My Self Education Quests

Current Self-Education Quest – Literature: 60 Classic Novels

Goal: Read 60 classic novels chronologically and deeply by May 9, 2027. 

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn novel writing techniques from the masters. 
  • Gain skills in plot, character, detail, prose, POV, and other areas of fiction.
  • Become familiar with 60 of the greatest novels and know why they’re classics.
  • Develop an understanding of key literary concepts and movements.  
  • Learn to write book reviews and literary analyses. 
  • Absorb the wisdom, insight, and mastery of these great writers.
  • Learn about history and culture through these works.

Study Process (for each novel):

  1. Read an intro and briefly about the novelist. 
  2. Pick one aspect of literature to focus on.
  3. Read the novel, with marginalia.
  4. Fill out my reading journal. (use secondary sources to help)
  5. Re-read and transfer favorite parts to literary commonplace book. (for study and later technical library)
  6. Write a 500-750 word book review. 

Reading List


1. Emma, Jane Austen

2. Persuasion, Jane Austen

3. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

4. The Red and the Black, Stendhal

5. Le Pere Goriot, Balzac

6. The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal 

7. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas

8. Cousin Bette, Balzac

9. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

1850 – 1899

10. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

11. Moby Dick, Herman Melville

12. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens 

13. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

14. Fathers and Sons, Turgenev

15. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol 

16. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

17. Little Woman, Louisa May Alcott

18. The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky

19. The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

20. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

21. Germinal, Emile Zola

22. Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy

1900 – 1925

23. Kim, Rudyard Kipling

24. Buddenbrookes, Thomas Mann

25. The Golden Bowl, Henry James

26. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad

27. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

28. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

29. Howards End, E.M Forster

30. The Trial, Franz Kafka

31. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

32. A Passage to India, E.M Forster

1926 – 1950

33. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

34. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

35. Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe

36. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

37. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammet

38. Journey to the End of the Night, Celine 

39. I, Claudius, Robert Graves

40. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald

41. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

42. Native Son, Richard Wright

43. The Stranger, Albert Camus

1951 – 1974

44. East of Eden, John Steinbeck

45. Go Tell it to the Mountain, James Baldwin

46. Molloy, Samuel Beckett

47. Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

48. Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo 

49. On the Road, Jack Keruac

50. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

51. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy

52. Herzog, Saul Bellow

53. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

1975 – 1999

54. Ragtime, E.L Doctorow

55. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Calvino

56. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

57. Housekeeping, Marianne 

58. Money: A Suicide Note, 

59. Beloved, Toni Morrison

60. Infinite Jest, DFW

Future Self-Education Quests

Here are my longer-term quests. They’re mostly reading lists I want to get through in subjects that interest me.

Unless I’m hyper-focused on learning one subject or skill, I’m usually working on at least one of the long-term quests in the background of my life (often at night).

I’ll often use these goals to create my annual reading plans and my DIY courses.

It’s likely quests will be added to this list as time goes on and my curiosities go crazy over what’s possible.


  • Read and Review the 50 Best Fictional Works Ever Written (started Jan 1, 2024, complete by Jan 1, 2028).
  • Read and Review all of Charles Dickens’ Novels (started Mar 2023, complete by Mar 2028).

Western History / Politics

American History

Political Philosophy

  • Complete Columbia’s Core Reading List for its Comprehensive Exam in Political Theory (+ On Politics) and create a YouTube series around it (no deadline yet).

Skills I Want to Learn

Learning skills makes life more fun and interesting by opening up doors that were closed to you beforehand. Learning a new skill is also empowering.

Below are some I want to learn in the next ten years:

  • Become fluent in Spanish and live there for 6 months.
  • Learn to surf.
  • Learn nature writing (get something published).
  • Learn humorous personal essay writing (get something published).
  • Learn novel review writing.
  • Complete The 4-Hour Chef to improve my cooking.