Tuesday, April 10, 2012


1 a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value

I love books.  I love to read.  I love Goodreads - both because it helps me keep track of what I've read and because it has encouraged me to read more critically as I think ahead to reviewing a book.  But I also love reading what I want to read.  I clearly remember the moment I realized I could quit a book if I wasn't enjoying it. 

I was lying in bed, slogging through a book when I thought to myself, "You know, no one is going to test you on this book.  You're not going to have to write a paper on it."  At that point, I created a personal rule: if a book doesn't have my interest by page 50, I stop reading it.  I created the 50 page rule because I think some books don't jump up and grab me.  I need to get to know the characters, see where the plot might take me, get a feel for the writing and the setting.  But honestly?  That has to happen in 50 pages or I'm not wasting my time.  (This started as the 100 page rule, but 100 pages of Little Women was enough to change that.)  Life is too short to read boring books.

I like the freedom to choose what I'm going to read.  There's nothing better than the right book at the right time - and nothing worse than the right book at the wrong time.  That (along with my busy schedule) is why I limit my book club participation - I don't want to read what someone else says to read.  But without providing myself some structure, I can get into a reading rut.  So I decided this year I should be a bit more targeted in some of my reading.

My first thought was that I should read one classic per month.  Then I decided that was too ambitious.  I settled on one per quarter instead.  Then March rolled around and I realized I hadn't even started a classic, much less finished one.  So I grabbed Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham and started it.  I'd found it back in January at the used book store and thought it sounded interesting.  And who doesn't want to read a book by an author with a name as cool as Somerset Maugham?  That alone was enough to make me attempt it.

If a classic serves as a standard of excellence, I can see why this book is a classic.  The writing?  Excellent.  The themes?  Broad, lasting, well-addressed.  The time it took to read the book?  Substantial - and not just because the book was 680 pages long.  The book was so packed that I could only read bits at a time before taking a mental breather.  Was the book worth my time?  Yes, but I'd love for my next classic to be a bit easier to read.

That's where you come in.  What's your favorite classic and why?  It is easy to read?  A book you still think about?  Does it have characters that you love?

Give me all your thoughts.

And should you be looking for your next great book, my favorite book of all time is The Book Thief.  I can't say enough good things about it.  If you haven't read it, read it.  But first leave me a comment telling me your favorite classic!


Allison in Texas said...

Well, my reviews are nowhere near as insightful as yours, but as always, I have an opinion. I don't know about themes, but I've always loved Jane Austin's P&P and Persuasion. I enjoy how intelligently witty Elizabeth is in P&P; I can reread it any time. That's why I am loving the Temeraire series- it's a bit like an Austin book. The time period is the same. I recently listened to Huck Finn and really enjoyed it. If you decide to do something like The Hobbitt, let me know, and I'll read along. We can have a private book club, lol.

Aimee Guest said...

Jane Eyre. I remember the first time I read it and wondered, "How have I not found this book before?"-a character that goes through trials, a character that follows the Lord and is forced to make heart-breaking decisions that tear the reader up, and then an ending that makes the reader happy, but not without some consequences. A character who loves the Lord but is not squashed into a the box of Christian fiction. Every time I read it I get caught up in her story again-And as always I identify with her loneliness and sense of being unwanted (from my childhood days). Reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with Micah right now, sometimes a classic is just the right thing (for me, most enjoyed once I left school).

Carolyn said...

If "The Book Thief" counts as a classic, then I'd vote for "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. :) I know our tastes tend to be different, but for what it's worth, I also love "Jane Eyre" (Bronte), "The Moonstone" (Collins), "North and South" (Gaskell), "Persuasion" (Austen), "Mere Christianity" (not fiction but def a classic), almost anything by Agatha Christie, and to a lesser degree "Silas Marner" (Eliot) and "The Great Gatsby" (Fitzgerald). I look forward to seeing what you choose (via Goodreads)!

WordGirl said...

I neglected to mention that I'm aiming for classics that I haven't yet read. Allison, I loved Pride & Prejudice - and as best I recall, I liked Sense & Sensibility even more. Aimee, Jane Eyre was a favorite of mine in high school. Maybe I'll make 2013 my year of re-reading.

Carolyn, you did manage to hit on one I haven't read in mentioning The Hiding Place. And I've read some Agatha Christie, but not much, so I could add one of those to the list (especially since they are so readable).

Thanks for the comments, friends!

Allison in Texas said...

Dang it! I looked at your Goodreads before I posted, too, LOL. My cyberstalking skills are subpar, apparently.