New Year Resolutions – a year of classic literature

I know it’s typically a time for feeling generally depressed, and wanting to pack away all the decorations that you pretend to like because the kids made them, but I love New Year. I love the feeling of expectation, of promise, the notion of a fresh start, that anything is possible. As soon as Christmas is over I want to get on with all the New And Exciting Things that I feel sure are just around the corner. I start tidying, throwing things away and thinking about the year to come. I itch to have the cupboards empty of biscuits for cheese, and I scoff the amaretti biscuits so I can organise Useful Things into the empty tins.

No surprise then that I also love the idea of New Year Resolutions. This year I have been thinking a lot about what I want to achieve in 2011, as it feels like a significant one for me – Bee finishes school this year, and if that isn’t enough to make you feel old, and want to take stock a bit, I don’t know what is.

Obviously I have toyed with the standard Get Fit, Get Thin, Get Rich type of resolutions, but to be honest, they are never going to happen are they? And who wants to be thin and rich when we all know really that the secret of happiness is a cup of tea, a Sex and the City box set, and a packet of cheap rich tea fingers?

A couple of years ago, I made a resolution to read 100 books in a year. It worked really well for me, as I told everyone about it at the beginning of the year, and let my natural competitive instinct drive me forward – no way was I going to have to tell anyone I had failed. Something like weight loss doesn’t work quite so well, as none of your friends are exactly going to say ‘hey, you’re looking a bit porky, weren’t you meant to be getting thin?’

So this year, I have another book related resolution, as a joint project with my sister’s boyfriend. The 100 books thing was a challenge, but it was a question of quantity rather than quality. This year I’m going the other way, and we have come up with a list of 25 classic books to read in the year, books that might take a little longer, but that will look far more impressive on our shelves.

I’m telling you all this obviously so that you can hold me to account. Below is the list we have come up with, and I need to aim for two a month. I thought a fortnightly classic literature slot might add an air of faux intellectualism to the blog, perhaps balance out the usual low-brow mix of smear test stories and dating disasters.

Anyway, here’s the list. Wish me luck!

Bram Stoker – Dracula
Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
Joseph Heller – Catch 22
Muriel Spark – Momento Mori
Isaac Asimov – Foundation
Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited
John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
Franz Kafka – The Trial
James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Jules Verne – Journey to the Centre of the Earth
F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway
Ivan Turgenev – Fathers and Sons
Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
Homer – The Odyssey
Dumas – The Three Musketeers
Chekhov – The Steppe
Plato – The Last Days of Socrates
Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra – Don Quixote
Dickens – Great Expectations
One Thousand And One Nights
Daniel Dafoe – Robinson Crusoe
Confucius – The Analects
Ernest Hemmingway – To Have and Have Not



  1. 3 January, 2011 / 10:06 pm

    nice choice of books! good luck

  2. Korhomme
    3 January, 2011 / 10:09 pm

    Nothing from Jane Austen? Try Persuasion. Not as complicated as some of her others.

    • 3 January, 2011 / 10:17 pm

      We have both already read a bit of Jane Austen and we were trying as much as possible to pick authors that neither of us had read much at all. I’ve not read Persuasion though, so maybe I’ll put that on the list for next year…

  3. 3 January, 2011 / 10:33 pm

    Some of those sound like fun….some not so much!!! Enjoy x

  4. Lynley Oram
    3 January, 2011 / 10:36 pm

    No Graham Greene or HG Wells – are they also authors you’re already familiar with?

    • 3 January, 2011 / 10:41 pm

      Great recommendations, but I’ve already read quite a lot of both already – love them!

  5. Mandy Covington
    3 January, 2011 / 11:54 pm

    Of those I have only read Dracula. Brilliantly written. You’ll love it I’m sure. Enjoy your reading.

  6. 4 January, 2011 / 1:40 pm

    Nice! You’re going to love Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s SOOOO much better than the film.

    I’ve got a similarly literary goal this year although I haven’t actually chosen the books yet, I’m going to do that on a monthly basis. Speaking of which, might I humbly direct you to my blog post on New Month’s Resolutions (, which may help you reach your goal? Good luck! (And see you Friday!) x

  7. Ken Bladon
    4 January, 2011 / 4:26 pm

    Don Quixote, you will find, takes more than a fortnight! I tried to read it in the original Castilian, gave up, and then someone gave me the classic English translation, which I read, but it is a thick volume!

    • 5 January, 2011 / 8:39 am

      I was slightly concerned to see on Amazon that it had about 800 pages… Unfortunately my reading partner-in-crime has picked it for January, so this could be sink or swim!

  8. 4 January, 2011 / 8:32 pm

    Have you read The Collector? My most recent classic and I loved it.

    • 5 January, 2011 / 8:38 am

      Ooh yes, that’s a fantastic book! I actually lent my copy to a friend just this weekend telling her how great it is.

  9. 5 January, 2011 / 3:33 am

    Brilliant idea re the 25 classic reads…..the best new years resolution I have heard about this year! Keep us posted with your progress!

  10. 5 January, 2011 / 8:11 am

    Brave girl. Some of the books are absolute belters. Robinson Crusoe, Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby. Also Catch 22 is my favourite book ever and is the only book I started again directly after finishing it. Tell me what you think as most people say it’s a bloke’s book, which I don’t agree with.

    But, Plato is hard and so is Confucius and Heart of Darkness is not exactly a Bill Bryson travelogue. Good luck with those!

    Anyway, have a great new year Jo and hope 2011 is full of health, happiness and success for you and your family…and thanks for all your comments and support for my blogging. The Shevenator

    • 5 January, 2011 / 8:37 am

      Hmm… brave or stupid…

      All the hard ones are the sister’s boyfriend’s choices :-)

      Happy New Year to you too – keep up the good work!

  11. 5 January, 2011 / 4:20 pm

    Wow! rather you than me. I read about 300 books a year, mostly non fiction stuff, not the classics. I’d rather sample 100 flavours of ice cream. I remember trying to read Crime and Punishment many times and losing the will to live half way through because all the russian names are so similar.

  12. 5 January, 2011 / 11:57 pm

    Heart of Darkness is wonderful, as is The Trial – both books I read whilst full of angst in the ’80s. Couldn’t you have some real classic humour in there though? Diary of a Nobody? Oscar Wilde? The Pickwick Papers instead of Great Expectations? After all they might look great on your shelves but you want a year of enjoyment and you also want people to believe you have read them….

  13. 6 January, 2011 / 6:06 am

    what a fantastic new years resolution :) might need to adopt this one…

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