Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2016 Classics: The Contenders

In 2014 and 2015, I chose one classic book to read each month. It doesn't feel like a chore yet, so the tradition lives on for another year.

(If you're curious to see what I've read in past years:

The Classics: 2014

The Classics: 2015)

The hardest thing both years was narrowing it down to 12, so this is the time of year when I solicit input from the peanut gallery.

Here are the current contenders:


    Death Is a Lonely Business, by Ray Bradbury. I love Ray Bradbury.

    The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Recommended by someone.

    The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. Recommended by lots of people.

    Oliver Twist or David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist was on my list last year but I ended up reading Great Expectations instead because the consensus seemed to be that Oliver Twist was not his best. David Copperfield also came up as a better alternative, so maybe that. Or maybe since I just read Great Expectations I'll give Dickens a rest this year.

    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Gushed over by so many people, including several of you.

    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. People keep telling me to read this. It sounds like a fast & entertaining read.

    Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Gushed over by several good friends. I'm thinking seriously of including this one this year, especially since I don't think I've ever read any Eliot.

    Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. Heartily lobbied for by several of you last year. Same as above.

    The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. See "mysterious mystery." Though I think this is actually pretty short so it may not warrant its own month.

    Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. I like to read one or two sci fi classics per year & sort of can't believe I haven't read this.

    The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Everyone says this is great, plus it's like 300 pages.

    The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith. This one just sounds intriguing. Bonus points for a female author.

    The World According to Garp, by John Irving. Another one lots of friends have recommended. Then again I've done Irving two years in a row so maybe I let someone new have his slot this year.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce. I should probably be terrified of this one but I'm oddly intrigued.

    Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After One Hundred Years of Solitude, I still kind of feel the need to try another GMM. Or not.

    East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Several friends have been telling me for years to read this one. I haven't been big on Steinbeck in the past but I'm willing to give it a shot.

    Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. See sci fi classics. Also Journey to the Center of the Earth was unsatisfying.

    Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse Five is one of my favorites.

    All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. I find the summary intriguing. This one is one of the leading contenders, I think.

    The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton. Recommended by several of you in previous years.

    A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams. I've never read any Tennessee Williams & feel kind of ashamed about it.


    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I really just need to suck it up and finally read this. I even own a copy that someone gave me for Christmas when I was like, 14.

    Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. I saw part of the movie which for a long time convinced me that this book was Not My Thing, but lots of people have said it's super good, so maybe I'll give it a shot.

    Far From The Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. Also many rave reviews.

    Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. I've heard that this is actually a well-written book, in spite of the decadent subject matter? I am definitely going to read it one of these days.

    The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. Lots of people have raved about it and said it actually does not necessarily make you want to shoot yourself in the face.

    The Color Purple, by Alice Walker. I keep forgetting I've been meaning to read this.

    To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. I've never read any Virgina Woolf and that seems like something that should be fixed.

    Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs. Morbid curiosity, I admit.

    Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. Love me some Rushdie.

Thoughts? Which would you vote for? Are any of your desperate favorites missing? Anything from which I should flee while there's still time? MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!


  1. Given your feelings about Jane Eyre, I'm guessing you won't love Pride and Prejudice. It's even more of a parlor novel... (but I loved it.)

    Memoirs of a Geisha is wonderful.

    House of Mirth is phenomenal.

    Ulysses is a book I struggled through so much, that I stopped reading.

    If you liked One Hundred Years of Solitude, then Love in the Time of Cholera will likely please you as well.

    Stranger in a Strange Land is, as you note, a Sci-Fi classic (and a fairly easy read).

    1. I had the same thought about Pride and Prejudice -- if you don't like that genre, go with one of the many other options. Also, George Eliot is actually a woman who wrote under a pen name, and that's of the same genre as Jane Austen.

  2. East of Eden, for sure. It's fascinating, and the characters are so interesting (in my opinion).

    I also vote for Pride and Prejudice (totally completely opposite from East of Eden)- it's really enjoyable, and while some of the female characters aren't the best, it's a great love story.

  3. Which would you vote for? Middlemarch - I didn't get a parlor novel vibe at all. Much more along the lines of Dickens (there was a reason she wrote under a male pen name!). Also, To the Lighthouse is amazing - probably woolf's best.

    Are any of your desperate favorites missing? If you haven't read them, Faulkner's A Light in August and Ellison's invisible man

    Anything from which I should flee while there's still time? Tess. She is the worst. She put me off all Thomas Hardy. Run away from her and never look back.

  4. I just started Ulyssses! My cousin who I adore said it's one of his all-time favorites and that made me want to read it. I have been halfway through Naked Lunch for a few months...meh. There is some truly beautiful prose but I usually read in bed at night when I am already exhausted and honestly it's unpleasant and just not an easy read. When my kids are sleeping through the night I may give it another try, haha. Breakfast of champions: A+++

  5. I haven't read many of these but I can recommend Memoirs of a Geisha. It was a really interesting look at Japanese culture.

  6. I really like Lolita. It always feels uncomfortable to say that given the subject matter but I just think it's a really darn good book.

    If you want to read Woolf, I liked Mrs. Dalloway a lot more than To the Lighthouse.

    I've been thinking recently that I want to re-read The Bell Jar. I read it when I was 17 and very angsty, so it did kind of make me want to shoot myself in the face. I think I would have a different take as an older, much less angsty person. I really love Plath's poetry.

  7. I loved Lolita. Absolutely beautiful prose. Don't know if I'll ever read it again because it's disturbing.

    MIDDLEMARCH! One of my favorite books. So great.

    Not a fan of Hemingway, personally, and especially not Old Man and the Sea. But it was a long time ago that I read it so perhaps I'd change my mind now.

    Memoirs of a Geisha was interesting, but it wasn't one that "stuck" with me.

  8. Oh what a great idea!! I also shoot for a book a month, but I've never narrowed it down to the classics. Great thinking. Memoirs of a Geisha was good (the movie changed a lot of stuff, if I remember correctly); House of Mirth was also good, though I don't remember much, same with Bell Jar and Color Purple. I didn't like the Alchemist when I read it forever ago, but it seems like I'm the only one in the universe to say that. Really fun sci-fi recs - Dune (it reads like a soap opera, which is kinda hilarious), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, & the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I need to make a list now too!

  9. I think I spoke strongly in favor of All the King's Men last year & think it would be especially good for an election year. I might reread it, actually. Also think Bell Jar is worth it. We have an annotated Lolita (the prof who wrote the notes was at Northwestern) and that's an interesting way to read it if it makes the cut.