Maybe time is just a social construct, and that the shift from one year to the next is only an arbitrary distinction. But there is definitely something about flipping the page to a new calendar year that gets me excited about setting goals and renewing my focus. I didn’t set a reading resolution for 2020, but with the desire to desperately escape the real world, I ended up reading a lot of books and from all over the board. In 2021, I’d like to zone in on a specific reading goal: to read more classics.
What makes a book a ‘classic’? This distinction is far from objective, but books dubbed as classics generally have some specific distinctions. First, they are considered to be of high artistic quality, appreciated for their effective construction and dazzling prose, in addition to their uniqueness. Their appeal is universal, employing themes that a large number of readers can relate to and projecting a wide influence. Longevity is an obvious feature of a classic — they have stood the test of time, since we are obviously still reading them and talking about them. Quality, universality, and longevity all allow classics to maintain relevancy over time and across space, making the experience of reading a classic both an individual and a collective adventure.
I’m not sure why, but I haven’t picked up a ‘classic’ since college, and this has left a giant, shameful void in my literary knowledge. This year, I vow to patch up this hole by finally reading some of the books that have slipped past me and solidify my understanding of their place in the canon of literature. To do so, I’ve compiled a list of classics to check off that include books I’m excited to dive into, ones that I’m embarrassed that I’ve never read, and ones that frankly intimidate me (hello, “Infinite Jest”). My list includes some essentials, such as “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as some more eccentric titles like “Nausea” by Jean-Paul Sartre, “Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs, and “The Illustrated Man” by Ray Bradbury. I’ve got books to satisfy my natural draw toward dark literature, including “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath and “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, as well as some re-reads that I anticipate having a different perspective on this time around, such as “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott and “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. These are all among others to make a list of nearly thirty books. Wish me luck.
What are your favorite classics? What essentials do I need to include on my list? Let me know what I’m missing, or if you are feeling adventurous, join me on this reading odyssey. Also, tune in the latest episode of the In the Stacks podcast, live now, to hear Dani and I discuss our reading resolutions in greater detail.