History of the English-Speaking Peoples Vol. 1 by Winston Churchill

Volume one of History of the English-Speaking Peoples is The Birth of BritainI wanted to read this book because I have always been interested in British history (particularly the monarchy) but have never really sat down and studied it. The inter-connectedness of all the monarchs, their family lines, who usurped who, who was beloved, who was hated…it’s always intrigued me. Also, ever since seeing a Wishbone episode for a book that takes place during the War of the Roses when I was like 10, I’ve always wanted to know more about that war. I figure since it’s written by Churchill and a lot of what he has written has become border-line non-fiction classics, I’m going to squeeze this book into my Classics Club challenge.

This book did not disappoint. I found myself slightly bored at some points. Churchill obviously focused on some of what he found most interesting. For example, I did not care to know what a day-in-the-life was for an Anglo-Saxon nor did I find a need for an entire chapter on the legal system of feudal Britain. I really just wanted the kings and queens. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Churchill was perhaps not the most impartial historian ever to write a book (I’ve never read a history text call a figure in history “perverted” before). That being said, I did enjoy this book a lot. It really helped me in my appreciation for Shakespeare’s histories…who would’ve thought that having an understanding of British history would help with your enjoyment of the histories?


The Life and Death of King John by Shakespeare

Sooooo….less than one week in on my Classics Club challenge and I’m already making a change to my list! I started A History of the English Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill for the club (I know, some people might argue it’s validity as a classic, but I say it’s a nonfiction classic that every Anglo-phile needs to read), and I decided I needed to give some of Shakespeare’s histories another chance. I “read” either 3 or 4 of them in my Shakespeare class in college and HATED them (“read” is in quotations because I started reading them and hated them so much that I just took copious notes in the lecture and studied my butt off in order to pass the test…the fact that I can’t even remember the exact number that we studied should indicate my level of commitment to this part of the syllabus). So, after reading the section in Churchill’s book about King John, I decided I’d just whip out my old college copy of Riverside Shakespeare and give it a good read.


I’m pleased to say that my level of tolerance for this type of play has significantly increased. This wasn’t one I “read” in college (I remember because there were no notes, highlights or “study this section!!!!” notes in the margins). This play covers the part of King John’s reign when John is battling with the King of France all while his right to the throne is being challenged by his nephew Arthur. Much of this matched up pretty well with what I’d read in Churchill. Shakespeare took a few liberties, but I was able to know what was going on thanks to having read a nonfiction account ahead of time (maybe that was my problem in college…I had no earthly idea of the history or the context for these plays!)

I think my favorite part of this play was the cat fight between King John’s mom Queen Elinor and Arthur’s mom Constance. They are, obviously, fighting over whose son is the rightful king of England. It gets pretty hairy:

Elinor: Who is it thou dost call usurper, France?

Constance: Let me make answer: thy usurping son.

Elinor: Out, insolent, thy bastard shall be king that thou mayst be a queen and check the world!

Whoa, whoa, retract the claws, ladies. Can’t we support each other as sisters? As just a couple ladies trying to make it in a man’s world? No? Well, whatevs.

My other favorite part was Constance’s big speech when she fears her son has been killed. It is an incredibly touching moment that, as a mother, really stood out to me.

“Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost. I am not mad, I would to haven I were! For then ’tis like I should forget myself. O, if I could, what grief should I forget!”

I got really irked when the King of France tells her she’s as fond of grief as she is of her child…I feel like that is really belittling a mother’s right to fear for and worry after the safety of their children…but maybe I misread part of her speech as sincerity when it was really just a show.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this play. I didn’t swoon for it, but I’m glad I read it.

The Classics Club

The Classics Club

So I’ve decided to join The Classics Club and their challenge. I usually don’t do challenges because I tend to be like, “I want to read whatever I want whenever I want and I refuse to submit to the confines of this arbitrary challenge!” Buuuut I DO need to read more classics (I’ve kinda been anti-classics since finishing my degree…hence the “I will read what I want when I want”…I got sick of being told what to read…and they were, of course, all classics). Also, this challenge doesn’t SEEM too intimidating.

Here’s where you can read about the Classics Club and its challenge in more detail. The gist of it is 50 (or more) classics in 5 years. Then blog about what you’ve read. Here’s my list I’ve submitted. It’s got several rereads but mostly new reads. I felt like I needed to add several rereads because I read so many great books in high school and in college, but they were on a deadline and I was reading them “for” someone else other than me. So I want to reread them to see if I still love them and what different stuff I can get out of them. I’ve also added tons of I MUST READ classics that I’ve been wanting to read and putting off.

Here’s my list (I’m going to edit/add to the list as needed throughout the challenge. It will probably end up longer than 50 and I’ll just consider mission accomplished when I’ve read 50 out of however many end up listed):

Fiddy Classics

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (reread)
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)
  3. Emma by Jane Austen (reread)
  4. Northager Abbey by Jane Austen (reread)
  5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (reread)
  6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (reread)
  7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  8. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  9. The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis
  10. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe
  11. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  12. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  13. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (reread)
  14. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (reread)
  15. Twelfth Night by Shakespeare (reread)
  16. The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare
  17. Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare
  18. Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
  19. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  21. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  23. Slaughterouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  24. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  25. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill
  26. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The New World by Winston Churchill
  27. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill
  28. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Great Democracies by Winston Churchill
  29. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (reread)
  30. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  31. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  32. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  33. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  34. Middlemarch by George Elliot
  35. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  36. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  37. The Awakening by Kate Chopin (reread)
  38. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
  39. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  40. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  41. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
  42. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  43. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  44. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
  45. The Rivals and The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  46. An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Ernest (reread) by Oscar Wilde
  47. The Hypochondriac and Tartuffe (reread) by Moliere
  48. A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines (reread)
  49. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  50. A Vindication of the Right of Woman by Wollstonecraft
  51. The Life and Death of King John by Shakespeare

Whaddaya think?