The “Great Literature” Challenge

Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 11.44.29 AMThe time has come for me to be challenged.

For me to grow, to learn, to change, to be inspired, to be confused, to find understanding, to study, to be pushed to the edge of reason, to immerse myself in a world that I have tiptoed on the edge of my whole life, a world I have skirted and dipped a toe into and then shied away from because I fear its unknown icy depths: the world of great literature.

Why? Simply: for all the above reasons! Mostly for a learning experience and to grow as a writer and also as a person. If you think about it great novels of the past are like history lessons: writers write first and foremost about a world that they know (whether consciously or otherwise) therefore I learn about the worlds of those before me. Their trials, tribulations, celebrations and passions.

It’s not just their worlds I want to learn about – it is about their writing. How they write, what they write, technique, style, grammar…everything! One of my writer friends Rachael Johns said to me just days ago that reading is the best way to learn about writing. Of course it makes perfect sense and I used to read a lot but not so much in the last few years, how can I become a better writer without reading? But this I am challenging myself to change!

I have recently (within the last month) finished up full-time office work to work part-time in hospitality (it’s not too much of a head-scratcher) so as to devote more time to finishing my novel and writing more. I have found already that my mind is more alert. I have been reading more and my brain is thirsty!

So what am I going to do about it? I have had the ridiculous brilliant idea to challenge myself to read some of the greatest works of fiction OF ALL TIME! By whose standards did I choose these “great” works? By Google, wikipedia, the times, high school memory and the great literature classes I took at University (but didn’t do well in – probably finishing the books would help), and Gilmore Girls (jokes, however they may have helped inspire me [but that’s another story]).


Read and review 40 works of literature from 850BC to 1998 in 52 weeks.

There are no works from the 21st Century on here as I read a lot from my generation as it is, and I would like to learn about worlds I know nothing about, and writers who names and works are immortalised.

Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 11.45.08 AM

HERE IS THE LIST (in no particular order) Author – Book Title – Year of Publication:

  • Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway – 1925
  • Franz Kafka – Metamorphosis – 1915
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and punishment 1866
  • Flannery O’Connor – Wise Blood – 1952
  • Mark Twain – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – 1884
  • Henry James – Portrait of a Lady – 1881
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter – 1850
  • Tim Winton – Cloudstreet – 1991
  • J D Salinger – Catcher in the Rye – 1951
  • George Orwell – Nineteen eighty four – 1949
  • Marcel Proust – In search of lost time – 1913-27
  • Louise May Alcott – Little women – 1868-69
  • Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice – 1813
  • Charles Dickens – Great Expectations – 1861
  • Thomas Hardy – Jude the Obscure – 1895
  • Ernest Hemingway – A farewell to arms – 1929
  • William Faulkner – The sound and the fury – 1929
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby – 1925
  • Herman Melville – Moby Dick – 1851
  • James Joyce – Ulysses – 1922
  • John Updike – Rabbit, Run – 1960
  • Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary – 1857
  • Michael Cunningham – The Hours – 1998
  • Margaret Mitchell – Gone with the wind – 1936
  • Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights – 1847
  • Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina – 1877
  • Harper Lee – To kill a mockingbird – 1960
  • Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre – 1847
  • Edith Wharton – The age of innocence – 1920
  • Robert Louise Stevenson – Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – 1886
  • Oscar Wilde – The picture of Dorian Gray – 1890
  • Joseph Conrad – Nostromo – 1904
  • Lewis Carroll – Alice’s adventures in Wonderland – 1865
  • Dante Alighieri – The divine Comedy – 1265 – 1321
  • Homer – Iliad – 850BC
  • Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote – 1605 & 1615 (2 parts)
  • Henry Fielding – Tom Jones – 1749
  • Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita – 1955
  • Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels – 1726
  • Doris Lessing – The Golden Notebook – 1962

All these books have appeared on one “greatest” list or another – I have being researching these lists for days and trying to compile my list of 40. I have not doubled up on any authors (although I very much wanted to and already have a list of books to read when this is finished).


I must read all 40 books in 52 weeks, I must finish one before I start the next, I must review the book and talk about what I learned or ‘got-out’ of reading it – why perhaps it is a considered a “great”. I will use a random generator ( to decide which book will be read each and every time. I can read and review as quickly (or as slowly) as I see fit – sometimes life throws a curve ball and I may not be able to read for a few days, and some of these works are smaller than others so may be finished sooner. I hope.

The first book has been selected:

Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice – 1813.

I’m in disbelief that I’m doing this to myself excited! Are you? Wish me luck!


8 thoughts on “The “Great Literature” Challenge

  1. The Catcher in the Rye, Nineteen Eighty-Four, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Picture of Dorian Gray are excellent. I was, however, less than impressed with Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. Good luck – sounds like quite the challenge!

    Great blog too.

  2. Catcher in the rye, 1984, alice in wonderland and wuthering heights are probably my some of my all time favourite books!!!! The only other one of my favourite missing is Picnic at Hanging Rock…. Good luck!!!!

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