If my memory serves me correctly (which, chances are, it does not), a month or so ago I skimmed a number of posts on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Which of course spurred another one of my list-making crises, although, fortunately this time it was completely of the mental sort accomplished while driving back and forth to work (and also fortunately did not so distract me as to end up in a ditch or the back seat of the vehicle in front of me–I do have some practical priorities). But after I think it over, I think all my list-making–scratch that, some of my list-making; the other portion results from my over-fondness of lists–originates from a feeling of being “under-read.” Whatever that means.
I suppose it comes from a notion that there are books I should read–those books that everyone knows, or those big “origin” books–the ones that influence everyone else down the road. Why else, unless I should be an actual university-attending student of literature with prescribed reading lists, should it matter if I read this book or that? Chances are I’m still going to be better read than most people I interact with daily (e.g., one coworker says she doesn’t read because if she has time, she feels like she should use it to improve herself as an architect), and there’s pretty much an 100% guarantee that I will never have time to get to everything on all the lists of “must-reads” that I find interesting.
Yet I can’t shake the idea that I’m under-read and I should improve that. I think part of it actually comes from a less ideological place where I’ve read about or heard about all these novels that I’ve never read but which so many people make sound so interesting or challenging or wonderful or…. The curse of the book blogger.
And then I realized, that if I do want to begin to make my way towards “better read,” so that I know first-hand about all these amazing books (and the not-so-amazing ones as well), I don’t need to subscribe to someone else’s list. I already have one. The concept of my Classics Club list, all 125 books, was to read, not all of the books, but the books I most wanted to read sooner rather than later. The authors or the stories I most wanted to try. (And, cheating, those books I just must revisit.)
I haven’t been doing too great with actually reading from my list, though, but after a relaxed spring/summer, it seems an appropriate time (okay, okay, summer’s still not over, but the local schools are about to start back and the weather’s been seasonally confused) to return to the list. Coincidentally, Classics Club is sponsoring their 3rd “Classics Spin,” so I’ll start there. [Actually, I started with Much Ado About Nothing last week, but that's because I want to reread it before I see the movie.] As I feel that the 20th century is my weakest area, I’ve chopped my spin list straight from that portion of my larger list, starting with William Faulkner (one of my dad’s favorites), only omitting titles that I think would be too long to finish by the first of October. And then, maybe? Maybe I’ll read some of the other 19 after the first is done.
- Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying (1930)
- Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (1932)
- Dinesen, Isak (Karen Blixen): Out of Africa (1937)
- du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca (1938)
- Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
- Wright, Richard: Native Son (1940)
- Smith, Dodie: I Capture the Castle (1940)
- Green, Henry: Loving (1945)
- Orwell, George: Animal Farm (1945)
- Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited (1945)
- Asturias, Miguel Ángel: The President [El Señor Presidente] (1946)
- Carpentier, Alego: Kingdom of This World [El reino de este mundo] (1949)
- Orwell, George: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
- Bradbury, Ray: The Martian Chronicles (1950)
- Cela, Camilo José: The Hive [La colmena] (1951)
- Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (1952)
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayev: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1952)
- Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (1952)
- Baldwin, James: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
- Tolkien, J. R. R.: The Lord of the Rings (1954-56) (re-read)
That doesn’t seem a bad list to choose from at all, now does it?