Top Ten Tuesday – Classics I Haven’t Read




As someone who has a Degree in English Literature and has been reading for well, the best part of 40 years, this weeks Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish is an embarrassing post. There are so many holes in my classics reading that I really should get working on it. I only just discovered Edith Wharton for goodness sake!

So here is a list the classics I’ve never read but would like to. Or need to. Or feel I should.
Do bear in mind that this list could very easily have been a Top Twenty. Or a Top Fifty. You get where I’m going with this!

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I’ve long been aware that I should read Moby Dick, that iconic tale of a whale. It is about a whale, isn’t it? When I read (and loved) The Art of Fielding last year, I realised I was missing so much of the book, given the number of Melville and Moby Dick references.

2. Ulysses by James Joyce
I’ll be honest here. Ulysses scares me. I think it will bore me, or worse, I won’t understand it. I mean, I’ve read The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I’ve read The Dead and all Joyce’s short stories. But Ulysses? I’m not sure I’ll ever read it. Although, it’s in the 746 so I’m going to have to at some point. Maybe it will be my final read of the project!

3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace shouldn’t scare me that much as I’ve read Anna Karenina. I even quite enjoyed it. However, I took Anna Karenina on holiday with me in the days long ago before Kindle and only read it because it was the last book I had left. Maybe that’s my answer. I go to an island somewhere; take only these classics and no iPad and I’ll have no choice! A bit drastic maybe…..

4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Bleak House was required reading for a course in my first year at University, but I never got round to reading it. To my total shame, the night before my tutorial, I watched the TV adaptation instead and blagged my way through the class. I feel like I need to make amends.

5. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Actually, this could be any novel by Virginia Woolf as I have never read one of her books. I have Mrs Dalloway and To The Lighthouse in the 746 but am always amazed that I have got this far in life without reading anything by her.


PicMonkey Collage

6. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I’m too late for this one, right? It’s not going to happen. I’m too old and I was bored by the movie and my husband won’t stop nagging me to read it. Maybe I could read it to the kids when they are older? Or am I visiting the sins of a very long movie on a really rather good book?

7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Again, another book that I would like to read and am not sure why I never did. I’ve read Plath’s poetry and an autobiography, but never The Bell Jar. I often think it’s a book that needs to be read at a certain time in ones ‘ life and that time is passed for me. Am I wrong about this, would I still enjoy it?

8. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
I feel like I know so much about this Spanish epic, which is regularly counted among the greatest novels of all time, yet I haven’t read it. And it’s so big. So very big….

9. Middlemarch by George Eliot
Another real gap in my knowledge of English classics is Middlemarch, it can join Bleak House and be filed under ‘should have read at Uni but was too hung over/ tired/ lazy to bother with’. I don’t know a thing about it; I just know it’s often called the greatest English novel of all time, so I really should have put the effort in.

10. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I’ve slipped this one in at the end because I don’t think I’ve read it. It’s one of those stories that has seeped into not only mine, but the public consciousness that actually reading it seems like an afterthought. I bought a copy a few years back so I will read it, but I may just wait until the twins can read it with me.

So there you have it, the Top Ten Classics I Haven’t Read. Are any of your favourites in this list? What omissions would you recommend I rectify as soon as possible? Is anyone out there as ill-read in the classics as me?!


Top Ten Tuesday

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

83 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’ve read three – Mrs Dalloway, The Bell Jar and Alice. Mrs D is a must (one of the best books ever written); Alice – how can you not? It’s wonderfully bonkers. It’d be interesting to see the impact of The Bell Jar later in life – I read in my late teens and again in early 20s and found it brutal.

    The one on your list I most want to read is Ulysees, every summer I promise myself this is the one, still hasn’t happened!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tut tut… ;p I won’t say that I have read all the Classics I should have, but I did get most of these. Interesting post though! I wonder if I should write a to-do Classics list of my own! Tx for sharing.


