This afternoon while reviewing the many books on my iPad and my computer, I started to fill in a few book titles for the June timeframe and remembered that I had suggested reading Women and Men that month. Then I thought about my other literary challenges, many of which have been around for thirty years or more. So I decided to make a short list on a convenient index card to clip over my head at my desk. The idea is to cross out the titles I have read before the index card turns yellow and disintegrates.
Sometimes when I make a priority list I get carried away and the “To Read Next” list ends up 40 or 50 books long. Today I’m being more selective and hopefully will have a short list of 5 or 6 books that I reasonably will get read before the end of the year (along with all my regular reading items).
What would you put on the list? Do you have 5 or 6 novels you have always wanted to read but never found the time? Compare your list to mine:
Á la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
I have read the first few volumes and even read Swann’s Way in French. Unfortunately, I got all caught up in the various editions and never got back to complete the series. I have a new edition in French which intrigues me but I might just go back to the Moncrieff edition since I have it on my iPad and the books themselves are too hard to read.
Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann
I haven’t read all of Mann, but I have read most of the better known works. Joseph and His Brothers, which is more like three big novels in one, was one of my challenge reads several years back and I only got through the introduction. But it was good and I still have that big, thick volume waiting for another try.
Life of Dr. Johnson by James Boswell
We read major portions of this work in Graduate School and later I even had a buddy read that fizzled out, so I still want to carefully read Boswell’s Biography. Samuel Johnson is one of my biggest heroes. As a side note: I read an abridged edition of Pepys’ Diary, hitting all the important historical events of the author’s day (and even some of the naughty bits) so I have never felt the need to go back and read the unabridged many-volume diary).
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
Here too I read the abridged edition in Graduate School but unlike Pepys’ Diary, I have lugged around a big fat (did I say big?) edition of Clarissa and fully intend to read all 1534 pages. I might fail at this challenge: it’s one of my oldest but since many attempts to read Pamela failed miserably, Clarissa might continue to take up a great deal of room on my bookshelf.
The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton
I probably want to read this one the most. After all, how many people do you know that have read Burton? How many people do you know that have ever heard of Burton? I have had professors since I was in college back in the ’60s telling me that this is historically considered one of the greatest and most influential books ever written. I have it on the shelf; I have it on the iPad; I have fooled around reading a bit here and a bit there; will I ever get serious and become possibly the only reader within a thousand miles that has read The Anatomy of Melancholy?
The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
Two big fat volumes, tiny print, a novel of ideas (so little action) and I have be wanting to read it for 20 or 30 years. I have the second part on the iPad and if I find the first part, I suspect I will pop this one onto the reading list and hopefully finish it before the end of the year.
Other books I would love to read include The Recognitions by William Gaddis, the second half of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, U. S. A. by John Dos Passos (I am reading the last volume), The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (I have two translations), A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marías, Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, The Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne, Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller, and of course Women and Men by Joseph McElroy which is coming up in June.
I would be remiss not to mention the several excellent multi-volume Chinese epics such as The Outlaws of the Marsh. I have three or four of these on my shelves.