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26 February 2016

A closer look at my Classics Club reading list

Two years ago, I joined the Classics Club and resolved to read 50 "classic" books over the next 5 years.

Here's that book list.

Lately, I've been pretty interested in analyzing my own reading choices. Partly just out of curiosity, partly out of some vague feeling that I might need to read more diversely or something. Anyway, I took a look at the 50 books on my Classics Club list and this is what came up!

Categories & Genre

When I made the list, I separated the books into 5 categories (basically broad genre labels).

As you can see, my CC list is 50% general fiction (20th century and pre-20th century), with the bulk of the rest being made up of speculative fiction (SFF, a.k.a. science fiction/fantasy).

I broke this down a little more into common genre labels.

Here we can see the breakdown of "fiction" a little better -- there's still a lot of what I think of as general fiction, but also some historical fiction, adventure, etc.

Of course, there are always going to be books that fit more than one genre label. For example, I didn't distinguish between general fiction and speculative fiction under the "Teen" label. (I tried to get more specific originally, but the chart got out of hand.)

Number of pages

Most of the books on my list are at or under 600 pages. There are just a few doorstoppers. The longest was The Count of Monte Cristo; the shortest was The Yellow Wallpaper.

Original language

Wow, this is where things start to get just a little embarrassing. Nearly all the books I chose for this list were originally English language, with just a smattering of 2 other European languages.

Author's ethnicity

Please note that in this case only, "American" = U.S. and Canada -- I was going for a continental perspective, rather than by country.

I guess it is no surprise, given the language breakdown, that many of the authors on my list are white Europeans and Americans. Most of the Europeans are Brits, by the way. You can also see that I wasn't quite sure how to categorize the Jewish authors. Some of the Jewish people I've known would consider that their primary culture/ethnicity, but some wouldn't.

In any case, it's pretty clear from this graph and the previous one that I didn't give much thought to the diversity of the authors on my CC list when I was making it. If I choose to do another CC list after this one, I'll definitely want to give this matter some more thought. I'll be missing out on so much important literature from around the world if I just stick to the "Western" canon.

Author's gender

About 1/3 of the authors on this list are women. It isn't even close to equal representation, but it isn't as bad as I feared it would be.

Publication year

It's easy to see from the "stacks" above that most of my CC books came out of the mid-to-latter part of the 20th century, with quite a few from the 19th. For some reason I'm surprised that I didn't have anything pre-1800 on this list. Again, this is definitely something I'll want to address if I choose to do a second list after finishing this one.

Popularity with other Classics Club members

Keep in mind that these numbers are based on when I originally looked at the CC review list (here) while compiling this post in January 2016. Perhaps by the time I get around to finishing my list, the numbers will have changed.

In any case, it looks like a great many of the titles I chose are unique. This is probably because I chose to focus partly on nonfiction and SFF classics, which most other CCers don't seem interested in.

I did find it interesting that 10 of these titles have 10 or more other reviewers, though. They must be popular for a good reason!

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If you are a fellow Classics Clubber, have you done any number-crunching like this, or otherwise really given some thought to the diversity of your list? I'm interested in whether any of these results are typical of Classics Club lists in general.

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