December 15, 2012

back to classics challenge 2013

what does an english major do after graduation? finally reads all the literary classics she never had the time to do so in college.
 this was a silly(?) joke(?) i read somewhere a couple of years ago. but it definitely could have been a genuine observation as well. i like to think that i read quite a lot during my college years. but most of the reading i did was not on the mandatory reading list of the various literature seminars i was obliged to take. i have always liked to rebel against all things mandatory, and reading lists were never an exception, neither in secondary school nor at university. nevertheless, i did read some of the classics for the lit seminars - i read some shalley and keats, some shakespeare, the great gatsby and robinson crusoe, and a whole lot of 20th century american poetry. but it was hardly ever for fun, especially when my hours were painfully numbered before endterm exams. rushing through wuthering heights in one short winter day? then doing it all over again the next day, but this time with the scarlet letter? not exactly my idea of fun. no wonder i could never sympathize with hester prynne or catherine earnshaw. we never really had the chance or the time to bond.

then, as my final state exams fastly approached, i promised myself that i would read each and evey piece of literature that was included on the mandatory reading list of the history of american literature track. it's no surprise that i never had the time to do so before the state exams, and i only rushed through a teeny tiny fraction - most of which were poems and short stories. never mind, i thought, i would get to it once i graduate. i also made a mental note to dig up the reading lists of the various long-forgotten british lit seminars, and reading all the brit classics as well, eventually.

well, i graduated more than a year and a half ago, and haven't started my 'catching up on the classics project' yet. and why? because there are so many other, exciting, fascinating books out there, all begging me to pick them up and read them already, that i kind of forgotten about the classics. still, lately i find myself missing studying, you know, picking up a text book, sitting down with it, underlining the brand new thoughts and ideas that could broaden my horizon. knowing that i've just learnt something new. knowing that i've worked my brain a bit, and become a richer person by the new knowlegde. surely, all the chick lit, young adult, and travel books have been entertaining, i've had a whole lot of fun this year with them, but somehow they are just not substantial enough. not hardcore enough. i don't feel that i am high on lit when i'm done with them. i don't experience the feeling of satisfaction when i put them back on the shelf. i want to be higher on literature.

so i doom 2013 the year of the classics. the year when i go back to basics, i pick up all some of the books i skipped in college, and finally read them. without rushing, fussing, writing 10 page long essays or taking exams on them. me reading, slowly, just for fun. for the love of books. so this is why i decided to enter the back to classics challenge. (and i will also take enikő bollobás's az amerikai irodalom története /the history of american literature; my university textbook/ off the shelf and reread the entire thing. hopefully that will refresh my lit knowledge. i am also planning to finally read the bible. or at least give it a try.)

now some info: the back to classics challenge  is created by sarah reads too much. as the name suggests, the participants are required to read a number of literary classics in 2013. some specifics (copied from sarah reads too much.):

  • this year will feature 6 required categories that all participants must complete.
  • there are additional categories that those super-motivated participants can choose to complete if they'd like. 
  • all reviews must be linked on the appropriate pages at sarah reads too much, and those will be listed on the left hand side of that page. when you've finished, you will also need to link a wrap-up post. everyone who completes the 6 required categories and the wrap up post will be entered to win a $30US gift card or choice of book(s) from the book depository. any one who completes 3 categories from the optional list will earn one additional entry into the prize drawing. any one who completes all 5 categories from the optional list will earn two additional entries into the prize drawing.
  • all books must be read in 2013. books started prior to january 1, 2013 are not eligible. reviews must be linked by december 31, 2013. 
  • ebooks and audio books are eligible. books can count for other challenges you may be working on.
  • you do not have to list your books prior to starting the challenge, but it is more fun that way. you can always change your list at any time. you can read the books in any order (including mixing in the optional categories at any time).
  • you can decide to attempt the optional categories at any point (you can also bow out of the optional categories at any point as well).
  • please identify the categories you've read in your wrap up post so that i may easily add up your entries for the prize drawing.
the required categories:
  • a 19th century classic: Vanity Fair by Thackeray or Walden by Henry David Thoreau or Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • a 20th century classic: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • a pre-18th or 18th century classic:  Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe or Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • a classic that relates to the african-american experience: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Margaret Beecher Stowe
  • a classic adventure:  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • a classic that prominently features an animal: One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
optional categories:
  • re-read a classic: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
  • a russian classic: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • a classic non-fiction title: On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • a classic children's/young adult title: Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery or Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott 
  • classic short stories: Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by Sylvia Plath

feel free to join and sign up at sarah reads too much.


  1. Thank you so much for joining!! I wish you luck as you get "back to the classics" now that you are done with school!

  2. +JMJ+

    I won't be joining because I'm too distracted with my own personal reading projects as it is, but I wanted to remark on the "syllabus" effect of having required categories and optimal (Shouldn't that be "elective"?) categories. It will feel like school, but be more fun!