Heather and I are hosting the Really Old Classics Challenge from November 2009 to the end of February 2010. I am so excited about it. I’ve enjoyed every really old classic I’ve read thus far, and I’m looking forward to a little motivation to read some more!
It’s a fairly simple challenge. To finish, you need to read one work written before 1600 A.D. That’s it. Read one thing and you’ve finished! To make it fun, though, we have an “extra credit” option (read a retelling) and a “Classicist” certification (read four works).
I’m so excited about this! I decided to share some of my favorite classics as well as those that I hope to read some day. I probably won’t get more than four read during the next four months, but at least I can dream about reading them over the course of the rest of my life!
What I’ve Read
I haven’t read many Really Old Classics since I started my blog — but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them! I started the Really Old Classics challenge last year because I wanted the motivation to read them. I was a fairly new blogger and the challenge wasn’t very well run or participated in, but all the same, those of us who did join it enjoyed ourselves!
During the challenge, I read Homer’s The Iliad (trans. Robert Fagles) and to my surprise, I loved it! There is something so powerful about the emotions and characters in it. I followed that up with Homer’s The Odyssey (also trans. Robert Fagles) and while I likewise enjoyed that saga, I felt it more plot and story based, so it wasn’t as powerful to me as The Iliad had been. (I like my stories to be about character and emotions, not plot and “adventure.”)
I read a Euripides’ play, Hippolytus, for a book group I joined once. It was fun and I look forward to more Euripides. I jumped into the 1500s with Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, a fascinating look at society — and what makes it perfect or imperfect!
When I was in school, I read Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex and Antigone. I also read excerpts from other classic works, including all of the King James Version of the Bible. I’ve read Aesop’s Fables as an adult and a child.
What I Want to Read
The list of books I want to read for this four-month challenge is very long. Nevertheless, I’m going to mention these works because I want you to see how excited I am for all of my options!
- Gilgamesh has been on the Martel-Harper list and I’ve seen dozens of people reading it and reviewing it this year. It sounds fascinating to me!
- Bhagavad-Gita and The Koran (Al-Qur’an) are religious books I feel I should experience in my life. While I’m not sure four months is enough to read either of these, they are on my list for life.
- Homer’s Iliad. Although I’ve already read The Iliad, I want to read translations by Alexander Pope, Robert Fitzgerald, Richmond Lattimore, and Stanley Lombardo. I also want to read a modern-day poetical retelling by Christopher Logue. (EXTRA CREDIT)
- Aeschylus Oresteia, Seven Against Thebes, Prometheus Bound. From summaries I’ve read, these all fascinate me!
- Sophocles Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone. Time for a reread!
- Euripides Orestes and Medea. I’ve heard great things about these particular Euripides plays.
- Aristophanes. Because he comes after Euripides.
- Herodotus The Histories and Thucydides The Peloponnesian Wars. These sound ultra dull, but I’d honestly love to learn about history from the ancients’ perspective!
- Plato Dialogues. Because this is an important part of history.
- Aristotle Poetics, Ethics. A corner-stone of modern philosophy.
- Plutarch Lives. I read excerpts of Lives when I was reading about Julius Caesar. That early biography seems rather amusing.
- Virgil Aeneid. This is one I can’t believe I haven’t read yet this year. It was on my Really Old Classics List for last year, and I never got to it. I loved Homer, so I’m looking forward to giving this old guy a chance too.
- Ovid Metamorphoses. I honestly don’t know anything about this. But it’s on the lists.
- Juvenal Satires, Martial Epigrams, Seneca Tragedies. I read excerpts from each of these at some point. Time revisit?
- Apuleius The Golden Ass. I read a review that said this was funny and readable. Always a good thing.
- Saint Augustine City of God; Confessions. This early Christian seems to have said a lot of good stuff.
- Beowulf. I recently talked to a 14-year-old who liked this book! Plus, the Seamus Heaney cover is pretty cool looking.
- Dante The Divine Comedy. I think this will be a life-time project. I admit that the excerpts I’ve read have scared me for the entire thing!
- Petrarch Lyric Poems; Selections. There’s a reason it’s call the Petrachian sonnet. Time to find out why?
- Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron. I don’t know anything about it but it’s long and Medieval.
- Michelangelo Buonarroti Sonnets and Madrigals. I like his paintings and sculpture. Will I like his writing?
- Niccolò Machiavelli The Prince. An important political tome, albeit a boring one.
- Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks. I started reading this last year but had to take it back to the library. Interesting, plus I like his artwork.
- Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales. Many people have told me this is awesomely fun. Dare I attempt it in Middle English?
- Sir Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur. More fun traditional tales. Definitely not trying in Middle English.
- Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queene. Because I love sweeping epic poetry!
- Christopher Marlowe Poems and Plays. Shakespeare’s near contemporary and/or inspriation.
- Michel de Montaigne Essays. I’ve only read excerpts.
- François Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel. An I-should-read-this book.
- Confucius’s The Analects. Sounds like a refreshing work!
- The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. It seems a lot of people have been reading it this year (thanks to a read-along) and I hope to join in at some point in my life!
- The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. I won this from Literary Feline in a BBAW book giveaway and I’m so excited to read it. As it is also for the Japanese Literature Challenge, I won’t count it for this one!
- Sir Gawain and the Green Night. I might have read this before? Can’t remember.
As you can see, I’m clearly skewed towards Western classics. Please let me know of great non-Western classics you’ve read!
What I’ll Read This Year
I’m definitely reading The Pillow Book for the Japanese Literature Challenge. For this challenge, I have my eye on Medea and The Aeneid. The others I choose will be more randomly chosen: what do I feel like reading this week? I do want to read War Music as my retelling “extra credit.” Needless to say, I’m hoping I can get the classicist certification this year.
Are you going to join the challenge? What books on this list do you want to read? Which non-Western really old classics (pre-1600) can you recommend?