Taking Tea in the Kasbah

The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. 

~Oliver Wendell Holmes


As many of you know, I am a long-time fan of the t.v. show The Gilmore Girls. It had everything I enjoy in a show: fast-paced dialogue, witty banter, intelligent and strong female characters, and a cast with a great sense of humor.

*** Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel as Lorelai and Rory Gilmore *** image credit ~ thewb.com

Of the many things I liked about the show (aside from Lauren Graham’s brilliant delivery of her lines and her great comedic timing), I really appreciated the way the writers infused the characters’ love of books and reading into nearly every episode. Rory, in particular, was rarely seen without a book throughout the show’s seven-year run.

Recently while frittering away my valuable time doing research on Pinterest, I discovered someone had compiled a list of all the books mentioned or shown being read by Rory. Of course, I clicked through to see what books were on the list as well as how many of them I had read. Out of the 250 books on the list, I counted a dismal 44 books that I had read.

(You can click here to see the list from the It’s Time to Read blog and compare your reading prowess with Rory’s.)

book shelf

This got me thinking about my ever-present pursuit to read as much as I can every year. Always a voracious reader, I realized with much dismay that since the birth of this blog early last year I’ve not been reading nearly as much as I would like. Also, I have not been very methodical in reading the books on my towering to-be-read pile, including the large number of classics. And, as each year goes by, the number of books I haven’t read seems to grow infinitely larger. All of this reflection left me feeling disorganized and questioning my claim to be a writer when I am so woefully behind on my reading.

But then, just as I was to give in to despair and let the to-be-read pile bury me under its wordy weight, the Fates colluded with the clever Universe over a cup of tea and a game of Mahjong and sent to my inbox a blog post by the delightful YA author, Brinda Berry. As I read her post, an idea sprang to life and the giant light bulb in my funny little brain went from dim to bright. (It’s the soft white, 60-watt type on a dimmer switch, not the energy-efficient kind that gives off that harsh, unflattering light. In case you were wondering.)

On that particular day, Brinda interviewed fellow YA author, EC Newman (click here to read all about it) who mentioned she recently signed up for a reading challenge of classic literature at the Classics Club blog (http://theclassicsclubblog.wordpress.com). To participate in the challenge, you create a list of all the classics you want to read (or re-read) and the time frame in which you’ll do that (up to five years). Then, when you’ve made your list, you share it on the Classics Club blog and begin your personal Read Fest. Here are the general rules from the site:

  • – choose 50+ classics
  • – list them at your blog
  • – choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • – e-mail the moderators of this blog (theclassicsclubblog (at) gmail (dot) com) with your list link and information and it will be posted on the Members Page!
  • – write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
  • – when you’ve written about every single title, let us know!

Between books on the craft of writing, my monthly book group book, keeping up a steady diet of YA books, and listening to audio books, I haven’t been making it a priority to also read the classics. The Classics Club seems like a great way to take a more organized approach to reading the classic literature I’ve been meaning to get to, but haven’t. So, I’ve decided to sign up and see how far I can get on my list. And you, fine readers, are my witnesses to whom I will be accountable. I’ve chosen to read fifty books in five years. Here is my list so far, in no particular order:

Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

Tender Is The Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

Daisy Miller – Henry James

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

Finnegan’s Wake – James Joyce

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

The Complete (short) Stories of Truman Capote

This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter – Simone de Beauvoir

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence

The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Portable Dorothy Parker

Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Galapagos – Kurt Vonnegut

Persuasion – Jane Austen

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde

The Crucible – Arthur Miller

Watership Down – Richard Adams

Around the World in 80 Days – Jules Verne

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

The Time Machine – H.G. Wells

My Antonia – Willa Cather

The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury

Flannery O’Connor Stories

The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James

Dubliners – James Joyce

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison

A Child’s Christmas in Wales – Dylan Thomas

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame


It feels like a big undertaking but I am planning to mix it up by listening to some of the books on audio whenever I can find one read by a good narrator. (I’m looking at you, Favorite Classy British Actor.) I’ve also included a few that I read so long ago I can’t remember much about them as well as some middle grade novels to hopefully balance out some of the heavier and lengthier tomes. And instead of putting tremendous pressure on myself to check off each of these titles on my list, I will use it as a way to organize my reading. Also, I’d love to have discussions here in the kasbah with you fine readers about the books I’ve finished.

Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.’  ~Helen Exley


How about you? Do you have any reading goals or lists for the year (and beyond)? How many books on Rory’s or my list have you read? Are you up for the Classics Club Challenge? The kettle’s just boiled and the tea is steeping. Sit, sip, and share your bibliophilic dreams. I always love to hear from you.



29 thoughts on “The Great Book Challenge

  1. Go, go, Tami!
    I’m about to hit Rory’s list, a tad apprehensively, for I’m sure she’s more heady than I. On your list, Tami, I have read a few. Jane Eyre, The Outsiders, Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Anna Karenina is on my someday list. Gone With The Wind was my classic, and I conquered that read as 2012 wound to its close. I’ve seen the play, They Crucible. That’s not the same as seeing a movie, so I think that should count.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Rory would be very impressed you read Gone With The Wind. You probably have read quite a few on her list. And I totally agree – plays count whereas movies do not.

  2. Ack! I’d be ashamed to admit how few of the books on either list I’ve read. I’m hoping that you’ll do a summary post after you finish each one so I can have a vicarious experience… 😉

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I’ll admit shame has played a part in doing all of this, for my reading of the classics is not where I’d like it to be. Since the Classics Club encourages its participants to blog about each book, that is my plan. Time will tell whether I can do any of these books justice in a post. 🙂

  3. I am SO impressed. I looked through your list and there are quite a few I haven’t read. Thank you for the mention of EC’s interview.

    As a random (but somewhat related) note, my son’s middle name, Rawdon, is from Vanity Fair.

    I’ll have to go check out the list of 250 books. I’m excited to follow your reading log on this!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Thanks, Brinda! I am really hoping that by getting more methodical and organized about reading the classics that I will actually accomplish reading most, if not all, of them on my list. Rawdon is such a cool name – I love that you named him after a character in a book. 🙂

  4. The Classics Club is a great idea… I’ll think about it. I’m intending to sign up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which might just about stitch me up for this year!
    But there are heaps of classics I want to read. I have this book: ‘1001 books to read before you die’. Yeah, well…
    Good luck with your classics list! I’ve read several you’ve listed, but there are still about 900 waiting for me!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I would love it if one of the WANA’s joined me in the Classics Club Challenge! There could be some joint or guest blog posting in there somewhere. Best of luck to you with the AWW Challenge! 🙂

  5. YIKES! I have no rhyme nor reason to the method in which I pick my books and reading goals.

    Shocking, yes? Here is a niggling worry of mine. When I began to write, I slowed down on my reading. Why? Because I lack discipline. If a book snatches me up, it carries me away from all of my TA-DA items until I reach The End.

    This doth not a productive writer make. Forsooth.

    My goal this year is to expand my reading of books written in my genre, and craft books by King, Mayer, and Bell.

    I read many of the books on your classics list. One of them gives me hives: Jane Eyre. My stepson was a senior in HS when I married his Dad, and he came to live with us. Reading was not then (but, is now) a pastime he enjoyed. My first clue that I was in for a “get him through HS ride?” He came home and said, “I have to read this stupid Jane Eerie book.” I read that to him because he said it made his eyes hurt. I recorded it for him to listen to in the shower, and on his commute to school. I doubt I could tolerate round 3 with that one!

    Great idea, Tami! Look forward to your updates.

    • “If a book snatches me up, it carries me away from all of my TA-DA items until I reach The End.”
      Why yes. This is the problem, isn’t it?

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I’ve found that the more I write (WIP and blogging), the less I make time to read. I know what you mean about reading carrying you away from the TA-DA list. Books are such a delightful and distracting escape.

