Thursday, February 5, 2015

Classics Club Part One: 2015-16

After putting together my list of 50 classics I wanted to read in five years, I knew I wanted to break it down into sizable chunks so that it was doable. This is what I've come up with.  I am going to valiantly try (!) to read these ten books this year, though by the looks of it I've picked the longest books in the history of the world - only joking, don't tell me which books are longer - and will report back on how things are going.  For this year I tried to pick at least one from each category, except for Spain (sorry Spain), and most are new authors to me.  The blurbs are all linked, so you can take a look, too, if you'd like!

First up is The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, since I'd already begun reading it and have been meaning to finish it for ages.  This will hopefully be the kick in the pants to do it, not just talk about it.

If the year ends with my only reading a few of these, I won't be too hard on myself - the point is to read more classics, not to not read classics and then feel bad about it, right?

Have you joined the Classics Club? What are you reading this year?

Classics Club Year One:

Orlando by Virginia Woolf
'Orlando' is a historical fantasy in which the eponymous hero remains alive for over three centuries, but ages physically just 36 years. Over this huge span of time, Orlando has many strange adventures, chief among them being his sex-change from a man to a woman. Woolf uses this bizarre and intriguing notion to examine many aspects of human existence: the difference between fact and imagination; the utility of poetry and art; how humans conform to whatever civilization of group they find themselves in; and (a central theme of the book) the gender roles which society imposes so unjustly upon men and women, when - in Woolf's view - the two sexes have in reality very similar dreams and aspirations. (from Amazon)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
"Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again." So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past [their beaches], white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten...her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant — the sinister Mrs. Danvers — still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca...for the secrets of Manderley. (from Barnes & Noble)

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
In a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly “whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers. (from Goodreads)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The last and greatest of Dostoevsky’s novels, The Brothers Karamazov is a towering masterpiece of literature, philosophy, psychology, and religion. It tells the story of intellectual Ivan, sensual Dmitri, and idealistic Alyosha Karamazov, who collide in the wake of their despicable father’s brutal murder. Into the framework of the story Dostoevsky poured all of his deepest concerns—the origin of evil, the nature of freedom, the craving for meaning and, most importantly, whether God exists. The novel is famous for three chapters that may be ranked among the greatest pages of Western literature. “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor” present what many have considered the strongest arguments ever formulated against the existence of God, while “The Devil” brilliantly portrays the banality of evil. (from Barnes & Noble)

Father Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
'Père Goriot' is the tragic story of a father whose obsessive love for his two daughters leads to his financial and personal ruin. Interwoven with this theme is that of the impoverished young aristocrat, Rastignac, come to Paris from the provinces to make his fortune, who befriends Goriot and becomes involved with the daughters. The story is set against the background of a whole society driven by social ambition and lust for money. (from Goodreads)

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Absalom, Absalom! is Faulkner's epic tale of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who comes to Jefferson, Mississippi, in the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said, "who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him."  (from Barnes & Noble)

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair’s muckraking masterpiece The Jungle centers on Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant working in Chicago’s infamous Packingtown. Instead of finding the American Dream, Rudkus and his family inhabit a brutal, soul-crushing urban jungle dominated by greedy bosses, pitiless con-men, and corrupt politicians...Today, The Jungle remains a relevant portrait of capitalism at its worst and an impassioned account of the human spirit facing nearly insurmountable challenges. (from Barnes & Noble)

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the infinite torment of Hell, up the arduous slopes of Purgatory, and on to the glorious realm of Paradise—the sphere of universal harmony and eternal salvation. (from Amazon)

The Trial by Franz Kafka
Written in 1914 but not published until 1925, a year after Kafka’s death, The Trial is the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, The Trial has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. (from Goodreads)

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis 
The classic novel Zorba the Greek is the story of two men, their incredible friendship, and the importance of living life to the fullest. Zorba, a Greek working man, is a larger-than-life character, energetic and unpredictable. He accompanies the unnamed narrator to Crete to work in the narrator’s lignite mine, and the pair develops a singular relationship. The two men couldn’t be further apart: The narrator is cerebral, modest, and reserved; Zorba is unfettered, spirited, and beyond the reins of civility. Over the course of their journey, he becomes the narrator’s greatest friend and inspiration and helps him to appreciate the joy of living. (from Amazon)

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