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August 25, 2018


The Classics Club #1 list (completed)

by N@ncy


Finally this day has come.…I completed my Classics Club list!

I started on March 22 2012 with Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens and I ended the challenge with Rabbit, Run by John Updike on 03 Augustus 2014.

During this challenge I decided to read some classic books in French. I wanted to learn the a third language. I can now read a French book as easily as I do a book in English! I was at times dejected, low in spirits because my reading speed was sharply reduced. It took me 3 months to read Mme Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Yet I persevered and treated myself to a cold glass of Heineken after every completed French book!

My list contains some classic books in my second language, Dutch. Not many people will recognize the titles but in The Netherlands they are considered classics.

Here are the books I read:


16th Century

  • De Cervantes, Miguel – Don Quixote
  • De Lafayette, Mme – Princesse de Clèves (french)

Don Quixote was a challenge to read. It is a classic, but a very long one.

Princesse de Clèves: I had to first understand the French history that is an important part of the book. That took some time and effort.


18th Century

None! I had no idea I had forgotten this century. I’ll have to put some of these books on my second classic list!


19th Century: 

A – C

  • Alcott, Louisa May – Little Women
  • Austen, Jane – Persuasion
  • Brontë, Charlotte – Villette
  • Conrad, Joseph – Lord Jim

My favorite was Villette by C. Bronte. The book had beenon my TBR shelf for years. Little Women is not my kind of book. The only redemptive quality was the fact that it led me to a biography about the Alcott, Eden’s Outcasts by John Matteson. That was an excellent book! I read Persuasion as a gesture towards Brona’s Books blog. It is one of her favortries. I read Lord Jim because I admire Joseph Conrad, Polish by birth and learned English and worte great literature. That is quite an accomplishment!


D – E

  • Daudet, Alphonse – Lettres de mon Moulin (french)
  • Dickens, Charles – Little Dorrit
  • Dumas, Alexandre –  La tulipe noire (french) (tulips!)

I was reading Dickens when I started the classic list. I should read more of his books but got carried away reading in French. Two more Dickens’ books are on the second list. Daudet is an author often overlooked. Lettres de mon Moulin would be an excellent choice to read in French if you wanted to practice your language skills. La tulipe noire is set in The Netherlands… I had to read it! I ended planting 80 tulips as a gesture to Dumas!


F – H

  • Flaubert, Gustav – Mme Bovary (french)
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel – The Scarlet Letter 
  • Hugo, Victor – Notre-Dame de Paris (french)

Mme Bovary  was my first French classic for my “read French for a year’ challenge. It took me three months to finish the book.. Somedays I could just read 6 pages! At times I would take a deep breath and as myself …is it worth the effort? I did not give up and have kept on reading French. Notre-Dame de Paris was a surprise. I was impressed by the characterization of the Hunchback.  The Scarlet Letter was a book I read in high school. I’m glad I re-read it because I just did not understand all this book had to offer as a teen.


J – S

  • Maupassant, G. de – Bel-Ami

Maupassant was my second French classic. In comparison with Mme Bovary I felt I was reading faster than the speed of light! This was my first reward for all my effort while reading Flaubert. I still had to look op 1140 words and 394 verbs.


Z(ola) ( all in french)

  • Zola, Émile – La Fortune des Rougons
  • Zola, Émile – La Curée
  • Zola, Émile – Le Ventre de Paris
  • Zola, Émile – La Conquête de Plassans
  • Zola, Émile – La Faute de l’Abbé de Mouret
  • Zola, Émile – Son Excellence de Eugène Rougon
  • Zola, Émile – L’Assommoir
  • Zola, Émile – Une Page d’Amour
  • Zola, Émile – Le Rêve 
  • Zola, Émile –Pot-Bouille
  • Zola, Émile – Au Bonheur des Dames
  • Zola, Émile – La Joie de Vivre
  • Zola, Émile – La Bête Humaine 
  • Zola, Émile – L’ Œuvre
  • Zola, Émile –L’Argent
  • Zola, Émile –Germinal
  • Zola, Émile – Lourdes


This was the basis for ‘my read French for a year’ challenge. I had read Germinal and could not forget that book. I decided to read the Rougon-Macquart series.  (20 books) I  finished the last R-M  books but are not included on this list.


20th – 21th Century:

A – F

  • Bolano, Roberto – 2666 
  • Cheever, John – The Wapshot Chronicle

2666  It was a chore to read from start to finish, but I gave the book a “chance to prove itself”.  Bolano’s 2666  took me to new ‘reading limits’ and no regets. It was the first book  that I ever read that was  physically exhausting.

The Wapshot Chronicle: I wanted to read one of the most famous  American writers who suffered from alcoholism. Cheever drank chronically for 40 years and yet was able  to produce great works of literature despite  the  addiction.  

G – L

  • Gide, André – I’immoraliste (french)
  • Grossman, Vasily – An Armenian Sketchbook
  • Llosa, Mario Vargas – Feast of the Goat
  • Londres, Albert – Au Bagne (french)

L’immoraliste sat on my bookshelf for years. I wanted to finally read this book and discover André Gide. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature 1947, yet rarely do you see his books on classic lists. An Armenian Sketchbook was one of my ‘surprise’ books this year. I never heard of the writer and feel in love with his writing. I plan to read more of his books. Feast of the Goat was historical fiction and M. V. Llosa exposed the world of a Central American dictator. Au Bagne was a big disappointment. Londres’s writing style is choppy and dull. I have 2 more of his books on the shelf, they may stay there.


