Samuel Johnson is one person I highly admire. No, I haven’t read all of Boswell’s Life of Johnson, but I have read a great deal of it and many works by Johnson himself. But I remember back in college when we were discussing the brilliance of Dr. Johnson, the professor reminded us that back in the 18th century, there were far, far, far, far fewer books and articles to read and absorb in order to cultivate knowledge. Think about it: Johnson put together a quite useful, if somewhat personalized, general Dictionary. Are any of you thinking of writing a new dictionary in the near future … even if your friends and family pitch-in on the hard words?
I saw a fairly recent accounting of the vast amount of writing that is being published each year and how it is increasing rapidly, year over year. And we’re going to read all this (take a break for uncontrollable laughter). If you only take a portion of the published works, say new fiction, you still do not have enough hours in the day and years in your life to read it all.
You have to be selective.
But being selective does not mean being specialized. My daughter’s PhD concentration was in 19th century French literature but does she only read 19th century French literature? Of course not.Then again, she doesn’t waste too much time reading crap either : she is selective in her reading. I find I often prefer the classics of literature to the best sellers of today, but then there are the times I just want to dip into tawdry prose, heart-pounding adventures, and alien Venusians in compromising positions. True: I won’t come within ten feet of a book by Steven King or Anne Rice and I will advise anyone I meet to save those authors for the campfire, but I can still understand why someone might want to read such dreck … and can sympathize.
But just in case you need a little push, I post a book title on this website each day which, at least for me, seems to be a decent candidate for adding to the old TBR pile. Lately I have been noticing a few more new books than I have in the past, but new doesn’t mean bad so I’ll take a chance. Here are the book titles posted on ACOR this last month
02-01-15 – Water Margin — Shih Nai-An
02-02-15 – Dear White People: A Guide to Inter-Racial Harmony in “Post-Racial” America — Justin Simien
02-03-15 – Submission — Michel Houellebecq
02-04-15 – J — Howard Jacobson
02-05-15 – Thomas Jefferson: Author of America — Christopher Hitchens
02-06-15 – Lunch Poems — Frank O’Hara
02-07-15 – Family Furnishings — Alice Munro
02-08-15 – The Haunted Hotel — Wilkie Collins
02-09-15 – Haji Aqa (The Pilgrim) — Sadegh Hedayat
02-10-15 – Skylight — José Saramago
02-11-15 – Burnt Black Suns: A Collection of Weird Tales — Simon Strantzas
02-12-15 – The War with the Newts — Karel Čapek
02-13-15 – The Gunman — Jean-Patrick Manchette
02-14-15 – Van Gogh’s Room at Arles — Stanley Elkin
02-15-15 – The Lost World — Arthur Conan Doyle
02-16-15 – Funny Girl — Nick Hornsby
02-17-15 – Satin Island — Tom McCarthy
02-18-15 – The Law and the Lady — Wilkie Collins
02-19-15 – A Map of Betrayal — Ha Jin
02-20-15 – Miss Chopsticks — Xinran
02-21-15 – The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins — Irvine Welsh
02-22-15 – A New World — Amit Chaudhuri
02-23-15 – Frog — Mo Yan
02-24-15 – The Rebels — Sandor Marai
02-25-15 – The Sacrifice — Joyce Carol Oates
02-26-15 – Black Mamba Boy — Nadifa Mohamed
02-27-15 – Lucky Alan — Jonathan Lethem
02-28-15 – A Spool of Blue Thread — Anne Tyler