Really Old Classics Challenge

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Children 2,000 years ago read and memorized Virgil and Homer, and Aesop’s Fables were common knowledge. Even 200 years ago these classics were widely read. Now, there are thousands of new books published each year. But what about those really old ones? Have we read those yet? Any of them?

That’s why I’ve decided to host the Really Old Classics Challenge (including classics from pre-1600s), a ten-month challenge (October 2008-July 2009). I myself haven’t read many of the really old ones (Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Dante, etc.), so this is a project I’m adopting for myself primarily, in addition to my How to Read and Why personal challenge. But I thought we could all use a little motivation, a reminder, to pick one the old classics.

Also, I’m hosting the Bookworms Carnival in August 2009, and while I haven’t specified exactly what the subject for that will be, I’d like to make the theme somehow relate to classics.

So, what are Really Old Classics? I’ve compiled a list of some Really Old Classics that catch my eye, but of course, you could include anything that was written pre-1600 (pre-Shakespeare). In your own reading, you could also include works about those works, if you want (such as Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, which is about the Greek and Roman myths), although let’s not count Cliff’s Notes.

The Rules

  1. Choose how many Really Old Classics you’d like to read by the end of July 2009, from 1 to 100.
  2. Read that number of Really Old Classics by the end of July 2009. If you finish, pat yourself on the back.

That’s it.

If you want, you can choose which Really Old Classics you want to read before you begin. Or, you can choose a few that you may later choose from. If you have a blog, you can review them as you read them.

Joining the Challenge

If you want to sign up for the Really Old Classics challenge, leave a comment.  You don’t need to have a blog to participate. If you’d like, you can tell us now how many Really Old Classics you’d like to read. Or you can write that on a specific post on your blog, a link to which you can leave in a comment here. We’d love to follow you as you reach your goals!

Sharing Your Reviews

I will have another post where you can return and leave links to your reviews. Leaving a link to your review is optional. I personally like having links to everyone’s review in the same place so I can follow and compare, and I’d love to have yours here on Rebecca Reads. But if you don’t like doing that, don’t feel you must.

If you don’t have a blog, you can leave your reading progress and/or thoughts of the work on that post.

In the mean time, here’s a clever button for you to use, if you wish.

Happy Reading!


Reviewed on October 1, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I was in a class my freshman year of collage that combined freshman and sophomore english as well as a dose of humanities, and we focused on old classics for the most part. The first semester was everything pre-Dante, and the second semester was Dante onwards. With that, I had to read at least 11 or 12 of the ones from your list, along with tons of others from the Greek tragicomedy plays and some other philosophy works. I discovered that old classics just aren’t my favorites. A few of them I could get through, but the others just bored me to tears, unfortunately. From Dante forwards, though, I liked most of what we read. Needless to say, I enjoyed second semester more than the first.

  • Amanda, that is the exact reason I feel the need to read these: I never had such a class. Even my history of civilization class only read “excerpts” from a few things.

    I’d be interested to know if there was anything pre-Dante that you didn’t hate *too much*.

  • I’ll think about this. I can’t promise anything right now though. I was actually planning on hosting a Centuries challenge (though I hadn’t published it yet) which would mesh rather well with this one if folks are so inclined. Most of the books on the list I’m planning to read are post 1600. (Don Quixote, Clarissa, Roxana, etc.) But there are one or two books that are pre 1600. I’d like to read The Divine Comedy eventually. And I’d love to read The Wycliffe New Testament and the Tyndale New Testament. I have in my notes (and granted this is from Wikipedia) that Don Quixote was published in two volumes, 1605 and 1615. Let me know if Don Quixote counts as a pre-1600 book though. If it does, I’ll probably sign up.

  • Becky, I thought Don Quixote was published before 1600! Oops, I guess I shouldn’t have put it on my list. Well, define “really old classics” as you want. I think it would work, it sure is “really old” to me. The pre-1600 was just a guide to go by so we had some point of reference.

  • Rebecca, what a great idea for a challenge. I really respect and admire your thoughtful blog.

    Though I read many “really old classics” in college, I’ve been meaning to read more. For now I think I’ll commit myself to two books: The Odyssey, by Homer and Utopia, by Sir Thomas More. I’ll post about this challenge and my goals soon. Thanks for hosting!

  • Rebecca, there were a couple I liked. I remember enjoying Medea by Euripides and some of Plato’s dialogues. There was probably more than that, but it was 11 years ago so I don’t recall others offhand.

  • I’m in, even though I had decided not to join any challenges for a while. I know some of the “really old” ones can be boring sometimes, but I love getting a little piece of the past from them. My goal is to read 4, but I don’t know which ones, because I’ve learned since book blogging I am incapable of sticking with anything. I always change books, change order, read books that aren’t on any challenge, etc. No self-discipline!

  • I recently tried reading Aesop’s fables to the kids (age 2-13) thinking they’d love them–and they really didn’t. I think they seemed too obtuse or something. Maybe I’ll give it another try.

  • angela michelle,  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Aesop lately, and I think enjoying Aesop’s depends a lot on translation and format — each translator has a different purpose in writing and creating their own work. Very interesting to compare versions!

  • Jeska, oh my! You are ambitious! Are you reading really old classics for a class? I thought I was ambitious with 6. I look forward to reading along on your blog!

    By the way, I like what you already have over there! (I bet you could tell by my dozen comments….)

  • This looks like a great challenge! I think I’m a little late this year, although I may join to read just one book! If you run it again next year I’ll definitely join up, and try to read a good number of books.

    I’m going to read through a few of the reviews on here, so I can enjoy choosing which ones to read!

  • Hi Judy, Actually, you’re name is on the list above as “Intergalactic Bookworm.” I can change it to Judy if you want, I was just listing it by name of blog. Glad you’re participating!

  • I would love to sign up! I think I will set my goal at 5. Once I get my total list together I will post on my Thanks for such a great challenge!

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