Last week, we discussed guilty pleasure reading—those books you read and feel compelled to hide for one reason or another. This week, I thought we could talk about the books you are embarrassed to have never read. I don’t know about you, but I have a long list of classics that I am ashamed to say I know nothing about. Of course, as a former student of literature, a current library employee, and a life-long lover of all things books, I can tell you some basic facts about Fahrenheit 451, Moby Dick, and Pride & Prejudice; but, if you want to debate characters or discuss favorite quotes, you should look elsewhere.
I begin every year with the same goal: to read at least one classic work of literature. Inevitably, I get distracted by the latest bestseller or word-of-mouth sensation that I just have to read immediately (!!!) It’s the classic Shiny New Toy Syndrome. This probably explains why a crisp copy of The Grapes of Wrath has been sitting on my bookshelf for at least seven years, patiently waiting to be opened. For the past three or four winters, I have had every intention of cozying up with a mug of hot chocolate and getting to know the March sisters of Little Women. Yet, I still only know of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy from the 1994 Winona Ryder adaptation (not that there’s anything wrong with that, in my opinion, because I could joyfully watch that movie every single day).
Of course, as I said in last week’s guilty pleasure post, a book can win every accolade possible and still not make your personal Favorite Books list. But I would still like to be a part of the conversation about these books. That’s one of the best things about being a reader, isn’t it: Getting to talk to other people who have read the same books, stories, poems, and articles that you have read? And some of these books that I mention are part of large cultural conversations that have been happening for decades. I want to join in! Even though I know how Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy end up, I would still like to see how they get there. What’s up with Captain Ahab and the whale? Which Bronte sister is the better writer (I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t read either)? How long would it take me to read Gone with the Wind?
I realize that everything about this seems to contradict my carefree Read what you want! Who cares?! attitude expressed in last week’s post. I stand by my previous advice; if you would prefer to watch DiCaprio or Redford play Jay Gatsby on screen rather than read Fitzgerald, so as to fully devote yourself to the Sookie Stackhouse series, more power to you. But, if you want to experience “great” literature and see for yourself what all the fuss is about, seize this moment. Make it a New Year’s resolution that you at least attempt. Wrestle with a literary giant and see who wins.
What are some of your never-read regrets? This can include modern classics, as well; is the Harry Potter series still on your list? (You need to get moving on that!)
Here and now, fellow readers, I promise that by the end of the year I will cross off one of the aforementioned books from my list of regrets. Who else is willing to make the same pledge?