Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Books You've Always Meant to Read

Inspired by this WPA-era poster created for an Illinois statewide Library Project we've been thinking about the books we've always meant to read, but haven't yet. Maybe the book is too big, or the subject too complex. Or maybe it's a book enthusiastically recommended by a friend who just knows you'll love it, but you're not quite sure. And there are those books that you think you should read, but, well, you're a busy person and don't have time to sit down and read War and Peace, for goodness sake!

From classic to contemporary, our lists are long. Here are a few highlights from library staff. Leave your list in the comments section, or join the discussion on Facebook and G+!

  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer - A neighbor and friend just adores the "Twilight" series, and even lent me her copies of the whole series. But, well, it's Twilight, y'know?
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - My mom, who knows a thing or two about books and about me, really thinks I'd love this book about a young girl who can taste people's emotions in food. It's on my coffee table, but so are about 10 other books.
  • Under the Dome by Stephen King - I'm a huge King fan and I've read everything he's written, up until this book. I've tried, but it's just so, so big!
  • My official To Be Read list has well over a hundred titles at any given time (Goodreads is both a blessing and a curse). I've had The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls on the list for over five years, and I never hear anything but praise. I think I'm slightly afraid that it won't live up to everyone's enthusiasm.
  • A more recent addition to my list is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I have checked it out from the library twice without reading it. I know it's a character-driven story set on the campus of a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin, but I look at the cover and think, "Ugh, 500+ pages of baseball."
  • And sitting on my shelf of books that I own, but haven't read, staring at me accusingly is Moloka'i by Alan Brennert. I read the first chapter and fell in love 3 years ago, but somehow books I own just can't compete with library books and their due dates.

Mirdza: I’ve always wanted to read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time)—depending on the translation. I admit I haven’t read it, or baked madeleines. But I will some day!

Jennifer: I love to read "the classics" and these are the ones I had left on my list before I had my kids.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - When I was in 8th grade the teacher issued the challenge that if we read this book and wrote a review of it, all of our other reading assignments would be waived. I tried but I just didn't get it - maybe someday.
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells - I admire Wells for his stance on suffrage in a time when many men laughed at the idea, but have yet to read any of his work. My great aunt tells the story of hearing Orson Welles' reading The War of the Worlds on the radio in the 30's. She said they were so scared that her mother made the family go into the root cellar.
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan - I lost a bet and was supposed to read this. Sadly I haven't yet.
  • The Iliad or The Odyssey by Homer: I've SEEN these but have yet to read them. Something that has been around for over 800 years is probably worth reading.
Angie: Moby Dick! It has been my whale for over ten years! I decided I MUST read it when I couldn't answer the trivia question: "What famous book starts with the line 'Call me Ishmael ?'" I have started it no less than 6 times, get to about page 100 and get stuck every time in the section about the physiology of the whale. One day, one day.

Mike: I’ve always meant to read the German novel Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald: This stylistically complex, lyrical story employs a first person, stream of consciousness narrative to richly describe the struggle of Jacques Austerlitz to uncover his identity as he follows the memory of his childhood back to the heart the Holocaust in war-torn Europe. Although the pace is relaxed, the storyline is character-driven and intricately plotted, and the tone is haunting and melancholy. Or so I’ve heard. Wikipedia says Austerlitz is notable because of its lack of paragraphing, digressive style, and very long and complex sentences, including one sentence which is nine pages long. Along these lines, I like to believe I’d also enjoy reading H. L. Mencken’s Prejudices: The Complete Series, and The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams, and Ulysses by James Joyce. “Scutter, he cried thickly!”

Andrew: I’ve been meaning to read Orlando by Virginia Woolf for an awfully long time. I’ve made a little progress into it in the past year, maybe a quarter of the book. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it or it’s a chore to read, but something always distracts me . . .

Michelle: The classic Russians. I have not read Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy. No Brothers Karamazov. No Crime and Punishment. No Anna Karenina. No War and Peace. I haven’t even watched the movies. I have to save something to do in retirement. If I read one page a day, it would only take about 10 years to get through all four!

What book have you always wanted to read? What's keeping you?

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