Even before I managed to return to my new-found reading habit, I had managed to resume my bookstore habit. Really a problem. Most of those I haven’t read yet, but I recently picked up two that I think have a good shot at seeing my reading list.
The upper book, Cranford but Elizabeth Gaskell, was one I couldn’t resist. I’ve previously read North and South, which I enjoyed, and this summer I read several reviews of Cranford which were favorable enough that I had already added it to my wishlist. (I’ve also seen part of the BBC production from a few years ago, which further contributed to my interest.) If that weren’t enough, I find the peas on the cover incredibly charming. It’s also nice to add a hardcover to the classics shelf; most of my others are paperbacks.
I confess, I actually went to the store in search of the second, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. This is despite the facts that a)I have no intention of actually trying to read every book in the list, b)I don’t actually want to read some of the books, and c)I’m bugged by the insistence of “must.” I don’t have to if I don’t want to! However…
I’ve discovered that I like reading about books. I thoroughly enjoyed Beowulf on the Beach, and although a good part of that was due to the spirited and playful tone of the book, mostly I enjoyed reading about the books in discussion. Why we read them. What to look for. Granted, 1001 Books isn’t quite the same–with so many books to discuss, the descriptions are very short, only long enough to provide a teaser. But those teasers can be enough to encourage further investigation of the work in question. 1001 Books also includes many recent books–as recent as last year. It’s easy for me to pick out classic works of literature to read, less so for more recent publications. I’m hoping this will help my decision making.
I’ve only just tasted it a little so far. I’m intrigued by the fact that the first five books–and apparently the five oldest–are eastern. Appropriately, the first is The Thousand and One Nights, followed by two Japanese and two Chinese classics. Asian literature is one area I know very little about, but clearly, it has a long, rich tradition.
As with any list, there is necessarily room for debate over what was included or left out. The preface seems to indicated that the books included are meant to be novels, but not all actually appear to be. If non-novels were included, I’m surprised that such classics as The Odyssey, The Aeneid, or The Divine Comedy are not. I’m also surprised by some of the inclusions, not for lack of merit, but because I was surprised to find genre fiction included in this sort of list (for example, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, or The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien). Regardless, I’m both reminded of many books I want to read, and made aware of others I had not yet heard of. The wishlist grows!