READING CHALLENGE | #ClassicsCommunity

The other night, as I scrolled through my recommended videos on YouTube, I came across Lucy the Reader’s videos. Intrigued, I clicked on her channel and came across a video that inspired me to finally pick up a genre I have been wanting to explore more of but never had enough courage to do so. 

“…classics don’t have to be intimidating, they don’t have to be scary. I think there is a classic for everyone and that anyone can read classics if they would like to.”

I have been watching booktube videos ever since I discovered the community on YouTube a few years back. I love listening to booktubers’ thoughts and recommendations as they constantly influence my to-be-read list. Adding a book or two here and there after watching booktube videos may or may not have been the reason for the current state of my overflowing TBR.

Lucy’s video was exactly what I needed and I just love the idea of a community coming together to read classics. Very few people read classics these days with so many new books coming out and I love that, but I just wish people—including myself—would have the time to get to more of this wonderful genre.

“You’ve probably seen my confidence grow as I read more classics, and to know that my passion has grown alongside that too. And so, what I’d like to do now is to give back and I would like to encourage lots more of you to read classics. To either start reading classics, to read more of them, to challenge yourself to read harder classics or longer classics or just to read classics. Just spread the love for classics because I think that reading books written in the past is one of the best things ever. And I’d love to spread that love to more people.”

#ClassicsCommunity is a year long reading challenge that I will be joining. Lucy explained that she created this challenge to get people together to inspire each other to read more classics.

This reading challenge is something I did not know I needed until I came across it and I am so happy I did. As a beginner, I do not know much about classics but I will be reading the books I already own for the baseline challenge, which is to read at least one classic a month. Apart from that, I will see if I can read more throughout the year.

“…the thing I want to place most an emphasise on, as always, is that you have to have fun with this challenge. This isn’t a challenge where you push yourself to the extreme. Although, if that is your style, then you can. I want this to cultivate a love for classics. So if you haven’t read classics before or don’t feel confident doing so, or don’t feel like you’re good at reading classics, then this is the challenge for you. Because I want it to be something that encourages you to grow in confidence as the year goes on.” —Lucy Powrie


1. The Great Gastby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

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Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby is the bright star of the Jazz Age, but as writer Nick Carraway is drawn into the decadent orbit of his Long Island mansion, where the party never seems to end, he finds himself faced by the mystery of Gatsby’s origins and desires. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life, Gatsby is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon, this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald brilliantly captures both the disillusionment of post-war America and the moral failure of a society obsessed with wealth and status. But he does more than render the essence of a particular time and place, for in chronicling Gatsby’s tragic pursuit of his dream, Fitzgerald re-creates the universal conflict between illusion and reality.

This one has been showing up in almost all my blog posts, now that I think about it. It is just such a well-known classic that I have been seeing and hearing about everywhere so I thought I would add it on here as well to kill two birds with one stone. It is one of the must-read books I want to get to in 2020 so I made it a read for this reading challenge as well.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

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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.

I could not not include this book in this list. Pride and Prejudice is the kind of book that first pops up in your mind when you hear the word “classics”. It has been on my TBR for way too long so this challenge gave me the perfect excuse to finally get to it.

3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

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‘Everything is finished. I have nothing but you now. Remember that’

Anna Karenina seems to have everything – beauty, wealth, popularity and an adored son. But she feels that her life is empty until the moment she encounters the impetuous officer Count Vronsky. Their subsequent affair scandalizes society and family alike and soon brings jealously and bitterness in its wake. Contrasting with this tale of love and self-destruction is the vividly observed story of Levin, a man striving to find contentment and a meaning to his life – and also a self-portrait of Tolstoy himself.

Fun fact: I was actually inspired to read this classic by Rory Gilmore from the television series, Gilmore Girls. Hearing her mention it a few times kept catching my interest so, I just have to find out what it is all about. I also downloaded the movie a while back but I think I will save it for after I finished the book.

4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote 

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It’s New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

I downloaded the movie a while back as I have yet to see an Audrey Hepburn movie and thought it would be fun to read the book as well. If I remember correctly, a bookstagrammer, @bookstolivby, mentioned a while back that this was her favourite book so it caught my interest.

5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

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“Matthew had taken the scrawny little hand awkwardly in his; then and there he decided what to do. He could not tell this child with the glowing eyes that there had been a mistake. . . .”

When eleven-year-old Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables with nothing but a carpetbag and an overactive imagination, she knows that she has found her home. But first she must convince the Cuthberts to let her stay, even though she isn’t the boy they’d hoped for. The loquacious Anne quickly finds her way into their hearts, as she has with generations of readers, and her charming, ingenious adventures in Avonlea, filled with colorful characters and tender escapades, linger forever in our memories. 