      What a fabulous stepmom you are for reading AND recording Jane Eyre. Wow. You rock. What a lucky guy he is. Feel free to send me the recording. I do so love to listen to an audio book read by someone with a fabulous accent. 😀

  6. I’ve only read a very book books on either list, but I’m glad to see there are some relatively modern entries. I read Hamlet for school last semester. That counts, right?

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Hamlet totally counts! Way to go, Mike. 🙂

  7. I studied literature in college and am the child of the worlds most well-read person so I have read many (most) on your list. What I love about your challenge, and what makes me consider doing my own, is that you are going to write about each book. I can barely remember what any of the books I’ve read are about. I recall if they inspired me but beyond that, it’s as if I never read them at all. I blame it on preferring the dream to the analysis, but as a writer, it sure would help to consider how a book is written and why it is inspirational or not. Good luck with your reading. I may be joining you. 🙂

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Oh, I so wish I’d studied literature in college. I was too busy working on my psych degree while psychoanalyzing myself and my roommates. I know what you mean about barely remembering what I did read in high school and college. I’m glad the challenge allows you to include re-reads.
      I hope you do join me in the challenge! I’d love to read about your adventure with it and see what books such a well-read person such as yourself would put on a list.

  8. I really need to spend more time reading. I’m not even going to think about making a list (in line with the Un-Resolution approach) but I am going to pick a time, say 8 pm, and a chair, say The Story Chair, and I will make a cup of tea, bring it to the chair and pick up the book that is waiting there.
    And I will begin.

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I like your plan, Suzanne, as well as your strict adherence to the Un-Resolution List. I have tried to set a certain time to read each night but as the time approaches, I find myself saying, “Just one more sentence” or “I’m going to finish this post and then read” or “Gosh, is that Don Draper texting me again? I guess I’d better tune in to Mad Men for just one more episode”. And then I look longingly at my stack of books each morning, wishing I’d made more time for them the night before.

      Good luck with The Story Chair. It paints such a lovely visual. 🙂

  9. I love the idea of this challenge! I started looking through Rory’s list and realized that I would have far to go, if I were to take it up. I started reading the classics about a year ago, but got distracted by craft books and others that caught my attention. I just need to re-focus.
    My goal for this year was to read 1 fiction book and 1 craft book every 2 weeks. So far it’s going well. I will go through the list and I may join you in the challenge!
    Good luck with your reading ~ the list you have above looks amazing 🙂

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Wow, every two weeks? You must be a fast reader. I hope you do join me in the challenge. It would be fun to compare notes and impressions on the books we’re reading.

      • I always thought I was a slow reader, so thought I would challenge myself ~ don’t know if I’ll be able to keep that pace 🙂 I really think I’m going to join you. I have quite a few of those books lying around unread and I just started reading Lord of The Rings, so it’s a natural fit. Yay!

        • on ,
          Tami Clayton said:

          Yay! I’m so glad you’re going to join me on the reading challenge. As soon as the 12 y.o. and I finish The Goblet of Fire, we’re going to delve into LOTR. Not sure if she’ll like it as much as The Hobbit, but we’ll give it a go. I’m looking forward to your blog post to see your list of reads. 🙂

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Yes, she’s great in Parenthood, though I have a hard time thinking of her as anyone else but Lorelai Gilmore. 🙂

  10. I’m working my way–very very slowly–through NPR’s list of Top 100 SF&F books. Once I make my way through that, I’m going to hit some more classics. I’ve read far too few of the ones on your list!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      I really love the lists NPR posts on the different genres, though I have yet to work my way through one of them. Maybe after I finish my classics list. I wish you luck working your way through the SF&F books!

  11. Pingback: The Classics Book Club | Kim Griffin's Blog

  12. on ,
    Marcia said:

    I’m grateful for friends who know me well enough to make great reading recommendations! Tami, you are one of the best!

    • on ,
      Tami Clayton said:

      Aw, thanks, Marcia! I love to recommend a good book. I love it even more when the book recipient enjoys the book as much as I did.

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