So, what books have you NOT read?

GettyBookPileThis article on the NPR blog ‘Monkey See’ got me started thinking. And you know how dangerous that can be. I started thinking about the Great Books I have read, all those I purchased with the intent to read, and those I tried and couldn’t finish.

Great Books I have read:

To Kill a Mockingbird, The Good Earth, Pride and Prejudice, The Yearling, Cross Creek, The Sojourner (all three by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings), The Catcher in the Rye (I still hate Holden Caulfield to this day), most of Lewis Carroll, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, A Confederacy of Dunces (Ignatius J. Reilly still irritates the shit out of me to this day), Gone With The Wind, The Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes, before the movies came out…) and others that I can’t quite remember. Some I had to read for school, some were foist upon me, some I read because I was curious and Felt I Should. The Good Earth was one of these. Pearl Buck wrote one of the saddest, most hopeless stories ever.

The list of books I’ve bought and not read (and may never get to them) might be a bit ambitious. NPR’s blog calls this The Shelf of Constant Repraoch. I like it. On my shelf I’ve got most of Faulkner, bought because he was a Southern writer. Maybe it’s a regional loyalty/pride/misguided idiocy that prompted me to buy them; I have yet to crack the cover(s). I have a couple James Joyce books. They’re innocently thin, enticing with their, ‘I’m not too thick; you could read me in no time’ profile. Still untouched. Same thing with The Three Musketeers, though, in my own defense I must say that it is a fairly recent purchase and that I did read a page to make sure that slogging through flowery turns of phrase wouldn’t bog me down.

Then, there are the Failures. Attempts to read, to improve one’s mind, to gain insight into an anticipated performance or simply because one Feels One Should, my Shelf of Shame is varied and long. Among the volumes is Les Miserables. Good God Almighty, was Victor Hugo ever in unholy love with words. I read 150 pages, trying to read it before seeing a performance of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s play. Yes, you snobs, I know it’s not the same, ‘there’s no comparison’. That would be correct. The play was actually comprehensible. 150 pages into the tome was the first ten minutes of the play.  Javert had just started his OCD search for Jean Valjean. Fantine hadn’t even become a glimmer on the horizon. I enjoyed the play. The book put me to sleep.

I’ve tried to read Moby Dick. I swear I have. I couldn’t handle the long drawn out descriptions of whale hunting any more than anyone else that has tried to read Melville. Same author, different book. Billy Budd. Same result. As wonderful a story as Schindler’s List was, especially with it being true, I couldn’t keep reading it. It didn’t engage me. Same with Wicked. I just gave up on that a week or so back. I didn’t like any of the characters; they were all annoying in some way. I got most of the way through Pamela before her idiotic innocence drove me away. Boccacio’s Decameron I might give another go at some point; I keep the copy on my shelf.

Just in case.


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