  3. Bizarrely, considering how easily I could make one of these lists up, I have almost read them all (I skipped through Bleak House for a college tutorial so half read it at best. Still read no Wharton, though).
    LOTR and Alice I read to all the kids as they grow up.
    Ulysses I read once a decade. It’s not as difficult as its reputation, thats Finnegans Wake! You might enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LOTR and Middlemarch are two of my favourite books–I would advise trying the first 150 pages of The Fellowship of the Ring and then quitting if it just isn’t for you. It took me a while to get accustomed to all the worldbuilding and fairly slow character development. I have read Alice as well (meaning to reread it, because it’s one of my friend’s favourite books and I feel like I don’t know it that well).

    The others on this list, though; I haven’t read any of them. I had an unfortunate Dickens experience with Great Expectations, which was enforced reading at school, and that really put me off. I do need to try something else, though, and see if I can get into him now!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Honestly, of the ones on your ,list that I’ve read, I’d recommend all of them. Bleak House for the most wonderfully drawn female narrator. Middlemarch if you want your heart to bleed for these poor people who have only themselves to blame for their situations, but in such a perfectly drawn way – it’s such an amazing work on characters, because they’re all so flawed and yet so credible. And War & Peace, I finally managed it just a few years ago, and couldn’t believe I’d waited so long. Once you get past the naming systems (and this really was an obstacle for me), it’s just SO absorbing and inspiring and beautiful – I know it’s massive but I was truly sad when it ended, because it had been my little world for a couple of weeks.
    I’m right with you on postponing Lord of the Rings, though – tried a couple of pages once when I was much much younger, and cast it aside as “not as good as the Hobbit”…


  6. The Bell Jar, Mrs. Dalloway and Bleak House are all wonderful in different ways – do read them! I only read Anna Karenina recently and I still want to get on to War and Peace, and also Trollope! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bleak House is a huge treat for a winter book–Dickens’s best, I think–and Middlemarch is pure sympathetic genius, so both of those are definite must-reads. Virginia Woolf is also wonderful: Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse are the least formally experimental and both are quite poignant. I will also say, in Ulysses’s favor, that it’s actually not as hard as people make it out to be. It’s digressive, but there’s a story going on there and you can figure it out without too much bother. The *really* brain-bending one is Finnegans Wake!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Re Ulysses, I’ve not read that either though I plan to this year, but I’d just read it as a book. If you’d bought it in the 1920s you wouldn’t have essays, notes, guides and so on, just a novel. I’d just read it as a novel, enjoy it or not, like any other.

    Don Quixote was originally published as two novels, written ten years apart. I have no idea why it’s now marketed as one mammoth book as it’s hugely offputting. It’s a novel and a sequel, written a decade later. There’s reviews of both at mine and it’s fantastic, but there is no reason at all you can’t read the first bit then wait a year or so for the second,that’s what I did and it’s still reading it a lot faster than his contemporaries got to.

    I just finished Jacob’s Room which was great, so I wouldn’t be afraid of Virginia Woolf, I think you’d really enjoy her.

    I think The Bell Jar would still work, Lord of the Rings though? I wouldn’t bother, though loulou’s suggestion of the first 150 pages is pretty good. You’ve never voiced any interest in fantasy fiction that I recall though, so I’m not sure a saga about magic rings, elves and orcs would grab you that much. Have you read the Hobbit? Good luck if you read it to your kids by the way, LotR is over 1,000 pages and much of it is very slow. I hope you have patient children…

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The only ones I’ve read on there are The Bell Jar and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, they are both definitely worth a read! I must admit I do own Ulysses but… damn it looks long. I might read A Portrait of a Young Man before jumping in with that one.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m with you on Middlemarch, The Bell Jar, and anything by Virginia Woolf. Like you, I even own them, but just haven’t read them yet. I plan to!

    I have read Bleak House and The Lord of the Rings, and I loved them both. The Lord of the Rings is so much better as a book. The movie leaves out all of Tolkien’s wonderful humour. When you read them, you can just hear the joy in his writing.

