Sunday, November 6, 2011

2012 Classics Challenge

I spent most of today trying to figure out my titles for the 2012 Classics Challenge. Here's what I've decided on:

  • Any 19th Century Classic: Anna Karenina by Lev Tolstoy
  • Any 20th Century Classic: Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Reread a classic of your choice: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • A Classic Play: Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • Classic Romance: Evgenii Onegin by Aleksandar Pushkin
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your languange - Garden, Ashes by Danilo Kis (recommended by Maria whose taste in books is impeccable)
  • Classic Award Winner -  TBD by Joseph Brodsky
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you will not visit during your lifetime - The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn

I am glad I decided to do the Eastern European version of the challenge as that narrowed down my options in a very productive way and added focus to my list. More than one of these titles is a reread. Not that there aren't enough unread titles for me to pick from but I've read many GREAT books when I was in high-school (courtesy of the sometimes strangely enlightened Bulgarian education system) and, honestly, I think I owe it to myself to re-read them periodically as I collect life experiences. I think that Anna will make a lot more sense to me at 30 than she did at 15. 

The two categories that were the toughest for me were mystery/horror/crime fiction and romance since these are not genres I usually read in but they gave me an opportunity to be cheeky and creative so I am glad they were on the list. Also, for someone who travels a lot, the last category was almost impossible to fulfill but then Kyle suggested that I pick a country that no longer exists and therefore I would not be visiting in my lifetime so that opened up a whole lot of possibilities. I decided to pay special tribute to the Soviet Union by reading a novel that best describes the atrocities of the regime. 

For the award winner, I wanted to pick a poet since the category wasn't explicitly included in the challenge. Joseph Brodsky won the 1987 Nobel Prize for Literature and his work I admire. So much so that I am having a hard time picking a particular collection of poetry. If you have a favorite, please let me know.

I am super excited about this challenge! It is shaping up to be a mildly depressive but otherwise rewarding experience. Have you read any of the books on my list? Which ones do you think I will like best? 


P.S. I *am* a Russophile and I'm totally OK with that.


  1. This list is incredible. I love that you are focusing on Eastern European works! I know very little about Eastern European Lit, (though I am considering Anna Karenina for one of my choices), so I will be checking your reviews often!

  2. I am sorry that I am late with a recommendation, but did mean to suggest a science fiction title for the "classic set in a country that you will not visit" category. Even if not in this list, there are many Soviet science fiction classics that have left a significant mark on world literature and the Western understanding of Eastern Europe, like Zamyatin's We (frequently taught in complit courses in the US) or the Strugatsky Brothers novels, like Monday begins on Saturday. They might lighten up your list a little bit and also reference the social reality of the time as the Gulag Archipelago does :) Their Roadside Picnic also qualifies as horror, or, to delve in Soviet detective mysteries, see here (I remember some fascinating Soviet mysteries I read as a child, but they are not classics nor do I remember the titles..)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

    Ellie: There were too many to choose from! I almost had "We" on my list as my 20th century title. I hope that the challenge inspires me to dig deeper! What are you reading these days?

  4. Oh, I love the idea of focusing on Eastern Europe! I might steal your Evgenii Onegin entry; I'm am flummoxed over my possible Madame Bovary choice. I already chose the Master and Margarita!

  5. Oh! By all means, steal away! I've read AND loved it so many times. It makes me cry every time. I am re-reading the Master and Margarita for the same reason you picked it: I read it in college and was completely blown away by it but I seem to have forgotten it... almost completely. Embarrassing!

    The best thing about doing the challenge (aside from the hours of joyful reading, of course) is discovering so many amazing blogs like yours! I'm excited to follow you!

  6. Oh thanks, and likewise! I just read my first Pushkin literature (besides the fairy tales) a little while ago, can't believe it took me so long. I think I will put "Onegin" on the list. I am also a Russophile, if not a very good one. :)