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Booking Through Thursday: Literature’s White Whales

July 9, 2009


“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’”

I would love to say that this post question is near and dear to me but I think, lately, that I’ve developed some sort of aversion to my long standing “Oh, I have to READ that” list. I have, once and for all, decided that I will read a book if I’m going to read it. If not, its days of harassment are over. My list, as it has stood for quite sometime is:

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon
I love this. I love Tom. I do not, however, seem to be able to manage to have the physical strength to carry this book around with me everywhere until I finish it in some sort of timely manner that ensures I finish it before I’ve forgotten where I am with it. I may take it to the beach. Oh, yes, Pynchon is beach reading. I won’t hear otherwise.

Ulysses (once and for all) by James Joyce
Yes, I am halfway through. No, I do not know what is going on. I have read and reread the Odessey about three times in the time it is taking me to read this silly thing.

Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas
In truth. I’ve read this several times but I have this beautiful new translation that is calling my name and I think maybe it will beat out Against the Day at the beach, this year. I may also read it to Kai as an ongoing bedtime story as that will count as two for one. Alas, that was how Harry Potter began and three weeks later, I had finished the entire series reading only a chapter or two to Kai.

Don Quixote by Cervantes
I read a little bit of the master work when my high school put on Man of La Mancha, my senior year. I know the story well but I never made it through the book. It may be due to the fact that whenever the story is mentioned, in any context, I have The Impossible Dream on repeat in my head for weeks.

Any one single thing by Jane Austen, a Bronte, Jennifer Wiener, or Jane Green
Oh, dear sweet ladies of literature! I can not, for the life of me, get a grip on what some call “women’s literature”. I refuse to call it that because I do read books by and about women, just not this. Neither beaches nor pettitfores seem to be able to hold my attention regardless of how witty the banter is alleged to be.

The remaining selections I have on my shelf in some way shape or form but have not had a chance to read. Persuade me to pick one of these up, I beg you.

The Bell Jar

Bel Canto

Inkheart (et al)

His Dark Materials (et al)

Anything by David McCullough

Phew, that doesn’t seem like a long enough list. I do have more, I’m sure, but I think I may do away with the list altogether. I had a conversation with my mom, the other day, about this very issue. Perhaps, if I haven’t read the books, I am not intended to. That is not to say I never will read them, just that to force ourselves to and through books which we are not ultimately drawn to enough to read and or finish, maybe we are going ourselves  a  disservice. The books we seek and covet are perhaps always out of our scheduling or purchasing grasp because they sit right on the edge of our interest and don’t hold enough pull to rope us in. Against the Day is certainly on my list of things to tackle as is Mansfield Park but are they really worth it if it has taken this long?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2009 9:53 am

    I could never go a few pages beyond Ulysses. I wish you luck.

    I loved The Three Musketeers, The Bell Jar, Bel Canto and Don Quixote.

    Here is my BTT post!

  2. July 9, 2009 9:54 am

    I meant I never could get beyond a few pages of Ulysses!

  3. July 9, 2009 11:07 am

    I keep a TBR list mainly because I’m a dedicated list-maker, and I enjoy the listing almost as much as the book reading. But I never let myself feel bad about the books I haven’t read – even those that look really interesting. Life’s too short and there are just way too many good books out there.

  4. July 9, 2009 11:27 am

    I love Jane Austen!!
    I have a book of hers on my list as well!

    Happy BTT!
    I played too!

  5. Amanda permalink
    July 9, 2009 6:11 pm

    I read The Bell Jar a while ago. It’s very depressing. Talk to Dan about the His Dark Materials series…he loves it.

  6. Josh permalink
    July 9, 2009 7:59 pm

    Skip the Brontes. I’m sorry, but they are incredibly boring. I taught Jane Eyre last year in my AP Lit class and it was the most tedious thing I’ve ever done. Then, just when I thought that Charlotte was the most boring woman on the planet, I read Wuthering Heights, and low and behold, Emily usurped her sister’s crown!

  7. July 9, 2009 10:22 pm

    i wrote a comment about mccullough… but it’s not here 😦 hope i didn’t offend or anything… anyway, i basically just said you should read his book on John Adams. it’s really spectacular 🙂

  8. iwriteinbooks permalink*
    July 9, 2009 10:48 pm

    Haha, April, you nut. I was wondering why you left that comment on my Santiago’s Children post. it’s over there, not here. I’ll go delete it from there as this one is posted, now.

  9. July 10, 2009 2:10 am

    I have read only one book by Jane Austen, P&P, and loved it. My aim is to read at least one other book by her 🙂

  10. July 10, 2009 2:12 pm

    haha, oops 😉

  11. uncertainprinciples permalink
    July 10, 2009 8:21 pm

    Answering your last question… I sometimes find it difficult to pick up a book that everyone raves about, in case it disappoints. It’s happened to me a few times, where people have recommended books very highly, and I’ve read them but not really enjoyed them. Maybe there’s an element of that?

    Hmm, I’m going on a beach vacation next month. Maybe I should take Gravity’s Rainbow! Started it a couple of times, but never managed to get my teeth sunk right in, if you know what I mean?

    I’ve read The Bell Jar and the His Dark Materials trilogy. Read the latter last year, and intend to re-read it this year. It’ll be my first re-read for the year, so, I think that says it all.

    Bell Jar’s a good read as well, but, I don’t think I really understand where Plath comes from sometimes. Maybe I’m not meant to?

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