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Saturday, September 8, 2012

To Classic or Not to Classic?

While fall is beginning to set upon us, I have not yet begun to think of next year's Reading Challenges, but apparently other people are. So I heard about The Classics Challenge and was intrigued. After all, it's spread out over five years which seems more than reasonable. Except that the lowest level you can sign up for is 50, which is 10 a year! Again, it doesn't seem so bad, but then I thought I'd check how many classics I have been averaging in the last few years. Two. Sure, I read four last year but NONE in 2009 (that was the year that my book club's annual "classic" read was The Clan of the Cave Bear which I can't in good conscience add to my "Classics" list.)

So I'd love to do this challenge. But I won't. Why not? I have 30 classics books currently on my To Read list, and I also intend to reread several Jane Austens in the next few years (luckily The Classics Club does allow rereads) but I just can't imagine devoting 1/5 of my reading in the next 5 years to classics? But why not? They're obviously worthy and worthwhile. Why shouldn't I finally get around to all those classics I meant to read and never did?

Well, I am in the book industry. I am an independent editor, and it really is a part of my job to keep up with current books. It's very helpful for authors when I can suggest similar authors or books to theirs, so they can better position their book in marketing it, or know who to compare their book to when querying literary agents. It's important for me to keep abreast of trends in the publishing industry. I've even occasionally read a book I hated because it was so popular, I had to, for work, like The DaVinci Code (luckily I've been able to avoid Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey so far).

It's actually something I love about my book club. Sometimes an over-hyped book has really turned me off, because of the hype, but my book club forces me to read it and I end up liking it (turns out the hype was right!) like Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides or Atonement by Ian McEwan. My book club also keeps me reading books I really wouldn't normally such as Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Both are genres I do not ever read on my own, but I do need to read widely and across genres to truly understand publishing as a whole. (Some publishing people work in narrow niches such as romance or mysteries, and they don't need to be as widely read as a generalist like me.)

In fact, right now I am reading a book in a genre I don't normally: political thriller. But I am working on a manuscript in that genre, so I thought I'd refamiliarize myself with one of the masters, since it has been so long since I've read one. I want to be sure I'm familiar with the pacing, plotting conventions, and tropes.

So while yes, I do want to read more classics, I just can't stop reading current books. I think the most I could do would be five a year (I did read four last year, but two were children's.) I will make an effort to read more, but unfortunately, this is one challenge I won't be joining.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Maybe we could do a classics challenge just the two of us that gave us a reasonable amount of time to read what we want to read to fill in the gaps but would still give us time restraints that would encourage us to read them. We can chat about it tonight if you want. :-)