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2009 Sign-up

The Really Old Classics Challenge is a four-month reading challenge, running from November 2009 to February 2010. The purpose is to celebrate really old works, particularly those written before 1600.

We love the really old classics we’ve read and we’d love to encourage others to read them too. We hope that your experience will be a good one, and that you’ll decide to give other really old classics a try. Maybe seeing what others read can help you decide which to read next!

What is a really old classic? We’re defining it as pre-1600 A.D. Obviously, most translations have been done after that date. Nevertheless, if the original work was written before 1600, it counts for this challenge.

Successfully finishing the challenge is really easy, since it requires you to read one work. There is extra credit, if you are feeling ambitious.

To join the Really Old Challenge, commit to read at least one work written before 1600 A.D. between November 2009 and February 28, 2010.

Optional “Classicist” certification: Become a “classicist” by reading four works written before 1600 A.D. between November 2009 and February 28, 2010.

Extra credit: For a little extra fun, also read a retelling of a classic work. It could be a retelling of the work you read for the first part of the challenge or it could a retelling of any other classic work.

Want to join? Sign up in the comments on this page. Let us know if you think you’ll be doing the extra credit.

If you have a blog, let us know. If you want, go pick up a button. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you can get updates and ideas for what to read — and to see what everyone else is reading! If you need ideas, check out the Reading Ideas category. We’ll post lists of ideas periodically.

If you review your choice(s) on a blog, leave a link on the reviews page. We’ll be doing periodic rounds-ups to share what everyone has said about their choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any other questions? Let us know. We hope you enjoy what ever books you decide to read.

Heather J. at Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books (@age30books)

Rebecca at Rebecca Reads (@rebeccarreid)

List Of 2009 Participants:





1. Zee - October 17, 2009

I’ll join in the fun. I’m just about to start the Epic of Gilgamesh which I think qualifies. I’ll put up a post about it and come back and link.

2. Robin of My Two Blessings - October 17, 2009

I’ll Join. I’m sure I have something around here pre 1600 we inherited. Once I figure it out, I’ll post something and link. Look forward to more ideas from you all.

3. Eva - October 17, 2009

I’m in! My definite is The Decameron, and I’ll probably end up going to the Classicist certification.

Right now, the others that catch my eye are The Romances of Chrétien de Troyes, Arabian Nights, and maybe The Pillow Book or Book of Genji. Or maybe some Sappho. Obviously, haven’t quite made up my mind for the cert. bit. 😉

4. Jason Gignac - October 17, 2009

I’m in, hurrah! I’m going to be reading the Faerie Queene, and Silence, and probably Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Gateless Gate (they don’t have to be Western classics, right?).

Ms Eva – if you’re going to read Sappho, you HAVE to read ‘If Not, Winter’ by Anne Carson, it is withouit a doubt one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had in my life, and I totally love it and am proselytizing it, so sorry for being pushy :*) (blush).

5. Paula - October 18, 2009

I stocked up on more really-old-classics than I read during your previous challenge, Rebecca, so I intend to read at least one book during this period anyway. Not sure what I’ll read yet though 🙂

6. Anni - October 18, 2009

Well, at first glance I thought, wow, that’s very difficult to find books before 1600 A D…
Then I remembered the ancient novels like The Golden Ass by Apuleius or the Satyricon by Petronius, etc, etc, etc….
And of course some excellent works form the MIddle Ages…

But I always wanted to read the Heptameron by Marguerite of Navarre. And it’s time to read some works by Martin Luther again.
So it looks like I can find “at least one work”.
I’ll join!

7. Charlotte - October 18, 2009

I’m definitely IN !
I think I may start with one of Sophocle’s plays, I never got to read them all, so here’s a good opportunity to do so. Not 100% sure yet though, we’ll see !

8. justareadingfool - October 18, 2009

I’m also in and may be for the Classicist challenge, but I’m going to pace myself with one. 🙂

9. debilyn - October 18, 2009

I’m in! Not sure what I want to read yet…but I’ll definitely read at least one.

10. Mel U - October 18, 2009

I will for sure sign up to read at least one work-I might read more -I looked at my books-the only old work I own that I have not already read (I feel like reading something new for me) is Richard III-writen according to most all editors in or about 1591-if I find in a book store an older Japanese work that interests me I will read that-

11. rebeccareid - October 19, 2009

Jason, It definitely does NOT need to be a Western Classic. That is just what the lists I find tend toward!

I’m so glad to see so much interest!

12. Eva - October 20, 2009

Ok Jason-that one’s in my library, so I’ve put it on my list! 🙂 (And I’m all about pushy book recs, hehe.)

13. J.T. Oldfield - October 21, 2009

I’ll probably join this one, as I can use something from my list for the Pre-printing press challenge.

14. Zee - October 21, 2009
15. Elena - October 21, 2009

That’s more or less what I was thinking too, J.T. Guess I’m in.

My introductory post: http://allbookedup-elena.blogspot.com/2009/10/really-old-classics-challenge.html

16. Megan - October 21, 2009
17. kt - October 21, 2009

Sounds like fun, I’m in!

I have five books that would qualify on my TBR list currently and am already reading my sons Aesop’s Fables as part of my Fall Into Reading, so I’m already getting in the mood. 😉

I’ll just set the goal for one, but if the timing works out well I’ll certainly try for more though I don’t see myself making four. I’ll have to look around for some more retellings, sounds like a fun addition!

18. Barbara S. - October 21, 2009

This challenge is so exciting. I just completed several books from t he early 19th century so it will be very interesting to read books from the 16th century. Many of the books on the list I have already read, but I am still in for at least one book. I want to read the The Pillow Book.

