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Old 11-21-2012, 05:04 PM   #1
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My 2013 Challenge

Next year I am going to educate myself further in issuing a 'Classic A Month' challenge. Now, I haven't read that many 'classics'. Ones off the top of my head include Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm (which happens to be my favourite book of all-time), 1984 and The Count of Monte Cristo to name just a few.

So I ask, what denotes as a 'classic' in your eyes?

So far I have The Great Gatsby and A Clockwork Orange.
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:29 PM   #2
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I have the same challenge for next year and I've already chosen 15 books I want to read (3 extra in case I really don't want to finish another one on the list). Having studied English I've read many classics so it wasn't easy. I've been rather free with my choices, including work by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Gabriel García Márquez. In my opinion if you think a book can be classified as a (modern) classic you should be able to put it on your list.
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Old 11-21-2012, 08:33 PM   #3
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Classics appear in all my yearly challenges. I don't do one a month because I usually have so many reading commitments that it's not going to work out. I go for a minimum of 6 instead.

There's various definitions of classics that are bandied about in these forums because it's occasionally contentious as a book club category.

Personally, I would put both The Great Gatsby (on my TBR for 2013) and Clockwork Orange on the classics list. I happily include Vonnegut on mine. I don't actually exclude pulp from the classics tag as long as I feel that it has an enduring value - eg. The Maltese Falcon, Riders of the Purple Sage etc.. It all depends, of course, on what type of education you want. You might want to exclude pulp from the category if it doesn't meet your aims.

I asked someone at work how they would classify "classic" and the reply was that the book would need to be at least one generation old (possibly two) and still have value to the current generation. That feeds into that "enduring quality" aspect. The reason for this is that fiction largely communicates to a contemporary audience. Once that generation passes, the message can become diminished or "dated". A classic becomes one because it continues to communicate effectively to current generations after other contemporary works of that time have faded into irrelevance.

No doubt there's exceptions to this all over the place and I'm certainly not prescriptive on this. But it's food for thought.
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:08 PM   #4
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Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey - This always comes up with discussing westerns and I thought it was a bit of romance with the western part. Not the very best western out there but enjoyable.
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Riders of the Purple Sage is a Western novel by Zane Grey, first published by Harper & Brothers in 1912. Considered by many critics to have played a significant role in shaping the formula of the popular Western genre, the novel has been called "the most popular western novel of all time."[1]

Riders of the Purple Sage tells the story of Jane Withersteen and her battle to overcome her persecution by members of her polygamous Mormon Church, a leader of which, Elder Tull, wants to marry her. Withersteen is supported by a number of Gentile friends, including Bern Venters and Lassiter, a famous gunman and killer of Mormons. Throughout most of the novel she struggles with her "blindness" in seeing the evil nature of her church and its leaders, trying to keep both Venters and Lassiter from killing her adversaries, who are slowly ruining her. Through the adoption of a child, Fay, she abandons her false beliefs and discovers her true love. A second plot strand tells of Venters and his escape to the wilderness with a girl named Bess, "the rustler's girl," whom he has accidentally shot. While caring for her, Venters falls in love with the girl, and together they escape to the East, while Lassiter, Fay, and Jane, pursued by both Mormons and rustlers, escape into a paradise-like valley by toppling a giant balancing rock, forever closing off the only way in or out.

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - I have grandparents that went to California during the dust bowl era, so I enjoy stories that tell of that era and the people. Some may find it boring, but it was a story about what many were going through as they tried to survive.
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When The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939, America, still recovering from the Great Depression, came face to face with itself in a startling, lyrical way. John Steinbeck gathered the country's recent shames and devastations--the Hoovervilles, the desperate, dirty children, the dissolution of kin, the oppressive labor conditions--in the Joad family. Then he set them down on a westward-running road, local dialect and all, for the world to acknowledge. For this marvel of observation and perception, he won the Pulitzer in 1940.