M – P

  • Némirovsky, Irène – Suite française ( french)
  • Némirovsky, Irène – Le vin de solitude (french)
  • Pasternak, Boris – Doctor Zhivago

Némirovsky’s books are a pleasure to read in French. Her style is simple and it just flows. I expect she has read Zola because she wrote crowd scenes and described gardens (Suite française) as he did. Némirovsky can sometimes get carried away with the ‘poetic’.  Too much of a good thing can be tiresome in the end. Doctor Zhivago was one of my first classic reads in 2012. It was familiar due to the film. I knew what to expect. I want to read more Russian literature, but not Pasterank.


R – W

  • Simenon, George – La neige était sale
  • Shute, Nevil –On the beach
  • Saluerhoff, Jan – Alle verhalen
  • Thurber, James – The 13 clocks 
  • Tillion, Germaine – Ravenbruck (french)
  • John – Rabbit, Run
  • Vestdijk, Simon – Terug naar Ina Dammen
  • Vestdijk, Simon – Pastorale 1943
  • Wiesel, , Elie –Night
  • Williams, Tenneesse – Cat on a hot tin roof
  • E.B. – Stuart Little


I went from the best to the worst with some of these books. I’ll start with the bad news. La neige était sale was awful. Simenon is not looking for  “le mot juste”.  I rarely found a metaphor  or a simile to give the story some polish. Anything that makes other novels into literature is missing here. The rest of the books were all good news! The Dutch selections are classics in The Netherlands, you probably don’t recognize them. American classics were powerful, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and Rabbit, Run. I was able to enjoy these book after reading about Williams in Trip to Echo Spring, writers and drinking by O. Laing and Updike in ‘Updike’ by A. Begley. I would recommend reading these books for add information. WW II is the back round for Night and Ravenbruck. Sometimes difficult to read, but one must know the truth. I needed some relaxation after some intense reading and choose to read some children’s classics that have a whiff of literature about them: Stuart Little and The 13 Clocks. They were great reads for young and old!

I remember when I sat down to start a blog. All I needed was a glass of Chardonnay, some determination and a desire to start an incredible journey through some classic books.

Don’t waste your time….. here is the link for The Classics Club. Start your journey because there are so many good books just waiting for you!

Read more from Classic, Messages
15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 25 2018

    Brava, Nancy! Let’s raise a virtual glass to celebrate your accomplishment! My anniversary date is approaching and I haven’t read half of my list but since my original list was 170 books and I’ve read almost 70, I feel both disappointed and pleased. My next list will only be 50. Looking forward to seeing what you choose next!


    • Aug 25 2018

      À votre santé !
      Drinks are on the house!
      You choose some very long and difficult classics on the 170 list. Have you registered you new 50-list on The Classic Club website? Autumn is a perfect time to make new reading plans!


  2. J.E. Fountain
    Aug 26 2018

    Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aug 26 2018

    Congratulations!! It’s a huge accomplishment to read 50 classics in your fist language and even more impressive that you read so many in French. Bravo!!


    • Aug 27 2018

      Thanks so much for you comments!
      The classics have so much to offer and there are so many yet to read!
      Your favorite classic is?


  4. Aug 27 2018

    This is inspiring! I minored in French, but I haven’t read very much in the language outside of classes– I was too busy trying to understand the assigned reading! I have my hands full with my reading goals for this year, but I really should read more French if I don’t want to lose it. The Princess of Cleves is on my list for this year, but the copy I have is in English. Maybe if I find the time, I’ll track down the French and give it a shot!

    Also, you read the entirety of Notre-Dame in French?! Props! It took me a month to read Les Mis in English.


    • Aug 27 2018

      Valerie, thanks for you comments!
      French…it all comes down to the love of the language. As you said, it would be a shame to lose your French reading skills. A few books I loved that were easy reads to get you off to a running start….if you don’t want to get into the classics as yet are: D. Foenkinos ‘Charlotte’ – P. Lamaitre ‘Alex’ (crime fiction….a real page turner!) – G. Faye ‘Petit Pays’ – P. Gimbert ‘Un Secret’.
      A few classics I loved… Le Grand Meaulnes (A. Fournier) and Le Noeud De Viperes (F. Mauriac). I hope to hear from you if you managed to get some French reading done! 🙂


  5. Aug 28 2018

    Wow! Congratulations! What a very cool list and so much French! The entire Rougon-Macquart series! (And a few more exclamation marks!)

    I found 2666 both horrifying and horrifyingly impressive, but read it before I stared blogging. I don’t think I could bear to read it again. But that was practically fifty books right there.


    • Aug 28 2018

      Reese, I wrote 5 reviews (divided 2666 into parts) about Bolańo’s masterpiece.
      It is a once in a lifetime read. You have to be ready for the challenge.
      The graphic chapter about the killings in Mexico..went on ….and on…I was physically and mentally exhuasted after finishing this book. But I kept thinking….what kind of a mind was able to write 2666? Amazing.
      Yes, French is a subject started in high-school…that has taken more than its share of my life! I love the language and challenged myself 6 years agot to kick start the high-school French skills.
      I had to go very deep and needed the patience of Job to achieve a relative good reading level now. I wish I worked this hard in high-school! Thanks for you comments!


  6. Congratulations on the completion of your list! I have always wanted to read more in French and just haven’t. Now I am trying to learn Spanish and so I think reading in Spanish would be fun too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aug 28 2018

      Reading a second or third language is the best way to learn.
      It took me a few years to learn Dutch….but I did it.
      I moved to Europe….but did not end up in my beloved La douce France.
      So I do the next best thing….read French.
      Success with Spanish and..hola!



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Classics Club: 50 questions | NancyElin
  2. Clubber of the Month for March ’19 – The Classics Club

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