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Would anyone like to join me in a modern classics challenge for 2015?

(228 Posts)
mmack Fri 05-Dec-14 16:27:38

This year I read some very good books but a lot of mediocre ones as well. So next year I plan to read 12 modern classics that I haven't read before. Would anyone be interested in doing something similar? Or in discussing any of the books with me? My list is below. It's a bit male-dominated but that's because I tend to read mostly female writers so the classics I haven't read are mostly by male writers.

1. Saul Bellow; Herzog 2. Martin Amis; Money 3. Truman Capote; In Cold Blood 4. John Updike; Rabbit, Run 5. Philip Roth; American Pastoral. 6. Kent Haruf; Plainsong 7. Kurt Vonnegut; Slaughterhouse 5 8. Iris Murdoch; The Sea, The Sea 9. Doris Lessing; The Golden Notebook 10. Margaret Atwood; The Handmaid's Tale 11. Ron Moody; The Ice-Storm 12. J.M. Coetzee; Disgrace.

guggenheim Fri 05-Dec-14 16:43:54

I'd like to join in please. I've got into some very lazy book habits since having ds. I can vaguely remember having a brain : )
Some of those books have been on my 'to read' list for quite a while- especially the Capote.

Are you going to begin at the start of the new year?

mmack Fri 05-Dec-14 18:00:34

Yes, I plan to read one a month starting in January. I will probably read In Cold Blood first because it seems the least daunting. Then The Handmaid's Tale in February as it gets such glowing reviews from other regular posters here. I feel slightly embarrassed that I'm in my 40s and have never read any Updike or Roth considering I read Steinbeck and Hemingway in my teens.

hackmum Fri 05-Dec-14 18:16:17

Ooh, blimey, that's an interesting one. Not sure what my list would be, though I've just downloaded Ulysses, so that will be one. I've read four on your list. Have been meaning to read In Cold Blood for ages so that might be one.

Think it's a good idea - I was looking a couple of days ago over my list of books I've read this year. An awful lot were non-fiction, and most of the rest was contemporary fiction, which I'm starting to get a bit bored with.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Fri 05-Dec-14 18:20:15

Swap American Pastoral for Nemesis! Deceptively simple, horribly topical - hard to forget once read.

I'll probably watch with interest but your list is a bit mono-something for me. And I'm finding the best (or perhaps most urgent) writing outside English/American fiction atm.

Southeastdweller Fri 05-Dec-14 22:02:10

I'm in. I haven't been impressed with most of the contemporary fiction I've read this year and was thinking this week I'd like to read more older novels next year. Of your list, I've only read one (In Cold Blood - brilliant).

mmack Fri 05-Dec-14 23:30:19

Thanks for the replies. Zero, I know what you mean by my list is a bit mono-something. I think a few of the books on it are one I didn't read simply because they are by 'important' male authors and that put me off. Reading outside English/American fiction would a good challenge too. I might add Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe to my list as well. Hackmum, if I get through this list I might be brave enough for James Joyce in 2016.

BOFster Fri 05-Dec-14 23:33:27

I'd add Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch to that list, and if you are looking for something a bit older, Marilyn French's The Women's Room.

BOFster Fri 05-Dec-14 23:34:42

Oh, and something by Sarah Waters. I think Fingersmith is her best. Or Tipping The Velvet.

guggenheim Sat 06-Dec-14 18:23:47

Sorry I misunderstood and stole your list. Hope you don't mind! : )

Hmm...think I should combine some of my unreads and pinch a few good ones from your list. I'm looking forward to a literary new year.

mmack Sat 06-Dec-14 22:20:56

This is a good website to look at before you make your list, Guggenheim.
I borrowed Nemesis from the library today so I'm adding that to my list and starting this month.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 06-Dec-14 22:57:07

Good start!

You replied with such grace that I feel bad for returning with my fhmm face - but I do not love that list. Apparently more than half of the books that everyone (in the entire world?) ought to read have been written by Americans.

And I absolutely hate it when someone try's to give the impression that the entire history of non-white humans beings on this planet can be boiled down to a tiny handful of "protest songs." It's an outrage.

Moving on ...

Have you read (randomly listed)

Helen DeWitt The Last Samurai?