    It’s funny that you have both Don Quixote and Ulysses on your list. I was just listening to CBC radio the other day, and Wayne Johnston (a writer from Newfoundland) was talking about his favourite books. He says that he has read Don Quixote several times, and that Ulysses is the funniest book ever written. He laughs his way through it. I would never have thought. It makes me think I should read them and see, neither of them having ever interested me before.

    This would be a fun list to make, especially if you’re someone like me who would have a lot options to choose from. There are definitely some classics I know I will never read, but there are so many more that I would like to. They just keep getting shoved to the back burner to make room for all the shiny new ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Naomi, it’s interesting to hear that about Ulysses – a different perspective can change your anticipation of a book. I seem to think that a classic will be harder work, yet I have loved the Edith Wharton I read last year, much to my surprise. I often wonder what else that I’m dreading that could turn into a delight!


  11. I’ve been reading for over sixty years and only got around to Moby Dick a couple of years ago. Wharton I only discovered about ten years ago.

    I’ve never had the desire or nerve to try Ulysses and didn’t make it through War and Peace (but absolutely love Anna Karenina and have read it more than once). The rest I’ve read with the exception of Mrs. Dalloway.

    I really enjoyed the first book of The Lord of the Rings (Fellowship), but got totally bogged down by all the battle in the second book. The third one perked up a bit for me.

    You may be correct about The Bell Jar. I think I was in my mid or late 20s when I read it and I’m not sure how much I would like it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I read Middlemarch once every ten years or so. It’s one of my favorites, but I think you shouldn’t read it when you are young. It’s one that should wait. I loved Bleak House and The Bell Jar, though it’s probably best to read The Bell Jar for the first time before you are 30. Like Catcher in the Rye should be read before you are in college

    Like you, I am a literature major who has never read and will never read Ulysses, Moby Dick, and War and Peace. Though I have read other Tolstoy and loved him.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I read Don Quixote before I was aware that it is considered a classic. I don’t know if that is a reason why I liked it so much. War and Peace, while not my favorite, is still worth reading, and I would like to read Moby Dick at some point. It is safe to say that I will probably NOT read Ulysses in my lifetime.

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  14. As someone who also has a degree in English and so on, looking at your list makes me feel ashamed as well because I have only read The Bell Jar and Bleak House… I don’t blame you for ducking all of those books because they are huge and come with hyped-up august reputations!

    Keep on watching the film adaptations and blagging your way through dinner party conversations!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Good list! I decided to focus on classics for my top ten as well. Otherwise it would’ve been even more difficult! The Lord of the Rings, Don Quixote and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are on my list as well. And perhaps (as an English student), Ulysses should be on it as well, but I really don’t see myself reading that one in the near (or far) future, haha!

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  16. I’m participating in a Readalong of War and Peace over at Booking in Heels. You should join. It just started and she’s got it paced out for about 3 months. Try it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I really do need to read Middlemarch, and I’m going to try to make it happen this year! In terms of LOTR, I think the books are wonderful, and I didn’t read them until I was an adult, so I’d say it’s never too late!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve been told I need to read Moby Dick. I tried to once, and nothing clicked, but so many people have enthused about it since I’m wondering if I should persevere.

    I’ve read a few on your list (bits of Ullysesse, Alice in Wonderland & Mrs Dalloway) all worth reading, but a struggle to do so at the time.


  19. The ones I have read from your list

    * War and Peace (it is actually an all time fave)
    * The Lord of The Rings
    * The Bell Jar (read it early in life and it didn’t leave much trace)
    * Don Quixote
    * Middlemarch
    * Alice in Wonderland this as the rest of the world. I’m not saying it is bad – it is not- it just is not for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. i haven’ read Moby Dick or War and Peace either. I do like Ulysses, though, and not just because I’m a Dubliner; it’s intimidating, and to be honest, I sort of glance over bits of it, but it’s also wonderfully absorbing; I struggled through it in college, but I have read it twice since and enjoyed it much more without any feeling that I had to “get’ it. If you do choose to tackle it and find that you like it, and even if you hate it, I cannot recommend highly enough reading Declan Kiberd’s “Ulysses and Us” … it will make you rethink the whole book


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