Tackling the Classics on Your Literary Bucket List

row of leatherbound classic novels

Last month, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought much of the world to a grinding halt, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper ran a story about how self-isolating readers are making the most of the shelter-in-place situation by tackling their literary “bucket lists.” According to the article, British readers are taking the opportunity to finally delve into such formidable tomes as James Joyce’s Ulysses (730 pages), David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1,079 pages), and Hilary Mantel’s Tudor Trilogy (a cumulative 1,756 pages).

Readers we’ve polled tell us they aren’t necessarily gravitating to massive books so much as they are turning their attentions to the literary classics they missed—or read too long ago and have since forgotten—during their school days. Even the members of Bas Bleu’s editorial staff, all English majors who read for a living, have a few classics on our own literary bucket lists. Our Brand Manager, Christie, has her eye on Don Quixote, while our Marketing Director, Ann, has been circling Anna Karenina for years. Our Social Media Director, Katherine, hopes to one day tackle The Lord of the Rings, and our Marketing Associate, Sarah, confesses she’s never read Pride and Prejudice…though she wants you to know she’s read other Jane Austen novels!

six classic English novels with floral and metallic covers

Several months ago, before the pandemic reached our shores, one of our London-based publishers sent us a batch of gorgeous new editions of classic English novels. We asked ourselves, “Have our customers already read all of these? We’ve missed a few titles ourselves, maybe they have, too.” For those of you who have read them all, we wondered if you’d enjoy the opportunity to shelve a beautiful keepsake edition of your favorite…or to pass along a gift-worthy copy to the young reader you know. We named them Exquisite Classics, added them to our Spring 2020 offerings, and are thrilled to report our customers seem glad we did! (And, yes, we’re going to leave that pretty copy of Pride and Prejudice on Sarah’s desk.)

Tell us, dear bluestockings, what classic—or otherwise monumental—books are on your literary bucket list? And if you too are finding yourself at home much more these days, have you marked any titles off that list yet?

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23 thoughts on “Tackling the Classics on Your Literary Bucket List

  1. How about two great sagas by Norwegian author Sigrid Undset: Kristen Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken? I read these 50 years ago (required reading) and still remember lines from the books. I intend to re-visit these books before summer.

  2. I just realized that I have had a copy of War and Peace on my shelf for decades that has not been opened. Time to get to it!

  3. When I admitted to my Russian student, Mila, (living with me for 2 yrs in Mpls while finishing her undergrad classes) that as a teenage girl I skipped all the battlefield scenes in Tolstoy’s War and Peace and just concentrated on Natasha and Andre’s romance. She laughed and said, “Oh, Pat, I did the same thing as did all my girlfriends in Moscow.” Recently was thinking I should reread the entire book and maybe listen to Tolstoy give me a longer view of Russian history and his philosophy about it all as he stumbled through the battlefields.

  4. How’s THIS for a “classic”–“The Scarlet Pimpernel”, the world’s first hero with an alter-ego (before Superman, Batman, and even Zorro!). Worth reading and re-reading!

  5. I recently read Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskill. It was 700 plus pages Just finished The Dublin Saga Part 1 700 plus pages and Part 2 800 pages plus by Edward Rutherfurd. I am starting to read Emma by Jane Austen. Some how I never read that Jane Austen book. Happy reading to all.
    Marilyn

  6. I started Hiliary Mantell’s Bringing Up the Bodies…couldn’t get into it. I started Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook…couldn’t keep with it. Finally, I turned to Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. I think I’ve found my classic.

  7. I am rereading The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel. Having recently had the privilege of visiting Hyastan (Armenia) (thank you, Anahit) , I realize more than ever that it is a story worthy of renewed life. The author is an amazing story in himself.

  8. Oh Bas Bleu, How I do love you – have for more years than I care to admit. My thirst for books stems from intensive required author lists during my prep school years – eons ago when ‘Classics’ were a must. I admit to much complaining, especially during our summer breaks. Suffice it to say, a seed was planted in those early years and has thrived. I recently purchased your Mystery set for my almost 95 years young mother who always has a ‘who done it’s on hand. It would be impossible to list my favorites. I do my best to have one ‘fun’ and one serious read going at all times. At the moment, they are Belgravia (I’m way ahead of the TV) and The Cartiets. I reread the classics often and always find some bit I have missed. I was taught that if one reads, one is never alone. Thank you for providing a marvelous publication with so many interesting books from which to choose. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanx – :0)

    • Please dismiss my sad spelling . I HAVE TROUBLE TYPING ON MY PHONE. Book mentioned is The Cartiers! Other mis- spells are not so important!

    • Thank you, Patricia! (We actually have The Cartiers slated for our upcoming Summer edition. Wasn’t it fascinating?)

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