I've been feeling pretty confident lately that there would be no more challenges in the near future that would tempt me. And there have been loads of new ones to choose from. I've stumbled across one, though, that I really like the sound of. It's the 1% Well Read Challenge that I first discovered here. It's based on the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and the idea is to read ten books from this list in the next ten months. What I like about it is that it incorporates many books that I already want to read (more classics especially). Surely I can read one a month? I'm not going to officially join, but I thought it would be fun to make my list and see how many I can read during the next year (well, ten months to be exact). I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten, so I've added a few alternates. I've managed to include a few from the Modern Library list, one Virago, a Jane Austen novel and one or two other books that keep popping up on my "I want to read" lists.
- The Female Quixote, Charlotte Lennox - "The Female Quixote, a vivacious and ironical novel parodying the style of Cervantes, portrays Arabella, the beautiful daughter of a marquis, whose passion for reading romances colors her approach to her own life and causes many comical and melodramatic misunderstandings among her relatives and admirers.
- Evelina, Frances Burney - "Frances Burney's first and most enduringly popular novel is a vivid, satirical, and seductive account of the pleasures and dangers of fashionable life in late eighteenth-century London. As she describes her heroine's entry into society, womanhood and, inevitably, love, Burney exposes the vulnerability of female innocence in an image-conscious and often cruel world where social snobbery and sexual aggression are played out in the public arenas of pleasure-gardens, theatre visits, and balls."
- Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen - "Its two heroines—so utterly unlike each other–both undergo the most violent passions when they are separated from the men they love. What differentiates them, and gives this extraordinary book its complexity and brilliance, is the way each expresses her suffering: Marianne–young, impetuous, ardent–falls into paroxysms of grief when she is rejected by the dashing John Willoughby; while her sister, Elinor—wiser, more sensible, more self-controlled—masks her despair when it appears that Edward Ferrars is to marry the mean-spirited and cunning Lucy Steele. All, of course, ends happily—but not until Elinor’s “sense” and Marianne’s “sensibility” have equally worked to reveal the profound emotional life that runs beneath the surface of Austen’s immaculate and irresistible art."
- Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy - "Hardy's passionate tale of the beautiful, headstrong farmer Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors, firmly established the thirty-four-year-old writer as a popular novelist. Introducing the fictional name of "Wessex" to describe Hardy's legendary countryside, this early masterpiece draws a vivid picture of rural life in southwest England."
- A Passage to India, E.M. Forster - "Arguably Forster's greatest novel, A Passage to India limns a troubling portrait of colonialism at its worst, and is remarkable for the complexity of its characters. Here the personal becomes the political and in the breach between Aziz and his English 'friends,' Forster foreshadows the eventual end of the Raj."
- Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - "The astonishing novel Brave New World, originally published in 1932, presents Aldous Huxley's vision of the future -- of a world utterly transformed. Through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, people are genetically designed to be passive and therefore consistently useful to the ruling class. This powerful work of speculative fiction sheds a blazing critical light on the present and is considered to be Huxley's most enduring masterpiece."
- Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh - "One of Waugh's most famous books, Brideshead Revisited tells the story of the difficult loves of insular Englishman Charles Ryder, and his peculiarly intense relationship with the wealthy but dysfunctional family that inhabited Brideshead. Taking place in the years after World War II, Brideshead Revisited shows us a part of upper-class English culture that has been disappearing steadily.
- House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen - "This 1935 novel is considered among Bowen's best. Eleven-year-old Henrietta is visiting the Fisher family in Paris. The character of the city, however, has nothing on the characters inside the residence, including Leopold, a child; his unusual mother; a dead father who has as much presence as any of the living; and an old man dying in bed. There's something dark about the goings-on here, which Henrietta learns firsthand." (I thought I owned this already, but apparently not--I'll have to check the library for a copy...or buy one...).
- The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley - "Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley's finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend's beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. The inspiration for the brilliant Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naiveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart."
- The Birds Fall Down, Rebecca West - "Through a vivid canvas layered with intrigue, conspiracy and murder, Rebecca West has created a story that is at once a family saga, a political thriller, a philosophical drama and a historical novel."
And a few alternates:
- The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence - I started reading this last fall, but I quickly became bogged down. I would really like to read it, though.
- A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute - I've had a copy of this book for ages and ages. It sounds so good, but I think the WWII aspect has put me off reading it. Can it possibly be OOP here in the US, or is Amazon just giving me weird results?
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick - I've wondered about this author for a long time now. Another author on my very, very long list I'd like to try. He was also recommended when I was looking for ideas of dystopian literature.
I know that most of these are pretty famous novels, so the blurbs (I grabbed them from Amazon) are almost more for me than anything else--to help me decide which to start with!