This Modern Library edition of the first of L. M. Montgomery’s beloved and immensely popular Avonlea novels features the restored original text and an Introduction by the noted children’s literature scholar Jack Zipes.

After hearing about the Netflix series, “Anne with an E” and watching the first episode a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted to pause my binge and read the book first. I do not know much about the story but I know I want to learn about it through the book first.

6. The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky 

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This collection, unique to the Modern Library, gathers seven of Dostoevsky’s key works and shows him to be equally adept at the short story as with the novel. Exploring many of the same themes as in his longer works, these small masterpieces move from the tender and romantic White Nights, an archetypal nineteenth-century morality tale of pathos and loss, to the famous Notes from the Underground, a story of guilt, ineffectiveness, and uncompromising cynicism, and the first major work of existential literature. Among Dostoevsky’s prototypical characters is Yemelyan in The Honest Thief, whose tragedy turns on an inability to resist crime. Presented in chronological order, in David Magarshack’s celebrated translation, this is the definitive edition of Dostoevsky’s best stories.

One of my favourite bookstagrammers, @thomreads, talked about how he loved this book a few months back and after reading his review, I immediately added it to my list of books to read. I want to expand the different kinds of literature I read, especially classics, therefore I am excited to get to this Russian-translated book.

7. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie 

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When the Bantrys wake up to find the body of a beautiful young stranger in their library, Dolly Bantry knows there’s only one person to call: her old friend Miss Marple.

Who was the young girl? What was she doing in the library? And is there a connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are discovered in an abandoned quarry?

Miss Marple must solve the mystery, before tongues start to wag, and the murderer strikes again.

My grandfather was a major Agatha Christie fan and so I want to start reading her novels to tick them off my list one by one. I read my first book of hers, Crooked House, in October last year and have been wanting to get to this one.

8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

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The scientist Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with possessing the secrets of life, creates a new being from the bodies of the dead. But his creature is a twisted, gruesome parody of a man who, rejected for his monstrous appearance, sets out to destroy his maker.

Mary Shelley’s chilling Gothic tale, conceived after a nightmare in 1816 when she was only eighteen, became a modern myth. It is a disturbing and dramatic exploration of birth and death, creation and destruction, and one of the most iconic horror stories of all time.

I want to do more for Halloween this year and have been dying to do a scary-book binge for the month of October for so long.

9. Dracula by Bram Stoker 

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Count Dracula’s castle is a hellish world where night is day, pleasure is pain and the blood of the innocent prized above all. Young Jonathan Harker approaches the gloomy gates with no idea what he is about to face . . .

And back in England eerie incidents are unfolding as strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck . . . But can Harker’s fiancé be saved? And where is the evil Dracula?

Again, a scary read. I have been wanting to read these books for Halloween but never got the chance to. So, I just have to include them on my list. I will decide which book to read when the time comes, though.

10. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell 

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‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . . 

Nineteen Eighty-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.

This book is one of the classics I have heard of most. I do not know much about it but that is how I like going into books as it keeps me most intrigued and surprised.

11. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens 

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The Penguin English Library Edition of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

‘A parish child – the orphan of a workhouse – the humble, half-starved drudge – to be cuffed and buffeted through the world, despised by all, and pitied by none’

Dark, mysterious and mordantly funny, Oliver Twist features some of the most memorably drawn villains in all of fiction – the treacherous gangmaster Fagin, the menacing thug Bill Sikes, the Artful Dodger and their den of thieves in the grimy London backstreets. Dicken’s novel is both an angry indictment of poverty, and an adventure filled with an air of threat and pervasive evil.

The Penguin English Library – 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

I bought this on a whim the other day when I visited the city. What I did not know was that my mother had it as a required book for her literature class in matric. No one in my family reads much so, to me, it was a lot of fun being able to talk about a book that I know of and that someone in my family has read before I did.

12. Kringe in ’n bos (Circles in a Forest) by Dalene Matthee 

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The Knysna Forest: a primal world of strange beauty and hidden dangers, of secrets shrouded beneath the canopy of towering trees, where, for centuries, the only sounds were the songs of birds and the trumpeting of the magnificent elephants…. until man arrived to claim for himself the rare wood of the trees, and the rarer ivory of the elephants’ tusks.

I had the author’s book, Fiela se Kind as the required novel for my Afrikaans Literature class when I was in Grade 10 and to be honest, I cannot remember much of  it. I have been wanting to reread it and as this one is the first book of Dalene Matthee’s Forest tetralogy, I think I will be binging them all. These books were published in the 80s but are considered classics in Afrikaans literature.

Note: These books are not in the order I want to read them. It is simply a list from which I will choose a book depending on my mood each month.

You can find out more about the #CommunityClassics reading challenge through the video here and if you’d like to join, the reading challenge also has a group which you can join on Goodreads here.

Keep on reading and never stop telling stories.

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