The prize must have come, at least in part, because alongside the poverty and dispossession, Steinbeck chronicled the Joads' refusal, even inability, to let go of their faltering but unmistakable hold on human dignity. Witnessing their degeneration from Oklahoma farmers to a diminished band of migrant workers is nothing short of crushing. The Joads lose family members to death and cowardice as they go, and are challenged by everything from weather to the authorities to the California locals themselves. As Tom Joad puts it: "They're a-workin' away at our spirits. They're a tryin' to make us cringe an' crawl like a whipped bitch. They tryin' to break us. Why, Jesus Christ, Ma, they comes a time when the on'y way a fella can keep his decency is by takin' a sock at a cop. They're workin' on our decency."

The point, though, is that decency remains intact, if somewhat battle-scarred, and this, as much as the depression and the plight of the "Okies," is a part of American history. When the California of their dreams proves to be less than edenic, Ma tells Tom: "You got to have patience. Why, Tom--us people will go on livin' when all them people is gone. Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on." It's almost as if she's talking about the very novel she inhabits, for Steinbeck's characters, more than most literary creations, do go on. They continue, now as much as ever, to illuminate and humanize an era for generations of readers who, thankfully, have no experiential point of reference for understanding the depression. The book's final, haunting image of Rose of Sharon--Rosasharn, as they call her--the eldest Joad daughter, forcing the milk intended for her stillborn baby onto a starving stranger, is a lesson on the grandest scale. "'You got to,'" she says, simply. And so do we all. --Melanie Rehak


I had to read many classic works for High School and university, so I plan on rereading some that were not assigned and that I found were fun to read: Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Swiss Family Robinson, David Copperfield, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, etc.. I seem to always get more from them each time I read them - plus some are just fun to read.
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Old 11-22-2012, 02:02 AM   #5
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I second Steinbeck his writing is very clear and is easy to follow, which is a relief when it comes to classics. Generaly they are very fast reads and tend to stick around novella length.
Cannery Row
The Pearl
Of Mice and Men
Thats my top 3 favorute at the moment, Ive got To a God Unknown standing by, just havent felt the draw to it yet.
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Old 11-22-2012, 02:22 AM   #6
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A book that stands the passing of time or that defines something during its time. It can be works by Poe, Rousseau or Brontë but also Asimov, Tolkien or Saint-Exupéry ...

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So I ask, what denotes as a 'classic' in your eyes?
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Old 11-22-2012, 03:16 AM   #7
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I've read The Great Gatsby but didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not trying to discourage you from reading it, not at all. I have read a quite number of classics. The ones I really enjoyed and would recommend are A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, Little Women, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and all of Jane Austen's novels particularly Pride and Prejudice.

Shakespeare's plays are also considered classics. I really enjoyed reading Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. Romeo and Juliet not so much, I disliked the ending.

I'm definitely interested and willing to read more. I have to read The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment, Gone with the Wind and Anna Karenina.

I think everyone's opinion is different on what makes a book a classic. To me, a classic is a book that has survived many years and books that I can relate to in terms of themes. I think we can consider books that will never lose popularity as classics. Also, I regard morality to be one of the most important characteristics. If you've read plenty of classics, you'll notice that the writing style and language is very much different, kind of poetic.
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Old 11-22-2012, 03:47 AM   #8
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Dickens. Everyone should read Dickens. If you've never read any of his novels I'd suggest either "Oliver Twist" or "Great Expectations" as good ones to start with.
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Old 11-22-2012, 04:27 AM   #9
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To Kill a Mockingbird definitely. I just reread the book this year and watched the movie.

