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My Classics Club List Four Years In

A photograph of three classic books: Vanity Fair, Anna Karenina, and David Copperfield

Five years (the length of the Club goal), especially given the possibility to extend it, is a long time. People talk of five-year plans – where do you want to be? – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a list of books for that period starts to become irrelevant, particularly when you’re far from on schedule.

In January I noticed that whilst I’ve barely made a dent in my list it’s not reflective of my reading itself. I’m reading the classics, just not those on my list. Often I know the book I’m reading’s not on my list, other times I’m baffled.

This bafflement introduced me to the fact I’ve changed. When I made the list I was full of the same hope and enthusiasm I still am today but my knowledge of the classics was minimal. Back then I was excited to learn, now I’m further along in my education. I know better what I like; before I just wanted diversity and to read what everyone else was reading. Crucially I made the decision to add only one book per writer, I thought that would be less daunting, and now I’ve some favourite writers I don’t want to move away from them so soon.

The list was a guide, good at the time. I like that it illustrates where I was as a reader then. I don’t want to abandon it completely because there’s no firm deadline and I would still like to read many of the entries at some point. And it did get me reading classics and keeps me on my toes. Perhaps I should pay more attention to it, then I wouldn’t be so shocked when I find a book isn’t on it, but that would be a chore.

For me, then, I think the success of the list isn’t in the reading but in the spin-off. I do wonder if I should update it, or categorise it.

Did you make a Classics Club list? How do you feel about it, however far along you are now?


Margaret @ BooksPlease

April 20, 2016, 7:27 am

I made my list 3 years ago and have changed it several times taking off books I thought I’d like to read and then deciding not that I didn’t want to read them but that there were others I wanted to read first. I suppose for me a list of 50 isn’t enough. As you say the list is really a guide and we all change and what we want to read changes too. I like lists anyway but I’m not very good at sticking to them and often want to read something unplanned.


April 20, 2016, 9:32 am

I joined the Classics Club four years ago and my list now is very different from the one I started with. There were 60 books on my original list and I’ve gradually increased it to 100, adding more books by authors I’ve discovered I like and removing books I don’t want to read anymore. As you’ve said, we all change over time and I don’t see the point in sticking rigidly to a list made four years ago if it means having to read books I no longer have any interest in. Good luck, whatever you decide to do!


April 20, 2016, 10:14 am

I feel the same about my list; after the first year, I stopped paying attention to it and I’m reading other things; less classis than you though…


April 20, 2016, 11:11 am

My club list is simply me recording on a list the classics I read. I can’t stick to a list. I change too much every day! :) I call mine a chronology, not a list.


April 20, 2016, 4:27 pm

I also joined The Classics Club 4 years ago! I am really pleased with the progress I have made, but then when I made my list I wasn’t worried about what I thought I should read and just focused on what I really wanted to read. And since then I have tweaked my list – if I got my hands on a different classic I thought was appropriate and adding more books by authors I’d particularly enjoyed.

I love your idea though that this doesn’t have to end in 5 years. You can continue to use it as a guide for as long as you want. I wish you happy classics reading :-)

Literary Feline

April 20, 2016, 4:50 pm

I think it’s natural the list would change over so much time. You aren’t in the same place you were when you first put the list together, and as you pointed out, you know your tastes better.

I have considered joining the Classics Club, the 50 Classics in 5 years goal (however lenient they are if people are unable meet that goal and need to go over), is just too much of a commitment for me. I’d feel obligated to aim for it, and I just don’t think it’s realistic for me. Half that would be a more doable goal for me to aim for. I’ve made lists of classics I want to read before–and lists of other books. Book lists are fun. :-) I’m terrible of sticking to lists though and find them constraining even when I know they are not required reading.

Booker talk

April 22, 2016, 7:38 pm

My list has changed several times. I think I created it initially with too much of an effort to read what were considered to be classics and not enough thought on whether that would be the kind of book I would appreciate.

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

April 26, 2016, 11:17 am

I’m two years in now and I’m starting to have something of the same problem. I do still want to read the books on my list at some point, but they are not necessarily the ones I want to read right now…I’ve toyed with the idea of abandoning THE LIST and just trying to read 9-12 classics per year, according to my reading whims and inclinations at the time. It would come out to the same result after all.


April 29, 2016, 12:13 pm

Margaret: I like that idea, I’ll have to think about doing the same. Yes; reading unplanned at times is an important part of a reading life, I think.

Helen: With two votes so far, changing my list is looking like a good option.

Isi: Yes, I think, perhaps especially when you read so much, your reading habits can change a great deal in just a year.

Jillian: That’s a good idea, a reverse list so to say, in context of lists. I like that a lot. Less pressure, I expect.

Jessica: Your progress is inspiring! That’s a good point – what you want versus what you should. My list is so much ‘should’ – not that there’s no ‘want’, there’s many of them, but perhaps the whole ‘should’ thing would be better relegated to an overall concept kept in mind rather than a formal list.

The extension was a big part of the reason I joined; even then I knew 5 years was asking too much of myself!

Literary Feline: It is a difficult goal; I admit to leaning heavily on the ‘5 years but’ aspect. Yes; I think if classics make up the majority or even a fair amount of your reading already, it can work, but otherwise it’s difficult. I know I’d like to say I read a lot of classics, and I do enjoy it but the reality is it’s not that many. I agree, lists are fun, sticking to them not so much.

Booker Talk: Yes to your first point, that’s me completely. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the fun of it and in the fun of making the list and learning of new authors.

Lory: Yes, that’s a good idea. This year I’m keeping a log of ‘number of books from X category I’ve read’ and that’s keeping me on my toes. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the list itself rather than remembering it’s more about the ‘classic’ status of the works.



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