Classics Club Challenge Update: Year One

Harvard Classic Books

One year ago I marked my 50th birthday by joining the Classics Club Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to read fifty classic novels in five years, and after one year I’m ahead of the pace by three books. In the last twelve months I’ve read the following thirteen books:

  1. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni (1842)
  2. The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (1908)
  3. Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson (1908)
  4. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927)
  5. Conan – The Definitive Collection by Robert E. Howard (1933-1938)
  6. Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell (1949)
  7. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (1939)
  8. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)
  9. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)
  10. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985)
  11. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913)
  12. Emma by Jane Austen (1815)
  13. Romola by George Eliot (1863)

As I look back on these books I notice a few interesting stats:

  • Four are from the 19th century, nine are from the 20th century.
  • The earliest is Emma by Jane Austen from 1815, which was a re-read.
  • The newest is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry from 1985.
  • Four are Catholic-themed: The Betrothed, Lord of the World, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and Romola.

I am most surprised by the number of books from the early 20th century, because that’s not one of my favorite eras of literature. In fact, I usually avoid it. I only have sixteen 20th century books on my entire list, but strangely I’ve already read nine of them, leaving seven to spread out between the remaining four years of the challenge. My subconscious must have been working to get them out of the way early.

My favorite Classics Club book of the past twelve months is probably Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson. This early dystopian novel is still vivid in my mind, though I finished it almost a year ago. I also liked Lonesome Dove and Conan – The Definitive Collection. My least favorite book was Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, which was a chore to finish.

I’m already at work on year two with Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, the longest book on my list at over 1000 printed pages. I’m reading it on my Kindle and trying to read one chapter a day, which should take me sixty-five days to finish if I’ve counted correctly.

In all it’s been a productive and enjoyable first year, and I recommend the Classics Club Challenge to anyone looking to jumpstart their reading of the world’s greatest literature.

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

1 Response

  1. Your first year with The Classics Club has been a resounding success. O Pioneers! is a favorite from pre-club years, but both Far From the Madding Crowd and Emma were on my CC list, too. My second list will include more Cather and Hardy, plus at least one Austen reread.

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