19 century fiction, 20th century fiction, Ali Smith, classic literature, Classics Club, David Nicholls, George Eliot, George Gissing, How to be Both, Italo Calvino, old books, On Reading Old Books, Paul Kingsnorth, penelope fitzgerald, Reading, the bookshop, The Classics Club, The Wake, Us, William Hazlitt
Meandering around the wonderful world of the bookish blogosphere, I stumbled across The Classics Club – a group of readers who have committed together to read more literature which can be described as classic. I love reading classic literature, fiction in particular. But somehow a combination of the demands of busy life and the attractions of other forms of entertainment, including that of contemporary fiction, means that all too often that classic that I’ve always meant to read, that I really want to read, never seems to reach the top of the teetering piles of books shamefully called ‘mount ToBeRead’. So of course I’m immediately committed to joining the club, already drooling at the prospect of being able to share reading experiences with like-minded booklovers. (There are lots of classics reading challenges in the bookish blogosphere if you go looking for them. The Classics Club wins out for me because it lets you choose your own reading path and allows a reasonable time-frame of five years).
I dive heart-first into compiling my list of the 50 classic books that I will read. Fifty is the lowest number of titles allowable: I don’t want to set myself up to fail or exclude the possibility of reading other things as well.) There’s Austen, of course, and Hemmingway, Grahame Greene. Anthony Burgess’s The Clockwork Orange and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Arnold Bennett, the prolific author and critic who, through his precise observation and satirical wit enchanted my teenage years with his Clayhanger trilogy, gets several slots on my list. It’s as if I’m putting together the most luxuriously indulgent box of chocolates, with the promise of pleasures to come but without the calorific hit. A handful of the chocolates I’ve tasted before but most are tantalisingly new to me.