The First List

I think I may have found my way out of my reading slump. Or at least I am in process of finding my way. After finally finishing two books which I’ve since wondered why exactly I read, I started Santa Evita by Tomás Eloy Martínez and I am loving it. I haven’t gotten very far—life’s been a bit busy lately—but I am very glad I decided to read this. I’ll have more thoughts once I’m finished.

I’ve been thinking a lot about lists and what I want from lists for my reading. In general, I have a to-be-read list which I prefer to keep hidden from the light of day, that I might forget how…lengthy…it is. But when I really think about what I want my reading aims to be—focusing more on the great works of the past and focusing more on works from non-American or British authors—I think the best strategy for me is a series of smaller lists, more of sub-category lists.

The largest may well still be ‘great books,’ but by having additional lists, I’ll have plenty of options to choose from without getting into the guilt of diverting from a plan and I’ll also avoid creating an overwhelming ‘master list.’

Of course, after hiding my TBR list under the rug (along with a sizeable dust bunny collection, of course), I’m going to start by appealing for suggestions!

A week or so ago, books and book lists flitting through my head, I was listening to some Italian pop music and had one of those revelations of the ‘so obvious I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before’ variety. I’ve never read any Italian literature more recent than 1350 or so. This despite the entire semester I spent in Italy (granted, I was studying architecture—we were looking at buildings, not books). I took a year of Italian beforehand, so I can read a little Italian. I even bought a copy of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None translated into Italian (as Dieci Piccoli Indiani), but I never once thought of searching out works by Italian authors.

So I’ve been doing a little research, trying to find some books for my first ‘mini-list:’ Italian authors. My primary source so far has been 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I don’t know very much about them, however, so if you have any suggestions, I’m open to everything. What I have for now:

  1. Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino by Carlo Collodi (1883). [This is the one book by an Italian author I purchased in Italy—it was hard not to, Pinocchio was everywhere. My copy is Italian, so, yes, I will attempt to read this in Italian.]
  2. Sandokan: The Tigers of Monpracem by Emilio Salgari (1900)
  3. Life of Christ by Giovanni Papini (1921)
  4. Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi (1945)
  5. The Ragazzi by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1955)
  6. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1957)
  7. Bebo’s Girl by Carlo Cassola (1960)
  8. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani (1963)
  9. To Each His Own by Leonardo Sciascia (1966)
  10. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (1972)
  11. The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italo Calvino (1973)
  12. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (1979)
  13. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980) [One of the few I’d heard of.]
  14. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (1988) [I actually started this one, but never finished it.]
  15. Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante (1995)
  16. Silk by Alessandro Baricco (1996)
  17. I’m Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti (2001) [The movie based on this book, Io non ho paura, was out when I was in Italy, and at the time I thought the movie trailer looked interesting. I didn’t know it was based on a book, and really want to read it now.]

Has anyone read any of these? Do you know anything about them? Please, do let me know!


8 thoughts on “The First List

  1. Amanda, that’s one fine-looking list! I read and loved The Leopard (“traditional” historical fiction but exquisitely rendered) not too long ago and both Eco novels (Eco…) ages ago. It’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison, but I think The Leopard is where I’d start with those three if you forced me to pick. Calvino is also wonderful with his lighthearted and playful style, but I’ve only completed his The Baron in the Trees by him so far (I started #12 on your list but am taking a break from it on account of my own time demands). I also own the Sciascia title you have on your list, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. He’s much darker in mood than Calvino, but I very much enjoyed his The Day of the Owl (a mafia-themed police procedural of sorts) and two nonfiction pieces I’ve read by him. Haven’t read any of the others, but the movies for your #s 4 (Levi), 8 (Bassani) and 17 (Ammaniti) were good enough that I thought those books would probably be well done as well. I have another six titles or so that I’d add to your list “for consideration,” but since I haven’t read them as yet, I’ll keep my trap shut for now. Good luck with your plan, though–I think it’s a good one. A presto!

    1. Thanks for the input! After reading about The Day of the Owl, I’ll have to add that as well. I haven’t seen any of the movie versions of any of these books, other than the trailer for Io non ho paura, which on its own is enough that I want to read to book. Now to just decide which one to read first…

    1. Thanks! Other than where I’ve mentioned, I’m not familiar with any of the books, so it’s going to be a true adventure.

  2. Oh, dear. I’ve started Foucoult’s Pendulum many times, and never made it past halfway. Probably you will, though. I have faith in you.

    Love the new look here; very elegant and sleek!

    1. I can’t remember why I didn’t get very far into Foucault’s Pendulum before, but I’m guessing that it was due to a surplus of library books. At least I’m hoping that’s what it was! Thank you for your confidence, though.

      And thank you regarding the new look! It felt time for a change.

  3. I love Eco (I’ve read both of the ones on your list; The Name of the Rose is much more traditional so if you can’t get into Foucoult’s Pendulum maybe start there instead), and I enjoyed If on a winter’s night a tarveler. Adored Silk and I’m Not Scared as well! So that’s my contribution. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the input! Without any real familiarity with any of the books, I’ve mostly only had plot descriptions to go by, so it’s nice to know that others have enjoyed the books I’m planning to read.

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