or on AJ’s post) from ‘Bleak House’ or ‘Great Expectations’ and you could win ‘Persuasion’ with your powers of, erm, persuasion. Also let us know if you might be joining in with any of them with us, we are hoping many of you will.


Filed under Classically Challenged

39 responses to “Classically Challenged… Part II

  1. I vote for Bleak House, cos I’ve conquered Great Expectations already! *sheepish smile* 😉 And I’ve read Persuasion too! So will join the rest of it! This is gonna be fun! 🙂

  2. I’ve also already read Great Expectations so I will cast my vote for Bleak House!

    I love this classic bookclub idea – very excited to start Persuasion (which has been an embarrassing hole in my reading list!)

  3. I’m excited about all of these reads except for Tess of the d’urbervilles-I’ve tried it twice with no success.

    I vote great expectations because it sounds more positive than bleak house…

  4. Laura Caldwell

    I am sure that this is a poor reason to choose between two books, but Great Expectations is half the size of Bleak House. It WILL be December, after all! Plus, if I am going to read Middlemarch (which I hope to) I ALSO will need to start it early (probably should have already started it!)

  5. Becky

    Even though I’ve already read it, I vote for Great Expectations. . . although I’d like to read Bleak House, I admit I had a first 50 pages wade and fail with it. . . so I’m worried that Simon wdn’t like it and our one crack at getting him into Dickens might fail!

  6. Great Expectations! There’s that lovely recent BBC adaptation you could watch after finishing it.

  7. gaskella

    I will go for Great Expectations as I have a copy already, and it is shorter than Bleak House. I hope to join in as much as I can, though I may miss out Hardy as Tess is one I have read (and loved).

  8. I think the Dickens choice is really really hard. If I had to take just one of these two to a desert island it would be Bleak House because it is a truly wonderful novel. But I think for your first Dickens you will be better off with Great Expectations — it’s shorter and less complex and also a terrific read. So that’s my recommendation. I’m glad Jude got voted out — you will enjoy Tess much more.

  9. Kristen M.

    Those are both really good Dickens choices but I would say Great Expectations as well because it’s more of an influence on the literary canon. After all, you MUST get to know Miss Havisham!

  10. happysweetpeas

    I vote for Great Expectations,a wonderful book and full of atmosphere.

  11. A wonderful idea, and lovely graphs, but… oh, I am so afraid that beginning with Persuasion will put you off Jane Austen for life! I do hope not. It’s just got none of the wit and sparkle of other Austen books – it’s Jane on her Proper Grown Up Best Behaviour, and my least favourite… but maybe you’ll join the clear mass who love it?

    And Jude is brilliant!

  12. Jenni

    I vote for Bleak House, I preferred it over Great Expectations.
    (I already own a copy of Persuasion)

  13. Louise

    I vote for Bleak House, I have bad memories of Great Expectations from school English Literature… Looking forward to the challenge! I have read Persuasion, Tess, and Middlemarch previously but many years ago and I’m glad to have a reason to re-read them.

  14. Linda

    Middlemarch is an excellent choice. You will not be disappointed.

  15. I look forward to seeing which Dickens you decide to read. As I’m part of the Classics Club and have put down loads of Dickens’s work on my list.

  16. I agree with Becky – ‘Great Expectations’ is a better choice for a first Dickens reading attempt, while Bleak House works better if you’ve already been reading him for a while (the first chapter is one of the most powerful descriptions of London I’ve ever read, though). We don’t want to put you off!
    Interesting votes, anyway…

  17. Rhian

    I like the choices – & possibly feel smug that most will be a re-read for me! It makes me look so well-read (which isn’t really the case).
    I haven’t read Great Expectations, so, although Bleak House is my favourite Dickens, I vote for GE.
    I’m looking forward to this, apart from Tess. On the other hand at least I finished Tess – Jude defeated me.

  18. Great Expectations is the one of the two that should be read. Of course, I am biased because it’s one of my favorite books, and I never could get through Bleak House.

  19. Sarah Cubitt

    Great expectations for me please as I already have a copy! I’m also a ‘Dickens virgin’ & so it would be nice to read one of his most famous & well-loved books for my first Dickens epxerience. I’m looking forward to this challenge & the discussions!

  20. simon – thank you so much for spearheading this book club. it is just what i needed! and many of these titles are available FREE via amazon’s new whispersync thingamajobbie ( where you get both the ebook and the audio free. somehow the audible app and the kindle keep track of where you are (whether reading or listening) on both devices at the same time. not sure if this is available in the uk. i haven’t tried it out yet, but am keen. i heard about this on the books on the nightstand podcast. since it is a new application, amazon have released something like ten or twelve classics for free for folks to try it out. lucky me – many of the titles they are letting go for free (prob for a limited time) are on your list! so how can i say no to FINALLY assuaging that classics guilt!

    • Laura Caldwell

      Bless you Pam! I got 6 of the 10 offered for my Kindle (on ipad) and audible today. Thank you so much for the info. None of the ones that I see today are on Simon’s list tho, so are they changing them every day?

      • yay! i’m so glad it was helpful. yes, i just checked the site and it does seem the list is a bit different. i was able to pick up tale of two cities, moby dick and house of mirth. however, none of those are presently on the list! curious . . . i’ll just have to check back again later. who knows what we’ll find.

      • Laura Caldwell

        Oh, I now see…try putting the title in search under Kindle. They have more books than the 10 listed here for free for Kindle and Audible. Wonderful!

      • i was also able to download “tess of d’U” free today (audible and print)

  21. Dorothy

    Great Expectations, please. I started it a couple of years ago in my ‘let’s get classical’ reading phase but ground to a bored halt halfway through. So much endless detail, it reminded me of conversations with my 13 year old daughter. ‘Just keep the thoughts inside your head’. Apologies to Charles, since he was not good with women and here I am comparing him to a teenage girl. Eeesh!

  22. Great Expectations! Great Expectations! GREAT EXPECTATIONS!

    It features a mad old lady rotting in her decrepit wedding dress and a guy named Herbert Pocket who is referred to as the Pale Young Gentleman (or PYG). Need I say more?

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  24. Caroline

    No time to write a thoughtful, considered post but just want to say that I’m really looking forward to reading along with you. Think this is a great idea.

  25. My initial thought for Eliot would have been Middlemarch which is a magnificent book. However, a couple of years ago I read, for the first time, Adam bede and was totally blown away by it. Simply wonderful.

    Dickens – Bleak House is a masterpiece but GE is a bit shorter and I re-read it recently, again after a long while, and was riveted by it.

    Persuasion is my favourite Austen. I simply love it and read it every year.

    House of Mirth by Wharton – again you have chosen my favourite. First time I read this I was so stunned by the ending I could not speak for a while and that takes some doing.

    Trollope – love every single one of his books. The Warden sets the scene beautifully for the Barsetshire chronicles all of which are wonderful too.

    Thomas Hardy – Have read Tess and a few others but I have to be honest he is not a writer I feel a great love for. Under the Greenwood Tree has a wonderfully named heroine called Fancy Day!! But avoid Jude the Obscure.

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