19. lizzysiddal - October 22, 2009

Count me in too. I’ll read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s “Parzival”, written somewhere around 1225, recently retranslated and published by Oxford University Press.

20. Amy - October 22, 2009

Oh, I’m in! I’ll read the Canterbury Tales. Probably not in Middle English, though.

21. Amy - October 22, 2009

As for the extra credit, would a current-day novelization of the old story work?

22. rebeccareid - October 22, 2009

Yes, Amy — for extra credit, anything written after 1600 AD that retells a “really old classic.” We won’t police that at all 🙂 (and we’re working on a list of reading ideas!)

We’re excited to see so much excitement! Welcome to the challenge, one and all!

23. dogearedbooks - October 22, 2009

Great challenge! This one will get me out of my comfort zone, but I am going to give it a go.


24. Amy - October 22, 2009

Perfect. Then I could read Karen Maitland’s Company of Liars–a retelling of the Canterbury Tales–and really be able to look at how they work together. How fun!

25. Jennygirl - October 24, 2009

I’ll join. I ‘ve always wanted to read Dante’s Inferno, and never have, so it’s perfect timing.

26. AmyO. - October 24, 2009

I am up for this challenge. What a great idea!

27. ccqdesigns - October 25, 2009

Sign me up and yes, I think I will do extra credit. I have to go check at our library for books that are available!

28. Bookpusher (Sharon) - October 25, 2009

I will sign up, will read Sophocles Theban Plays, being meaning to re-read this for a while. Will also go looking for a few other titles to add. Thanks for the cool challenge. I will post on it tonight.

29. Bookpusher (Sharon) - October 26, 2009

I have posted on the Genteel Arsenal http://thegenteelarsenal.blogspot.com/
looking forward to starting this challenge, thanks for running it.

30. Where Do I Begin?: Retellings « Really Old Classics Challenge - October 27, 2009

[…] Join the Challenge! […]

31. Heather (WordTrix) - October 27, 2009

I’m in. I have a pile of classic books in the TBR, one of which is Homer’s Odyssey. I’m sure I can work that in (or something else off your reading list) before the end of February!

32. Eva - October 31, 2009
33. sari - November 13, 2009

Oh what a great idea! As an armchair historian I will be happy to join in. As to what I will read, I will finally pull down some books that I have but for one reason or another have not yet read or read them over 20 years ago:
Ywain the Knight of the Lion by Chretien de Troys
Sir Gawain and Green Knight
a collection of medieval tales from Chaucer to the Death of Roland and finally I will read a modern readers guide to Danta’s Inferno.

34. Simon Baddeley - November 19, 2009

Right I’m 67 and I love reading so this is good. I’ve done Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, Thucydides, Gilgamesh, the Bible (King James), Chaucer, The Decameron and 1001 Nights. I’d rather see than read plays. I struggle with nordic epics – except Beowulf (enjoyed the film). I think it’ll have to be Dante or could I put Proust in a time machine and fake his dates? Any more suggestions? Not so I can show off – ridiculous at my age and in this company – but so it’ll change me. I want a ripping yarn – like the Odyssey or the Iliad.

35. Suzanne - November 23, 2009

You got me, Rebecca, I am joining the challenge!
I picked up a copy of The Iliad at the library’s book sale last weekend so I am ready to go…..

36. Kari Wolfe - November 24, 2009

You can definitely count me in too even though I’m a little late to the game. The book I’ll be reading is Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I’ve always wanted to read it and it will throw me out of my comfort zone because it’s a poem – and I typically don’t do poetry. That and I haven’t read a great many of the classics.

I’ll be blogging this on my own blog: Imperfect Clarity at http://www.imperfectclarity.net/ as well as my thoughts on Dante and his work. I feel like I’m starting with something hard so I might as well try to learn something from it 🙂

37. Imperfect Clarity » Blog Archive » The Really Old Classics Challenge: Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” - November 24, 2009

[…] This is one of the challenges that I am looking forward to: the Really Old Classics Challenge. […]

38. Raudhah - November 25, 2009

Hi I would love to join the challenge! I’m not sure what I’ll be reading, I’m sure I’ll find one somewhere.. =)

39. Gina - November 26, 2009

Will you repeat the challenge? I’d like to tackle this one but have a huge list to read already.

40. Annelies - December 1, 2009

I would like to join! I’m currently reading ‘Ragtime’ which of course doesn’t qualify, but the ‘Mabinogion’ is the next book on the pile.

41. rebeccareid - December 2, 2009

Hi Simon, actually, it sounds like you’ve read more than me! I’m hosting the challenge to get motivated to read more. Maybe you could try a Chinese or Japanese really old classic. I just post about some of them last week.

Gina, I intend to do it again next winter, but I don’t know where I’ll be at the time! If you do get the chance, feel free to join in if and when you can this winter!

42. Simon Baddeley - December 2, 2009

The link to the Chinese/Japanese classics didn’t work for me. Can you help again? Simon

43. rebeccareid - December 2, 2009
44. Sara - December 5, 2009

I’m excited by this one, but came upon it late, so I’m only going for one.


45. Sara - December 5, 2009

I’m joining ( a bit late but oh well).

46. Matt (Buffalo Savage) - December 8, 2009


My review of the 12th-century Master Tung’s Western Chamber Romance is at


I will go for Classicist….

47. Richard - December 15, 2009

Rebecca and Heather,

I’m late, but I’d like to join if you’re still accepting challengers! Will link to my Petronius review on the reviews page and commit to reading at least one other work before the end of February. Thanks!

48. Sara - January 6, 2010


Joining late…I’ve just start Aristotle’s The Politics.

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