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It’s time to discuss my first readathon of the year! The lovely Lucy Powrie (lucythereader) has set up a classics based readathon – classicsathon/ClassicsCommunity – in which you read 12 classics within the year! Lucy has set up some goals such as ‘read 3 Victorian classics’ however I am choosing not to focus on those. I adore classics but tend to struggle to actually read them so this is going to be a huge challenge but I am very excited!
I have decided to compile a huge list of classics I already own as my TBR and then select which exact ones I’m going to read as I go as my mood may change or something else might spark a specific interest in a specific book! For example, after seeing Little Women in the cinema I have decided it simply must be the first classic I read – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
The other 11 books are going to be chosen from these:
- On Being Different: What It Means To Be a Homosexual by Merle Miller. Blurb: Originally published in 1971, On Being Different is a pioneering and thought-provoking book about being homosexual in America. Just two years after the Stonewall riots, Miller wrote an essay for the New York Times Magazine entitled “What It Means To Be a Homosexual” in response to a homophobic article in Harper’s Magazine. Miller’s writing, described as “the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade,” along with an afterword chronicling his inspiration and readers’ responses, became On Being Different — one of the earliest memoirs to affirm the importance of coming out.
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Blurb: Sara Crewe, an exceptionally intelligent and imaginative student at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, is devastated when her adored, indulgent father dies. Now penniless and banished to a room in the attic, Sara is demeaned, abused, and forced to work as a servant. How this resourceful girl’s fortunes change again is at the centre of A Little Princess, one of the best-loved stories in all of the children’s literature.
- Apple Bough by Noel Streatfeild. Blurb: The Forums (David and Polly, and the children Myra, Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ethel) live in a house called Apple Bough, and are a very musical family. David is a pianist, and considered one of the best accompanists in the country. Polly had been training to be a professional singer before her marriage: after her marriage she gave up training, and became an artist. All of the children can play the piano nicely, but Myra, Wolfgang and Ethel are “born amateurs”. Sebastian plays remarkably well, but there seems to be something missing. However, when he is four David and Polly realise that the violin is his instrument, and he begins taking lessons, and practising up to four hours a day. Because of his violin lessons, Sebastian cannot go to a normal school, so David and Polly engage a governess to teach all the children – Miss Popple, who soon becomes known as Popps. At the suggestion of his violin teacher, David and Polly allow Sebastian to play at a musicians’ charity event when he is eight. As a result of this, an important American concert arranger makes an offer for Sebastian to tour America, accompanied by his father. The tour will finish in California, where a great violin master lives: the income from the tour will be enough to pay for lessons. At first Polly refuses, not wanting to break up the family. However, a new offer is made, for the whole family, and Miss Popple, to travel with Sebastian. David and Polly think this will be a wonderful experience for the children, so they agree. Apple Bough is sold, Myra’s dog, Wag, is left with Miss Popple’s brother, and the family set off for America. One tour is followed by another, and after four years the family has travelled around North and South America, Japan, Australia, and Europe, but they have not been back to England. By this time, the children and Miss Popple are getting tired of travelling: Myra misses Wag, Ethel wants to be a student at the Royal Ballet School, and Wolfgang feels “it’s as if Sebastian was a dog and we were his tail”. When Sebastian turns twelve, he is able to perform in England. Before his first concert, Myra, Wolfgang and Ethel have a holiday with their grandparents, and it is from a conversation with Grandfather that “Operation Home” is born.
- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Blurb: ‘He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface’. Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Blurb: Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it ﬁrst appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting inﬂuence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.
- Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Blurb: Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
- Shirley by Charlotte Bronte. Blurb: Following the tremendous popular success of Jane Eyre, which earned her lifelong notoriety as a moral revolutionary, Charlotte Brontë vowed to write a sweeping social chronicle that focused on “something real and unromantic as Monday morning.” Set in the industrializing England of the Napoleonic wars and Luddite revolts of 1811-12, Shirley (1849) is the story of two contrasting heroines. One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.
- The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen. Blurb: ‘She has many rare and charming qualities, but Sobriety is not one of them.’ A selection of Austen’s dark and hilarious early writings – featuring murder, drunkenness, perjury, theft, poisoning, women breaking out of prison, men forging wills and babies biting off their mothers’ fingers…
- Mathilda by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Blurb: Mary Shelley’s Matilda – suppressed for over a century – tells the story of a woman alienated from society by the incestuous passion of her father.
- To Be Read at Dusk by Charles Dickens. Blurb: To Be Read at Dusk is a short, traditional ghost story by Charles Dickens.
- Extracts From: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Blurb: When this book was first published in 1949 it was to outrage and scandal. Never before had the case for female liberty been so forcefully and successfully argued. De Beauvoir’s belief that ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’ switched on light bulbs in the heads of a generation of women and began a fight for greater equality and economic independence. These pages contain the key passages of the book that changed perceptions of women forever.
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. Blurb: Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity, and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft’s work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage – Walpole called her ‘a hyena in petticoats’ – yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.
- Emma by Jane Austen. Blurb: Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Blurb: Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.
- Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. Blurb: Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë charts the development of gentle Agnes and sympathetically depicts the harsh treatment she receives along the way. Leaving her idyllic home and close-knit family, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield’s residence, inside whose walls reign cruelty and neglect. Although faced with tyrannical children and over-indulgent parents, the generosity of spirit and warm candour learnt from her own family never desert her. Agnes also remains firm in the Murray household, where she is used by the two disdainful young daughters for their own deceitful ends and where her chances of happiness are almost spoiled for her. A deeply moving account, Agnes Grey seriously discusses the contempt and inhumanity shown towards the poor though educated woman of the Victorian age, whose only resource was to become a governess.
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Blurb:As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables. As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.
- Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne. Blurb: The Bear of Very Little Brain and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood have delighted generations of readers since Winnie-the-Pooh was first published in 1926.
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle. Blurb:“A Study in Scarlet” is the first published story of one of the most famous literary detectives of all time, Sherlock Holmes. Here Dr. Watson, who has just returned from a war in Afghanistan, meets Sherlock Holmes for the first time when they become flat-mates at the famous 221 B Baker Street. In “A Study in Scarlet” Sherlock Holmes investigates a murder at Lauriston Gardens as Dr. Watson tags along with Holmes while narratively detailing his amazing deductive abilities.
- Black Beauty by Anne Sewell. Blurb: Black Beauty spends his youth in a loving home, surrounded by friends and cared for by his owners. But when circumstances change, he learns that not all humans are so kind. Passed from hand to hand, Black Beauty witnesses love and cruelty, wealth and poverty, friendship and hardship . . . Will the handsome horse ever find a happy and lasting home?
- The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis. Blurb: Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.
- Persuasion by Jane Austen. Blurb: Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Blurb: A gripping portrayal of London’s dark criminal underbelly, published in Penguin Classics with an introduction by Philip Horne. The story of Oliver Twist – orphaned, and set upon by evil and adversity from his first breath – shocked readers when it was published. After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Blurb: Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard. But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Blurb:The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story is of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his new love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Caroll. Blurb: “I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice, “Because I’m not myself, you see.” When Alice sees a white rabbit take a watch out of its waistcoat pocket she decides to follow it, and a sequence of most unusual events is set in motion.