Ranking the Classics I Read in 2021
This time last year I did a post ranking the classics I read in 2020. I thought I would re-do that post by ranking the classics I read in 2021. And I read quite a few!
However, whilst I read tons of classics I didn’t love them all. Quite a few of them were slow-sizzles as opposed to slow burns.
Not the Best Classics:
I adore the Bronte sisters. Their story of upcoming financial and gender adversities to write incredible novels has always inspired me. However, listening to the unabridged audiobook of Wuthering Heights I just didn’t love it. In fact, I found it a slog. Everything I thought I knew about the story was wrong. Heathcliff and Cathy are barely in it! And I would never call it a romance, gothic, or otherwise.
I’ve never read Muriel Spark and I don’t think I’m going to rush to buy the rest of her books. Sadly, her writing was slow and has become dated. The story never truly made sense as it wasn’t written chronologically – and I listened to the audiobook which made it extra hard. But I didn’t love the storyline either.
I had heard mention of Elizabeth and German Garden but didn’t know much about it. It’s creative non-fiction but nothing happens and nothing about the garden seemed inspiring to me?
And finally, for the Not the Best categories, I read The Phantom of the Opera. I’ve never seen the show or the movie, so only I thought I only knew the basic storyline. But when I was reading it, it was very slow and I realised I knew everything because nothing else happens.
I never thought I would enjoy Treasure Island for some reason. But listening to the Audible Original with an all-star cast was great. With the likes of Catherine Tate, Owen Teale, and Phillip Glenister it was fab. It was funny, well-acted and the story was pretty good.
This short fairytale is about a fir tree, funnily enough, who wants to be a Christmas tree. When it gets its wish it’s disappointing. It’s a moral story about wishing your life away. Sweet, if dark.
I’ve been meaning to read E.M. Forster for ages. I didn’t get on with Howards End but I did like A Room with a View. It’s a part romance and part domestic novel, but I particularly enjoy the opening scenes in Florence. If you want a classic to take on holiday to Europe this is the one.
This novella is intense and descriptive, but also extremely easy to read. It’s about greed and morals, as ever. When a poor man finds a priceless pearl he becomes obsessed with keeping it when he could sell it to have a really good life. Ultimately losing the pearl and everything he could have had, simply for the prestige of owning something that never belonged to him in the first place.
I read a few Charles Dickens’ books in 2021 and Oliver Twist was the last one. It’s nothing like the musical, which I knew going into it, but I didn’t realise how much of it was about the relationship Oliver has with the old man who takes him in after he ‘steals’ from him. It’s dark and very anti-semitic, and not my favourite Charles Dickens. But there’s no denying the man could write vividly.
This was my third Daphne Du Maurier and I was expecting it to be my favourite, but it was sadly quite dull. The characters are obsessed with one another and there is a lot of ambiguity around Rachel, which is a lot like the character of Rebecca in Rebecca. It’s definitely a popular trope of Du Maurier’s. But I liked the basic storyline of this mystery woman and these men getting ill around her.
I adored Tinkerbell growing up, and every Peter Pan adaptation that I watched. But I found the book to be really irritating in places. Peter is the epitome of a terrible child. Really awful. Tinkerbell looks like a saint and she’s bratty and Wendy is a drip. But I adore the plot and magical world of Neverland.
I haven’t read many classic classics from the ancient era. This is the first romance and boy did they go hard on the romance. These star-crossed lovers adore each other and do end up happily ever after, after many a drama including slavery, battles, attempted rape, and much more.
I am a Shakespeare fan. At school, I did a lot of Shakespeare performances and studied the text in class. Measure for Measure isn’t one of his well-known works but it’s fascinating! During #MeToo movement this book was surprisingly relevant – if for negative reasons.
The story focuses on a nun who is trying to save her brother from execution by a corrupt leader and the Duke. The Duke is ‘away’ but really is spying on his subjects and watching the scene unfold from afar. Ultimately the corrupt leader says that he’ll spare the brother if the sister sleeps with him – which she refuses. The Duke then ‘saves the day’ by sparing the brother, sentencing the corrupt leader to an unhappy marriage, and then demands the nun sleep with him instead. The ending is ambiguous and we never know if she chose to sleep/wed the Duke. And we’re never really sure if this play is a comedy or a tragedy.
The play is harrowing and I found it very interesting to read on the page. It made me think and I like that about Shakespeare.
And finally, Bleak House. As the name suggests this book is bleak. However, I love how Dickens created this well-rounded ensemble cast with multi-storylines. Yes, there is a lot of legal jargon in this classic and it’s hard to understand any of it. But when you stop trying and focus instead on the stories and the morals of the characters, it’s a lot more enjoyable.
And that’s it for the classics I read in 2021. What did you think of my ranking? Are there any titles you think I should have ranked higher or lower? Let me know in the comments below.