Reading the 20th Century

(First, and as an aside: I am winning over knitting. The socks are 90% complete and all they need is a Sunday afternoon movie and they will doneski. Take that, knitting ennui! You are not the boss of me!)

Once upon a time there was a group blog called ‘Knit the Classics’, a project in the shape of a virtual book club where participants would read a ‘classic’ book each month and have the option of doing a crafting project to accompany that read. Then, something happened in the Blogger brand of internet and the KTC blog got nixed. The KTC project was revived in part by a Knitting 19th Century Novels group on Ravelry (Ravelry link there), which I’ve been happily participating in (I’d never read Alice in Wonderland before and am excited to read Dracula).

And then I got to thinking that the 20th Century could use a companion group. I started thinking about it months and months ago, and finally now that I’m using my brain to think thoughts again post-thesis I have had enough wherewithal to start on this. Naturally every project needs co-conspirators, so I enlisted the help of my friend Liz who is both a Ravelry user and a knitter, avid reader, and generally friendly and all-around groovy person.

To get this party started we have to come up with a half-dozen or so titles to put on a reading list (I’m sure we’ll end up soliciting suggestions as the group continues, but hey, we gotta start somewhere), so we each went off and tried to come up with a list of 20 titles and are planning a chat this afternoon to start whittling them down. She’s posted her list and since all’s fair in knitting and Reading List Elimination Death Matches, I figured I’d do the same and post mine. Impressively, our lists are almost 100% different, which should make this all the more interesting to choose the first few. Do we go with the most widely-known? Even balance between male and female authors? Alternate late-20th C with early-20th C? A mixture of genres? Short ones? Long ones? Prize-winning ones? Obscure rarely-read ones? Oi with the poodles already.

I don’t know who’s going to survive the bloodbath of the selection process, but by tonight we should have a starting selection. Even a short list of 20 was hard enough that we both copped out and added extra. Here’s mine:

20 from the 20th Century

Lord Jim (1900), by Joseph Conrad
Mrs Dalloway (1925), by Virginia Woolf
The Great Gatsby (1925), F. Scott Fitzgerald
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque
The Maltese Falcon (1930), by Dashiell Hammet
Rebecca (1938), by Daphne DuMaurier
Nineteen Eighty Four (1949), by George Orwell
The Wicked Pavilion (1954), by Dawn Powell
Catch-22 (1961), by Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse Five (1969), by Kurt Vonnegut
Watership Down (1972), by Richard Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), by Douglas Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces (1980), by John Kennedy Toole
The Name of the Rose (1980), by Umberto Eco
Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie
The Color Purple (1983) or Meridian (1976), by Alice Walker
In the Skin of a Lion (1987), by Michael Ondaatje
Oscar and Lucinda (1988 ) or The True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), by Peter Carey
The Remains of the Day (1989), by Kazuo Ishiguro
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) or Girlfriend in a Coma (1989), by Douglas Coupland
A Fine Balance (1995), by Rohinton Mistry

But first, I’m going to finish these socks.


  1. I say True History of the Kelly Gang. It’s shorter and faster but also more interesting in style. And then read more Peter Carey because he’s good. 😀

  2. The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon!

    Also, please to alert me when you’ve got your list whittled down–I’m so down with this!

  3. Kathleen · ·

    Oh, please choose Midnight’s Children – I just started it and I’m a Rushdie fan! Good to see there were a few on the list I’ve already read – but would be happy to read again (A Fine Balance, Mrs. Daloway, Confederacy of Dunces). Sounds like fun!

  4. Hi, Glenda, like the book list! But I’m commenting (late) on your scone recipes. I just tried the cheese ones, and they are great! I did change it a bit, though – try adding a little freshly ground black pepper. Also, I always add a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed to breads, muffins, and scones. Really great health benefits, especially for women, and adds a bit of a nutty flavor, which goes really well with cheese!

  5. This sounds interesting! I’ve only heard of a few of these but need inspiration for new books to read.
    And yay for almost-finished socks.

  6. I’d probably throw in some John Irving, just because.. I really am a JI ho. :^)
    Great list!

  7. Man, I wish we could be in a reading group or something. Several of those I’ve read (I even slogged through “The Name of the Rose”), and several I haven’t (though I want to), but they all look interesting! May I suggest that you consider, well, just about anything by J.M. Coetzee (recent Nobel winner)? He’s brilliant.

  8. What an exciting idea! I’ve been doing more reading lately myself, and it’d be neat to do some reading as part of a group. And definitely 20th century books. I want to check out more early-20th century authors, myself… so yeah, looks like a cool list!

  9. This is right up my alley! Sounds like fun!

  10. Ooh, this is a sweet, sweet list.
    And then you (we?) would knit something to go along with each book? Interesting! I remember you doing that quite some time ago with the older knitting-the-classics group you were in.

  11. Aargh not Catch 22 – my most started and yet never finished book! Nice idea for a knitalong though

    Go socks go!

  12. I have most of these in my book collection and a 20C book club sounds fantastic. 🙂

  13. mooncalf · ·

    Just a vote for Oscar and Lucinda. One of my favorite books of all time.

  14. Ooh, what a great idea! I think I would have suggested Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and anything by Ernest Hemingway. But htat’s just my two cents. ; ) great list!!

  15. Things:

    1. OMG, Dracula. It’s SO SO GREAT, and I know I said that about a lot of books yesterday, but I’m not lying. It is so cheerfully…I don’t know, pulpy? You’re gonna love it. It’s a kick, is what it is. (Not a kick: Frankenstein. Ugh.)

    2. I’m sorry, but I can’t abide Thomas Pynchon. I’m glad he wasn’t on our list.

    3. People seem to like our list. And we have group members! Go, us! (We do still need a banner, though. I’m wondering whether gimp will work as well as Photoshop? I’ll check it out if I get a chance.)

  16. Oooh. Oooh. I already know what I’m going to make for The Great Gatsby. Can we do that one? Please!

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