Over the next several months I have decided to read, ten classic novels. And by classics, I mean, time tested works that critics generally agree have an ambitious scope and successfully execute upon that scope.
I feel like that because I’ve been reading a lot of novels that have been written in the past two years or so, I’ve been reading a certain amount of mediocre work which has made me wonder about and hunger for true greatness. What distinguishes the classic novels that have lasted a century from a run of the mill literary novel? Novels today are modest and modestly fail. Or maybe it has always been that way.
Also, I read most of my “classics” between the ages of 15 and 17. Now that I am nearly 50, I wonder if I understood anything. Now is be a good time to revisit. And finally, a mysterious box of classic novels was left on my husband’s loading dock. Well, you like to read, he said, want these?
Here’s my ten:
Pride and Prejudice: I actually read this every year – it’s like going to San Francisco – you never get sick of it. Perfectly plotted.
Jane Eyre: My first grown up book. I also reread this one a lot. Deeply flawed and deeply interesting.
Huckleberry Finn: The great American novel.
Moby Dick: A literary compendium
The Sound and The Fury: I’m not sure this will hold up under scrutiny.
Middlemarch: Dutifully plowed through this at age 16. Today I believe I will appreciate it much more.
Lolita: I have very high expectations for this one. I love beautiful prose.
Madame Bovary: How I wish I could read French! The sentences are supposed to be the most pleasure.
Brothers Karamazov: I expect passion and grappling with life.
War and Peace: Why not?
Let's see what I learn.