The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas, which is the end book of the D'Artagnan Romances. These start with The Three Musketeeres and ends with The Man in the Iron Mask. I read this last book before I ever read The Three Musketeers. I admit that it may have been better to have read them in order to get the whole life story of the musketeers before reading the last book, but I do love the whole story of The Man in the Iron Mask. [These are in our MR Patricia Clark Memorial Library (in four volumes) - Dumas, Alexandre: D'Artagnan Romances, Vol 1]

I think 'classic' is just something that is from another era (I think it could count from our parents time and on into the past). A time we are not living in that still has universality - family, emotions, relationships, etc..
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Old 11-22-2012, 05:04 AM   #10
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In High School I remember discovering Kafka and Dostoyevsky and being blown away.
Before that I dreaded "classics".
I think its silly to force kids to read the classics.
We dont even give them healthy food in the school cafaterias, we might as well let them read junk instead of forcing them into hunger strike.

The classics arent even tolerable to someone who doesnt enjoy the written word, and its hard to blame them when they dont have the muscle memory to keep track of everything.
My theory is that if you just have a little faith and let them read whatever they want, by college you would have a much more well rounded individual. And yes that means comic books because Harry Potter doesnt have squat on Grand Theft Auto, but zombie apocalypse's just might stand a chance.
Im ranting but it really peaces me off whenever I think about how we teach our kids not to read.
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Old 11-22-2012, 05:38 AM   #11
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I've read The Great Gatsby but didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not trying to discourage you from reading it, not at all. I have read a quite number of classics. The ones I really enjoyed and would recommend are A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, Little Women, Black Beauty, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and all of Jane Austen's novels particularly Pride and Prejudice.

Shakespeare's plays are also considered classics. I really enjoyed reading Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. Romeo and Juliet not so much, I disliked the ending.

I'm definitely interested and willing to read more. I have to read The Count of Monte Cristo, Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment, Gone with the Wind and Anna Karenina.

I think everyone's opinion is different on what makes a book a classic. To me, a classic is a book that has survived many years and books that I can relate to in terms of themes. I think we can consider books that will never lose popularity as classics. Also, I regard morality to be one of the most important characteristics. If you've read plenty of classics, you'll notice that the writing style and language is very much different, kind of poetic.
Not at all. Respect your opinions. I will read The Great Gatsby so I can participate in discussions surrounding the book. I have heard mixed reviews about it personally.

How about One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest? Seen the film and enjoyed it; that's always classed as a modern classic right?

Not sounding rude, but I don't think I want to read Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice really.

So far I have:

The Great Gatsby
A Clockwork Orange
Alice in Wonderland
To Kill a Mockingbird
Oliver Twist
A Tale of Two Cities
Dracula
Frankenstein
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Old 11-22-2012, 06:52 AM   #12
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Not sounding rude, but I don't think I want to read Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice really.
P&P is hilariously funny, it really is. Don't judge it from the film and TV adaptations which generally remove most of the humour from it.
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Old 11-22-2012, 07:26 AM   #13
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P&P is hilariously funny, it really is. Don't judge it from the film and TV adaptations which generally remove most of the humour from it.
Agreed. Even though the BBC mini series is excellent, the novel is even much better. The novel is full of humor, the character of Mrs. Bennet which in my opinion is the most funniest of all the characters in the novel wasn't that funny in the TV adaptations.
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Old 11-22-2012, 07:35 AM   #14
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Dickens. Everyone should read Dickens. If you've never read any of his novels I'd suggest either "Oliver Twist" or "Great Expectations" as good ones to start with.
Hey HarryT, earlier in this thread I mentioned that a colleague at work was giving his opinion on what a classic is. He actually said - "Do you think people will still be reading Dickens in a 100 more years?"

From that I gathered that he didn't find Dickens classic enough somehow. In my mind, Dickens is automatically in the classics category but I think that without intimate experience as I've only ever read A Christmas Carol.

Have you ever considered or had discussions about Dickens somehow not being sufficiently timeless to retain relevancy through this century?
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Old 11-22-2012, 07:39 AM   #15
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P&P is hilariously funny, it really is. Don't judge it from the film and TV adaptations which generally remove most of the humour from it.
I haven't read this yet, but I did read the first couple of pages and giggled. That's a pretty good sign.

*sigh*

One of the reasons I started introducing a classic challenge category for myself each year was to start righting the wrongs of my past reading habits.
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