Looking Forward to 2016: The Year of Reading Classics
Author: Asandra al'Terra
As I mentioned in another essay in this issue, I focused on diverse reading in 2015. I read a lot of amazing books – ones that I never would have found if I hadn’t been looking.
However, I noticed one issue with my book choices: it feels like many of them were published in 2015, and most of them in the last decade. Contemporary literature is amazing, but there are also hundreds of books that I walk by and think, “I should read that book. It’s a classic!”
For that reason, I’ve chosen 2016 to be the Year of the Classic for me. I want to go back and make a point of reading all of those books I’ve wanted to read since high school and haven’t made time for yet.
There’s a twist, though: I don’t want it all to be old, dead white dudes. There’s so much more of the world to explore!
That’s why I’m using a loose definition of classic: “a work of art of recognized and established value.” It doesn’t have to be written pre-1800 (it can even have been written last year, and I have one example of that on my list). It doesn’t have to be written by a Nobel laureate. It doesn’t have to appear on any “best books of whatever time period” lists. But it does have to fit the definition above in some way.
I haven’t mapped out exactly what I’ll be reading in 2016 – that never works for me – but I do have several ideas.
1. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Written in the early 11th century, Genji is sometimes called the first novel. It fits a more traditional definition of the word ‘classic,’ and I’ve chosen it because it’s a part of a canon that’s very foreign to me (although I am learning Japanese!).
2. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
This book was written in the 14th century, and it’s really, really long – and considered one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. I own the first part of three (which already clocks in at seven hundred pages or more), and I might only read the first one, but I do want to complete at least one part of it.
3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Remember what I said about classics that are really new? This is one of them. Between took the world by storm this year, and I didn’t manage to get to it. I’m determined to finish it before the end of 2016.
4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
I’m a feminist closer to 30 than 20, and I still haven’t read this book. It’s about damn time.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I never read this book as a child, and I feel like I missed out on a part of growing up. I’m probably “too old” for it now, but I’d at least like to understand what kind of a part it could play in someone’s early years.
6. Dune by Frank Herbert
Yeah, he’s an old, white, American dude, but I’ve never read this book, and it is canonical science fiction. I’ll also be popping my Octavia Butler and Stanisław Lem cherries in 2016, I hope!
Another goal I’d like to pursue is reading more in Japanese, French, and Polish. I read fairly fast in English, and I get extremely frustrated when switching to another language, because everything takes eight hundred times longer. I hope to at least read Lem in the original!
Do you have any classics – conventional or less so – that you’d recommend for my 2016 goal? Do you have any reading goals for 2016, and what are they? Tell us in the comments!