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Enduring Fiction: My Classic Novel Goal for 2023
What I’m Reading and When—plus How You Can Get My Reviews
Alright, folks. A couple weeks back I mentioned a special reading project for the coming year. Here’s the goal: Read 12 classic novels in 2023 and share one review each month through year end.
I read a lot of nonfiction each year but not that many novels, usually just five or six titles in total. In 2022, for instance, I read:
T. C. Boyle, Talk to Me (2021)
Kirstin Valdez Quade, The Five Wounds (2021)
Kevin Wilson, Nothing to See Here (2020)
Emily St. John Mandel, Sea of Tranquility (2022)
Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land (2022)
I started a few others but quit those along the way.
One immediate observation after looking at this list: They’re all new! You can easily buy cheese older than these titles. That’s been a theme of all the books I’ve read and reviewed this year—hence my decision to focus on classic novels.
For this goal I’ve narrowed my list of possible titles to books by prominent authors published before my birth in 1975, and also books I’ve never read before; I’m a fan of rereading but want to limit this goal to fresh stories. (Fresh to me, that is.)
So what did I pick?
I started out with a list of 12 novels I wanted to read. But I thought I’d tap the wisdom of the crowd and solicit suggestions from you—our fledgling community here at Miller’s Book Review 📚—along with friends and followers on social media.
I received so many excellent ideas I wish I could read four a month to accommodate the picks. There were several I’d already read or which didn’t resonate for one reason or another (likely a deficiency on my part). I excluded those. But even then I had more than I could manage. Suffice it to say, after I swapped out some on my original list, I’ve already got a strong running start on 2024. Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions!
As for 2023, here’s where I landed:
January: Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita (1967)
February: Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
March: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
April: Jospeh Heller, Catch-22 (1961)
May: Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958)
June: Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948)
July: Sigrid Undset, The Wreath: Kristin Lavransdatter, Book 1 (1920)
August: Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
September: Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
October: Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)
November: Shusaku Endo, Silence (1966)
December: Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
In general, I’m happy with the diversity of the list. American and foreign authors fill the number, along with English-originals and translations and a decent mix of men, women, and different races and nationalities.
All but three are from the twentieth century, but there’s a pretty good spread on publication dates. I mostly excluded long books; that’s why, for instance, Middlemarch and The Brothers Karamazov didn’t make the list despite several recommendations and a genuine desire on my part to read them. (Next year in Jerusalem!) I want the goal to be challenging but not impractical; I have plenty more I want to read next year.
I plan on sharing a review on each of these novels sometime in the month indicated. I’ve already purchased The Master and Margarita and Pinocchio, and I’m excited to dig into those. Stay tuned! And if you know anyone who would appreciate reviews of these classic novels, please share this post and ask them to sign up; subscribers will get them free of charge.
If you’re looking to set a reading goal of your own for 2023, you might find my original post helpful. I explain how to set goals using the SMARTER framework. There are many ways to do it, but the SMARTER framework works better than any other method I know.