Richard Hughes A High Wind in Jamaica (Not the children's book it's promoted as.)

Sheehan Karinatilaka Chinaman

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 06-Dec-14 23:07:21

- finger hit Post by accident -

Marghanita Laski Little Boy Lost

Patrick White Voss

Liam O'Flaherty The Informer

V S Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas

George Mackay Brown Greenvoe

All the poetry of Derek Walcott

All the plays of David Greig.

And I know there are some threads around listing masses of literature in translation...

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 06-Dec-14 23:09:50

And I refuse to be held responsible for my illiterate phone's infelicities ...

BOFster Sat 06-Dec-14 23:54:03

'Infelicities' is definitely a word that should be used more often. Bravo grin.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sat 06-Dec-14 23:58:40

I swear I didn't write "try's".fangry

Footlight Sun 07-Dec-14 00:09:13

I'll join. Other than Margaret Attwood, I haven't read any of the books mentioned by any one so far. I've recently joined the beautifully refurbished Manchester Library, and so far have just wandered round looking at stuff or buying ridiculously priced coffee. I also attended a reading/book group last year which was serious let down.

looking forward to it.

HappydaysArehere Sun 07-Dec-14 00:20:06

Would like to add The Gift of a Rain by Twan Eng. A wonderful book.

mmack Sun 07-Dec-14 00:44:26

I actually have read lots of the non-Americans mentioned on that website- Milan Kundera, Roddy Doyle, Isabelle Allende, Michael Ondjaadte, Arundhati Roy, Hanif Kurieshi. I've read Liam O'Flaherty from your list. I just want to fill in the gaps in my own reading and, like I said earlier, I tend to read female authors much more than male ones. From the American writers on that list I have read Alice Walker, Jennifer Egan, Toni Morrison, Donna Tartt, Sylvia Plath, Marilynne Robinson and S.E. Hinton. It's the male authors I feel that I have missed out on so that's why there are so many on my 2015 list.
I did also want a good robust literary discussion so don't feel bad about the raised eyebrow, Zero. For the record I'm not American but I did live there for a few years and I really do enjoy American literature and music but your point is a good one.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sun 07-Dec-14 01:26:22

Ah. I did wonder if you had an American connection. (FWIW I rather held myself aloof from US literature until I arrived there and saw just how twee the UK could look from a distance.)

I've never come across anyone who's read O'Flaherty! (And I've only read this one so far.)

I'd say Patrick White is the most muscular from my (thrown together) list; Hughes the most subversive, Naipaul the funniest (though the funniest passage ever is in another Patrick White The Tree of Man.) But, thinking about it, I'd say the most challenging, in different ways are the two written by women. I could write endlessly about how staggering they each are.

I haven't got round to Jennifer Egan or Marilynne Robinson yet - or S E Hinton although it's on my to-read list.

Oh, if you're saving James Joyce try Brian Friel. And if you like Sean O'Casey (?) try Lizzie Nunnery.

ParisWhenItSizzles Sun 07-Dec-14 01:43:41

I'm in. I'm hoping for a Kindle for my birthday. I would like to read some more of the older classics as well.

mmack Sun 07-Dec-14 02:08:48

Way ahead of you with Brian Friel. I studied Philadelphia, Here I Come at school. Insurrection is my favourite Liam O'Flaherty book. I always figure people will know I'm Irish but I guess it's not as obvious as I think.

TsukuruTazaki Sun 07-Dec-14 02:15:00

Kent Haruf plainsong is on my list for this year

whitecandles Sun 07-Dec-14 02:20:57

If anyone is looking for non-Americans, how about Kim Young Ha? South Korean author. I loved I Have the Right to Destroy Myself and currently on Your Republic is Calling You. His style reminds me of Donna Tartt and Alice Munro.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Sun 07-Dec-14 02:41:23

You only offered one late hint of Irishness. grin So why no James Joyce?

Philadelphia's not my favourite - though I'm in awe of its theatricality. Faithhealer otoh - so bold and stark and baroque all at once.

Thanks for the O'Flaherty tip. In exchange I offer you The Jesuit by Donald Campbell. (It's hard to find but a truly wonderful thing.)

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