Over the past few years, I have been really looking more deeply at my reading habits, and what I want to accomplish. I’ve been trying to focus on making changes that I think are important, and I’ve actually made quite a few over the years that I’m really happy with. This year, one of the things I would really like to focus on is reading more classics (which I talked about in my 2021 Reading Goals post). My goal for this year is six, which I think is fair with all the other books I’m hoping to read, but I am going to try to read as many as I can.
However, I realized something important. I don’t want to just pick up classics for the sake of picking up classics. I am attempting to read more diversely, so I think my classics reading should be more diverse as well. As much as I love Jane Austen and the Brontës, I do think it’s important to read classic authors who aren’t all white and/or British (only one author on this list falls into both categories.
So, today, I thought I’d talk about the six books I am planning to read to complete my goal for this year. I’m really happy with this list. They’re all books I’m very excited about, and they’re all diverse in some way (okay, fine, one of them is a stretch, but whatever).
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This one (along with the next book on this list) is actually on my 2021 Reading List. Because it’s huge and scary and if I say it enough times, I’m definitely going to read it this year. That’s how this works, right? Really, though, I have heard some pretty amazing things about this book. And I’m really excited to get into it. I haven’t yet started any of the books on this list (for various reasons, January isn’t off to the best start, reading-wise), but I think this might be what I pick up first. At the end of last year, I was kind of debating which bigger classic I wanted to add to my list for this year, and a lovely reader reminded me that Alexandre Dumas was actually black. So this fits into two of my goals for the year (reading classics and reading more POC authors)! It’s also translated from French, which is kind of interesting. And while one of my non-book goals this year is to improve my French, I will definitely be reading a translation. Because my French sucks. But maybe someday! (I say after a full week of not studying French a single time.) Either way, I am looking forward to reading this one and seeing if I like it as much as so many of you did!
I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki
If I’m being honest, out of all the books on this list, this seems like it fits me best. Like, if my personality could match up with a book synopsis, it would be this one. Basically, as the title says, the main character is a cat. Who wanders around early 20th century Japan and makes fun of how foolish humans are. A cat points out how dumb humans are. Which sounds absolutely amazing, and I am very excited to read this. I also love that it is a classic of Japanese literature. It’s just kind of awesome that one of their most well-loved classics is about a cat. Plus, I didn’t make it one of my official reading goals for this year, but I do want to read more translated works this year (which kind of comes with the territory of reading more diversely), so I’m even more happy to add this to my list.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I have not read John Steinbeck since I read Of Mice and Men in high school. And despite the fact that I actually really liked Of Mice and Men, and the fact that several people have told me personally that I will enjoy this one, and the fact that I feel like I should read it since it’s basically the classic example of American literature, oh, and the really cool vintage copy I found for a dollar at a used bookstore a few years ago…. I still have not read this. But lately, it’s been popping into my head a lot. Which I think means it is finally time to read this. It’s been a good long white since I’ve read some classic American literature (other than my reread of Animal Farm last year), so I’m looking forward to this. (This is also my probably not-all-that-diverse pick for this list, but whatever, it’s fine.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Another thing I want to focus on reading more of is well-loved authors I’ve never read before. I’m not saying I’m going to love all of their books, but I’m definitely curious. And one of those authors is definitely Gabriel García Márquez. I was kind of debating which of his books I should read, but the synopsis of this one just spoke to me more. I feel like if I love one of his books, it would probably be this one. So I’m starting here. I’m also extra excited about it because I love magical realism, and I think it will be interesting to read a classic magical realism novel, especially since Gabriel García Márquez was one of the originators of the genre. I always love reading where literary genres or trends come from (which is why I love Beowulf so much).
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
This is yet another author I feel like I just need to read at least once in my lifetime and haven’t yet. Which is kind of a shame since I’ve already read two of Tolstoy’s books before ever touching Hugo. I don’t think this will be the year I read Les Misérables (maybe 2022), but I can do Hunchback. It’s not as intimidatingly giant. Still, I guess I’m into French literature this year. But mostly I chose this because I’m kind of curious to see firsthand how it handles diversity. There is a disabled character (obviously), but there are also gypsies, which weren’t always portrayed that well. So I’m going into this hoping I love it, but those are things I’ll be paying attention to.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
I have actually read Virginia Woolf before. But I’ve only actually read her nonfiction (Three Guineas and A Room of One’s Own). I tried to read To the Lighthouse a few years ago, and couldn’t get into it. I’ll definitely be revisiting it someday, but this year I decided to give Orlando a try. It is queer and feminist and just sounds really powerful, but also kind of fun. And it just sounds more interesting to me than To the Lighthouse did. I also love the diversity, and very much want to read more feminist literature from Virginia Woolf.
And that’s it! Those are the six classic novels I am hoping to read this year to complete my challenge of reading six classics. Are you planning on reading any classics this year?