I've participated in several reading challenges this year. I find them a good way to help me solve the "what should I read next" dilemma, and I enjoy being forced out of my reading rut of mostly reading the same type of book. This is the second year I've participated in the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Karen from Books and Chocolate . The goal was to read between 6 and 12 books, one for each of the given categories. Now that I've - finally - posted my final review it's a good time to reflect on what I read for this challenge this year. And start crossing my fingers since by reading 12 books and posting a review of them all I earn three entries into the prize draw!
1. A 19th Century Classic - I selected Heart of Darkness for this but regretted it. For a short novella I found it slow going and felt the lack of immediacy in the story plus the racist overtones were off-putting
2.A 2oth Century Classic - I had ambivalent feelings towards Willa Cather's O Pioneers! I didn't dislike it, even appreciated it, but it didn't really resonate with me or leave a lasting impression.
3. A classic by a woman author -The Dollmaker by Hariette Simpson Arnow was definitely the highlight of the classics I read this year. While the grimness of the industrial Detroit setting plus the intricacies of the rural Kentucky dialect stop it being an easy read, it really rewards the reader's effort. It seems to be a little-known gem and one I recommend if you haven't already read it.
4. A classic in translation. - Tolstoy's novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich was simple and thought-provoking. The volume I read also included A Confession, but it was too didactic for my taste.
5. A classic published before 1800 - I read Homer's Odyssey. I wasn't a fan of Odysseus or the perception of him as a hero. But I liked how most of the themes still resonated today.
6. An romance classic -The beautifully written Rebecca, with it's lush, detailed descriptions was among my favourite classic reads this year.
7. A Gothic or horror classic - This was not my favourite genre but Dracula wasn't as frightening as I'd feared and I loved the capable and resourceful character, Mina.
8. A classic with a number in the title - Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not his finest work, but it is enjoyable in a lighthearted way and it contains many quintessential elements which were developed further in later works.
9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title - It's sheer unrelenting brutality made White Fang a tough read, but it is an interesting counterpoint to Landon's better-known The Call of the Wild.
10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit - In the titular character of Nicholas Nickleby Dickens created a worthy, but not insufferably perfect, hero whom the reader could root for. While I might like to visit London, the plight of Kate Nickleby added to my conviction that I wouldn't have wanted to live in the London that Dickens portrayed.
11. An award-winning classic - Pearl Buck's The Good Earth details the rise and fall of a Chinese peasant family. Its universal themes make it worthy of being by anyone who hasn't already done so.
12. A Russian Classic - Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment was a rich and compelling read. I was glad I overcame my initial hesitation since it wasn't neither as long nor complicated as I'd feared.
Many thanks to Karen for hosting this challenge.