I have been thinking about what big old books I want to read in 2013, to fill in the embarrassing gaps in my reading of the classics. These are the ones I have come up with, which I propose to read in a yet-to-be-decided order:
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. Apart from me, everyone in the world has read this. Even I have absorbed a lot of what this book contains from film adaptations (in particular, Andrea Arnold's fascinatingly grotty version from 2011), Kate Bush, and the ether generally. When I mentioned this book some time ago, I was struck by how many people I know hate it. Maybe when I read it I will hate it too, but I want to have enough knowledge of the book to feel that I am entitled to express an opinion on it myself.
Lord Jim, by Joseph Conrad. This is another one of those books I feel like I know a lot about without ever having read, though I did read the first couple of pages some years ago (and they are stunning - the only reason I did not continue was that some other book was making demands on me at the time).
The Collected Tales, by Nikolai Gogol. I like any Gogol I have come across, which may be why my beloved bought me this fine collection. In 2013 I hope to actually read it.
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. I feel that by this stage in my life I should have read more novels by Charles Dickens, so I hope to have got through this porker by the end of 2013.
Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope. Lots of people love Trollope. I have never read anything by him and am actually open to the possibility that he is priggish and boring rather than actually entertaining, but I would like to have read something by him on which to base an opinion. The appeal of Phineas Finn is its setting in the world of 19th century politics, which I think could be rather interesting.
The Iliad, by Homer. That's right, I have never read the Iliad, though I have read a re-telling of it for kids. I want to read this as part of a programme of reading epic poetry, starting with this and going on to the Odyssey and maybe continuing with the Aeneid (or maybe skipping that) before finishing up with Paradise Lost. My interest in the Iliad has partly been rekindled by my current taking of a class in ancient Greek, through which I have been able to read the first couple of lines in the language of the ancients. That has made me excited about reading all of the Iliad (in English, obviously), but has made me a bit wary of all the available translations.
So that is it. I know what you are thinking - "a whole year to read six books???". In my defence I can say a number of things. I am a slow reader, easily distracted away by other things. I also have any number of other demands on my time. And these are not all the books I plan to read in 2013 - as well as these I hope to keep up with SF book club, make progress on eliminating the Panda Mansions book mountain, and possibly even tackle some of the books that my friends in classic and modern book club are reading.
One other thing I am still undecided on is the Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. As you know, I have been reading War & Peace a chapter a day this year. We have found this a most enjoyable experience, with the grand scale of the book suiting the slow reading we have given it. Some of my friends are looking to chase the buzz next year, by reading another porker of a book over the same time scale. From a list of longest books ever, this 14th century Chinese novel looked like it has a similar kind of epic sweep to Tolstoy's masterpiece so my friends are opting to read it over the whole of 2013.
I have not fully committed to this myself yet, as it seems like a big commitment (Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a good bit longer than War and Peace) and I do not want to compromise my general reading. But the book does seem intriguing, giving an account of a vicious struggle for supremacy between the three warring states into which China was divided in the second and third centuries AD. It is fiction, but it is based on real events, and real events in a period I know little about, making it very tempting to a history lover like myself. It also seems like every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, which would suit reading it in a drawn out manner.
Or I may plough a lonely furrow and read Victor Hugo's Les Misérables a chapter a day next year. It has the advantage of having exactly 365 chapters (one reason we read War & Peace this year was that it has 366 chapters). However, one thing that proved very enjoyable with War & Peace was reading it with other people and trading comments on each chapter with them in our Facebook group. So I think if I was to read anything over the whole of 2013, it would be better to read something with other people. And I have learned through bitter experience that French novels are rubbish, so I suspect that in 2013 it will be Romance of the Three Kingdoms or nothing.
A list of longest books ever
Facebook War and Peace readers group
Facebook group for people reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms in 2013