Reading with Kat

Working Mother Book Blogger

Last year, I made the decision to study an Open University literature module: AA316 The Nineteenth Century Novel. Reading is a passion of mine, and as I have grown up I have become more and more interested in history, therefore 19th Century literature covers both the history of the Victoria Era and reading classic novels that I have always said I would read…one day. Well doing a course, kind of forces you to read the books you wanted to read anyway, so what a great excuse.

The only problem is that I signed up by the beginning of July, and in the notes it suggested reading ‘as many of the set-texts before the course begins’ in October. After reading the OUSA forums I realised that I should definitely read them all as the course-load was very heavy.

So my summer challenge was to read 12 classic novels in 12 weeks, anyone who is good at Maths would have worked out that this meant 1 book per week! Gulp! So how was I possibly going to find the time to read all these books around a full-time job and a demanding children?

Classic 19th Century Novels

Then I found Audible…ahhhh audible you have really transformed my reading life! I am simply over-the-moon with how much reading I now am able to get through thanks to audio-books. Once I started listening, instead of sitting down with a book in my hand, I was actually getting through one book a week, why you ask? Well because with audiobooks you can listen to your books in situations you were not able to read before (if you have a smart phone), here are my favourites:

  • Whilst eating (especially at lunchtime at work)
  • Whilst taking the dog for a walk, or going for my lunch time ramble
  • Whilst cleaning or doing any other boring chore
  • Whilst driving, especially good on long journey

You would not be able to pick up a book during any of those situations above, and therefore I found new pockets of time and thus I did actually read 12 classic novels in 12 weeks – amazingly! It was hard-going at times, especially with my least favourite novels, but I feel proud now that I have accomplished this task – what is it about reading classics that makes us feel learn-ed/intelligent etc?

So what were my favourite and least favourite novels:


  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I’ve seen the movie but as always, the book was even better!
  2. Germinal by Emile Zola – I cannot say I “enjoyed” this book because it is so gruelling and harsh, but what a powerful and thought-provoking novel!
  3. Middlemarch by George Eliot – just wonderful.
  4. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – exciting and riveting like an old fashioned spy-tale.
  5. Northanger Abbey – not my favourite Jane Austen but still enjoyable, if somewhat fluffy, read

Least Favourites:

  1. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James – in my mind this was a book about nothing: a young lady chats rubbish in England then in Florence…the end.
  2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin- the only positive aspect about this book is that is is short!
  3. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens – when I first listened to all 36 hours of this book, it was the hardest slog, but now I am learning about the history of the book and the time it was written in I have a new appreciation and do not dislike it as much.
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – this is a rare example of the tv adaptation being better than the novel

I also read Dracula, Far from the Madding Crowd and Heart of Darkness – all fine, but not massively note-worthy. Except to say I wish Dracula would have been better, but that is probably my being ruined by all the current vampire literature.

I will post again in due course about my course, but before I go, has anyone else studied with the OU? Any other reading challenges out there?

One thought on “12 Classic Novels in 12 weeks – challenge

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