Still three and a half months until I turn myself over exclusively to classic reads, but I thought I'd post the current list of books I'm considering. Again, the goal is to gather well-known classics and/or books by canonical authors whose work I've never read. I'm thinking I'll aim for twelve books, and have two alternates in case I hit a wall with something and have to abandon it.
I've consulted all kinds of official and unofficial lists of classics to compile the following, and now I'm going to need guidance -- which I've started to get and appreciate. So please weigh in. Tell me what you loved, what you hated, what you couldn't make it through. (I've been warned that Moby-Dick will take me the full year and drive me crazy, but I feel like such a loser not having read it...)
So, in no particular order:
Crime and Punishment
I'm sure I'm going to like this. It's right up my alley and has been heavily recommended over the years. Not sure how I missed this one in school.
The Great Gatsby
Ashamed. I'm ashamed I've never cracked this one open. In fact, I don't think I've ever read any Fitzgerald. Like I said, ashamed.
I've had this on my shelf for two years now.
This one makes me nervous, less because of it's length than its style. I envision hundreds of pages on the various uses of whale blubber... Ugh.
Never read any Charlotte Brontë. Again, ashamed. Is this the one to start with?
This comes up on all the lists. I've read some shorter work by Nabokov. Love the Kubrick film (which I know may make die-hard fans of the book cringe, but I find it incredibly and surprisingly funny).
Frankenstein or Dracula
I'd like to be doing one of these two as we approach Halloween 2011.
The Turn of the Screw
Never read Henry James -- and I know there are other more "important" works, but this story just sounds fantastic. (Also, I've got to mix in shorter stuff if I'm gonna do Moby-Dick!) UPDATE: a reader has suggested What Maisie Knew instead, writing "it's short, but much better and more representative of james than t.o.t.s, which'll only take you a couple of hours to read anyway."
A Tale of Two Cities
Once again, I blush. Never read Dickens. For some reason all those orphan books sound like a bit of a drag. Plus I've seen the movies, especially Great Expectations, which I've seen quite a bit. Now maybe I'm wrong, maybe there's something else I should start with. But I enjoy political and historical sweep. All you Dickens fans, set me straight!
East of Eden
A Room With Windows warns this is a difficult one. I've read and enjoyed some of Steinbeck shorter work, but haven't done this one yet. Thoughts?
Gone with the Wind
My wife tells me this is a must-read. I was actually surprised to find it on so many great books lists. Saw the movie years ago and enjoyed it (except for the last line -- not sure they needed that). The biggest trouble with committing to this book is that all the covers -- and I mean ALL the covers -- are pretty romance novel-y. Just this side of Fabio, actually. And it's not yet available for the Kindle. I'm a little worried about maintaining my masculinity showing off one of those covers on the subway.
Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim
These both have some serious and vocal fans. I've been warned they can get a little meta, which worries me, but people adore these books. Help me choose!
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Never read any Twain. Ever. Not a full book, anyway.
House of Mirth or Ethan Frome or The Age of Innocence
More divisions over these. I've never read any Wharton, so this will be my first. Thoughts?
So, there we go. Fourteen books. Twelve plus two alternates. Help me narrow them down or change things out.
I've been warned off Wuthering Heights (it was described as "what they did instead of TV soaps" at the time it was written); I've left off more recent classics by writers like Philip Roth, who I've read a fair share of; I don't have any Ayn Rand or Willa Cather; I haven't added Brave New World or anything by Kipling; Homer's epic poems show up often when you search for classic novels, even though as epic poems they don't quite fit -- I've never read either, but I grew up listening to a several-cassette audio recording of The Odyssey, so I'm going to hold off on that.
Please, add your thoughts to the conversation below and help me get my list in order!
(Note: I'm going to read Pride & Prejudice before the new years, so I'll have an Austen under my belt before 2011. Otherwise, I would've added it here. SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME!)