Eleven Classics in 2011: January Check-in

Eleven Classics in 2011 @ Mommablogsalot.com

One month in 2011 is coming to a close and as promised, I’m checking in with the progress of my little self-imposed reading challenge.

This month I was also participating in the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge which Carrie @ Reading To Know hosts annually every January. This was an excellent opportunity for me to read some more of the classic Anne of Green Gables novels, which I only just discovered this past fall. This month I managed to read:

  1. Anne of Avonlea (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery Finished January 17, 2010 – I still can’t believe I waited so long to read this series which is such a well known classic. I really loved this second book in Montgomery’s Anne series. I am by now smitten with her descriptive prose and loved all of the stories of Anne’s two years spent teaching in Avonlea. I liked all of the various love stories that Anne becomes privy to and how they all sort of shape her knowledge of what love really looks like and what it doesn’t look like and the entire theme of preconceptions that runs throughout the book. – full review
  2. Anne of the Island (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery Finished January 23, 2010 – This book was so deliciously addictive, it deals with Anne’s years at Redmond as a college girl and I really loved that timeless look at college life and readjusting to life at home in between – very true to life and told in a very classic Anne kind of way. And of course anybody who loves the Love Story of Anne, will love book 3 I think as it finally really comes to a head in this book – with lots of heart ache and twists and turns of course. – full review

When planning this post, I debated back and forth on whether to count this as one classic book or two (or none, since I technically read the first book last year) and this inevitably also lead to the question, “What exactly defines “classic literature”? I turned to google and then Wikipedia where I found, of course, several takes on the subject. According to wiki, in the 1980’s, Italo Calvino said in his essay “Why Read the Classics?” that:

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” … “Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.”

Constructing a universal definition of what constitutes a Classic Book seems to him to be an impossibility, since, as Calvino says, “There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics.”

What I take from this and the dozens of other definitions and quotations I read is that a classic is a story that you feel compelled to make sure everyone reads and thus after a certain amount of time, society assumes most people have read it or should. It isn’t a guarantee of quality of course, since everyone’s opinions are different but generally speaking, it will be a book that has something for everyone, which stands the test of time to be enjoyed in any era and always seems relevant and contains a story that will stay with you all your life, long after your first reading of it. They are the books you hold onto instead of selling at a yard sale, so your kids and their kids can read and love it someday, too.

That said, I think that both of the Anne novels I read this year deserve to be counted in my challenge. They each tell a different story in Anne’s life and I loved them for different reasons as well as the same reasons. If you only read one, I’d wish you’d read the other as well. Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t enjoyed the books, but as I read on Wikipedia, I think that this definition of classic has to be made by yourself, has to feel authentic to you, because at the end of the day, the only person you are reading for is yourself.

So all in all, I’d say my time spent with classic literature this month has been thoroughly well enjoyed, but I am looking forward to discovering another great author in February and so my classic challenge continues. I’m not sure what I plan to read in February yet, I have a lot of options and a few other review books and book club picks to contend with as well, but I’ll be sure to check in at the end of the month with more reviews and thoughts on the challenge.

If you’ve challenged yourself to read more classics this year, I’d love to hear how it’s going! Feel free to share links to any reviews from this month and tell me about the books you’ve been reading; what you loved, what you hated and maybe how you define classic literature in the comments section below.

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