Back to the Classics Challenge 2021

The end of the so-called terrible year is almost here and it’s time to start making plans for the next one. I skipped the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020 but I feel it’s something I want to pick up again for the next year. So, this is my sign-up post for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 hosted by Karen K. on her Books and Chocolate blog. It’s a year-long challenge in which I will try to read at least six classics that are already sitting on my shelf or will be in the near future (the ultimate goal is 12 but that usually doesn’t happen). I like to put together a preliminary list of reading material for this challenge to make it more fun.

Without further ado, here are some of my possible choices and thoughts for the categories: 

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899.

Mary Shelley: The Last Man (first published in 1826). It has been sitting on my shelf for a while now. I think I got it when I thought I might be doing this challenge in 2020. I don’t think I’ve ever read an apocalyptic fantasy from the 19th century. It will definitely be something different.

2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971.

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (first published in 1953). I planned to read it once but somehow ordered this book in French. So, I saw it as a sign that the time wasn’t right. Maybe next year it will be?

3. A classic by a woman author.

Jane Austen: Emma (first published in 1815). I have been thinking about reading something from Jane Austen for a while now. And I’m pretty sure I haven’t read Emma. I honestly can’t tell anymore what I’ve really read from her besides Pride & Prejudice after watching all those TV adaptations. So, I’ll take my chances with one of her lengthier novels!

4. A classic in translation.

I don’t remember the last time I read some classic French literature. It might be time to step outside my usual comfort zone and go into some new direction with European classics. I won’t pick a specific book right now but I’ll keep an eye out for something interesting from France.

5. A classic by BIPOC author.

BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color] seems to be a popular choice for a category or reading goals recently. And with everything that’s been going on in the world, it’s completely understandable. I have to admit that I’ve been ignorant of my authors’ origin or race beyond maybe their nationality most of the time (unless there’s a specific topic on the book club agenda that requires looking into it). So, it’s good that there will be another chance to update myself on classics by non-white authors in this next year’s challenge. However, I want to look a bit more at what this category has on offer before I make my final decision. Any suggestions are welcome!

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.

Winston Graham: Marnie (first published in 1961). Another book that has been randomly sitting on my shelf and waiting for its turn. For an author who has about forty novels on his record, I’m surprised that I haven’t read any of them.

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author – a new book by an author whose works you have already read. 

Nevil Shute: No Highway (first published in 1948). I discovered Nevil Shute a couple of years back and he has become one of my go-to authors for engaging and interesting literature. So, I’m slowly making my way down a list of many, many books he’s authored.

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title.

Herman Melville: Moby-Dick or, the Whale (first published 1851). Let’s face it – I cannot promise that I will try and attack this book simply due to its size. But as I have read this year a non-fiction book about the whaleship Essex whose fate inspired this piece of legendary literature, I’m genuinely curious. It might be a long lockdown, one never knows!

9. A children’s classic. 

L.M. Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables (first published in 1908). I’ve done the terrible thing and watched the first season of Netflix’s adaptation without reading the book first. And some of my book club members had very strong opinions about the quality of the adaptation. Therefore, I’m curious to go back to the source and find out what all the fuss was about!

10. A humorous or satirical classic.

I have had trouble connecting with humorous classics in the past. I simply don’t think the humour really can be understood outside that specific time period and context. So, I don’t really have an idea what I could try to read this time. Hopefully, time will tell!

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction).

Wilfred Thesiger: Arabian Sands (first published in 1959). I’m slowly discovering that I like travel and adventure stories. Maybe because I was basically grounded throughout 2020 and the books were my only chance to travel. Anyhow, I’m choosing Arabian Sands for now as it is a completely foreign and unknown place to me. The synopsis gives a promise of an extraordinary journey which is something I just might need right now!

12. A classic play.

I don’t usually enjoy reading plays. The format is simply not giving me enough depth or something. I love going to watch plays, though. That’s a whole different thing. I even managed to attend a play this year for the brief time it was allowed in my country. Anyhow, I hope it won’t come down to choosing one. But if it will… well, I might steal some ideas from other participants of this challenge.

Besides the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021, I’ll continue with my European Book Challenge. I’m basically halfway through the second round already and I hope to make plans for the third round sometime in 2021.

Happy reading, everyone!

7 thoughts on “Back to the Classics Challenge 2021”

  1. Moby-Dick is epic. The good news is that the chapters are short, so you can take lots of breaks. You’ll wonder why most of the story is not about this whale, but keep reading. Every chapter is somewhat like its own little topic.

    Suggestions for your POC category…if you want fiction: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston; or non-fiction: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Jacobs, or something by Frederick Douglass, or The Autobiography of Malcolm X (check the pub. date on that).


  2. Good list! I’ve wanted to read The Last Man for a while, but I don’t think I’ll get to it this year. I have Fahrenheit 451 on my list this year, though! I struggle with classic comedy, too. I’ve enjoyed John Kendrick Bangs – maybe you could look into him for that category! I read The Autobiography of Methuselah 2 years ago and I read a collaboration novel, The Family, last year. I enjoyed both the book and chapter in the collaboration novel he wrote. I’m thinking of reading The House-Boat on the Styx this year.


    1. Great suggestions, thanks a lot! I’ve never heard of John Kendrick Bangs before but he seems to have been very productive back in the day. There are a lot of books to choose from!


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