One thing I love about the Classics Club is that having a list of classics to read and having a deadline really gives me that push I need to actually take the books from my shelf and read them! There's no way I would have read Les Miserables last year if it wasn't for the Classics Club, and there's definitely no way I would be averaging a classic a month without it. I was thinking about that this morning as I was selecting the classic I want to try in January, and I started thinking how great it would be if I had a push to read other books on my shelves too. Particularly, books I have owned for a long time and literary fiction books that I've been putting off starting, for whatever reason.
Here are the twelve books I selected (links go to goodreads):
1. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna - This is one of the 'newer' books on my list, I've had it since 2011, when it was short-listed for the Orange Prize. Which means I will definitely love it, as so many of my favourite books have come from the Orange Prize. It's set in Sierra Leone during the civil war and is about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. This is also one of the shorter novels on my list.
2. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres - I read and adored Captain Corelli's Mandolin whilst at university, so went straight out to buy Birds Without Wings, and then of course never read it (I also have another unread de Bernieres on my shelf, but we'll ignore that one for now!). This is set in a small village in Anatolia as the Ottoman Empire is declining and Turkey is being created. Muslims and Christians there have always traditionally got on well, but the conflict creates new tensions.
3. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt - I find this book and A.S. Byatt in general a bit intimidating, which is why I've never picked it up. It sounds like a really good family saga set in Victorian times, and I love that part of it is set in the Victoria and Albert museum, but it still feels long and a bit scary. Hence why I need to push to get to it.
4. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh - I picked this one up years ago purely because it is set in Burma, and I've never read a book set there. It follows three families in three countries; Burma, Malaya and India from the 1880s to the 1990s. Ghosh is also a writer I would like to try.
5. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - OK, OK, I know I will love this, and I know I can't call myself a fan of historical fiction without reading it, but it's just so long, and Medieval England isn't really my thing. Hopefully it's a panoramic novel that's about more than just the cathedral.
6. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - I actually have no excuse for not reading this, especially seeing as I've owned it since it first came out in paperback in the UK. This is one that I'm sure I will love.
7. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - I went through a phase of being really into Indian literature, and of course I bought more books than I actually read. I think what has put me off this one is the 'if Dickens wrote about India' tag, as Charles Dickens isn't one of my favourite classic authors. If I can get over that and actually start it, perhaps I will enjoy it.
8. Sophie's Choice by William Styron - I bought this because it's an important book. Sophie lives in the south of America but escaped from Auschwitz earlier in her life, where she had to make a terrible choice. It's not going to be a happy read, but I'm hoping it will be powerful.
9. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - More Indian lit, this time the winner of the Booker Prize in 1997. I don't know much about this book, apart from it is about twins looking back on their childhood.
10. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch - I studied Murdoch's The Bell for my A-Level English Literature, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course I went out to buy more books by Murdoch, and this was one of them. I must have started this book about three times, and I actually made it half-way through once, but I've never completed it. It's about an ageing Thespian who retires to an isolated home by the sea to reflect on his life. I'm hoping I was just too young for it when I read it as a teenager, and that I'll have more luck this time.
11. The Famished Road by Ben Okri - This is the one on my list that I am dreading reading the most. Like The Sea, The Sea, I have a history with it; having started and abandoned it at least three times. It's magical realism, and it's about an African spirit child who longs for death. I'm going to give it one last try - if I still don't like it, I'll have to admit it's just not for me.
12. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - I bought this because Cloud Atlas is one of my favourite books, and because it has a gorgeous cover. I'm pretty sure I will like this tale of a Dutch clerk in Japan.
So there we go - the twelve books I've owned for a long time, that I really need to read in 2014. I would love to know if you've read any of them, and what you thought of them if you have.
Have you got any books sitting on your shelves that have been there for simply too long? Any books you really should get around to reading in 2014?