I was only half kidding at the end of my last post when I said that I would be writing a list of Books I Wish I Had Read, But Probably Won’t. I checked the Modern Library list of top 100 novels and found that I’ve only read thirty of the books on their “best of” list, so apparently I am reading a lot of other worthless stuff anyway. This got me to thinking though, that there is a short list of novels that get a lot of talk and that have been recommended to me by my friends and colleagues (and even assigned by teachers), but that I either decided I could live without or just didn’t merit being squeezed into my already overcrowded list. Here then is my 5 Novels I Should Have Read; But Probably Won’t Read (Ever) … along with my rationalizations for NOT reading them.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: I started pretending I was reading Russian writers when I was in the eighth grade by carrying around a copy of Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. In the ninth grade, I actually started reading Dostoevsky and Chekhov and even my well traveled copy of Turgenev’s book. I toyed with the idea of reading War and Peace, but decided my sophomore year in high school that it would probably never come up in conversation (and it hasn’t) so I tossed it aside and never looked back.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: Yes, I made it through high school English and even college literature classes without ever actually reading this little gem of American literature. I know, it’s supposed to be an American classic and one of Wharton’s best, but I just couldn’t get myself to read it any of the many times that it was assigned, and it’s not on my must read list … ever.
Ulysses by James Joyce: I know, I know … how can anyone even pretend to be an intellectual without having read what many sage oracles (including the Modern Library) consider the “best” novel of the last century. Let me tell you, it’s not always easy. It’s not like I don’t like Joyce … I got through Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and “Araby” is one of my favorite short stories. I even share many characteristics with Joyce according to my “Which Writer Are You” widget on Facebook. Like War and Peace, I decided in college when I was assigned to read Ulysses, that it wouldn’t come up again in conversation — and it hasn’t.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Listen, I read Great Expectations and Bleak House, and there was just no way that I was going to read a third Dickens novel in a row that year in college. There was no internet back then, so I probably went to the Tower Library at UMass, Amherst and got the cliff notes. I’m not ashamed of having skipped another Dickens assignment, though I wish I had reversed my reading order and switched Bleak House with A Tale of Two Cities. Anyway, there’s no going back now.
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: This is probably the least famous of the works on this list, but I felt guilty for a long time about not reading this book because I liked the class in women’s lit that I was taking when it was assigned. That semester I read Virginia Woolf, Eva Figes, Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett, Muriel Spark, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Drabble, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others (I swear) … by the time I was assigned The Golden Notebook, I’d had enough, and I don’t plan on giving it a second chance.
So there they are; 5 novels I skipped and never plan on reading … ever. Let me know what you think, and what books you never plan on reading. In the mean time, I’ll start thinking of my list of Books I Wish More People Would Read. I can’t promise that they’ll all be novels because I love so many other kinds of reading, but hopefully you’ll find something interesting on my list.
Thank you for reading and hope you’re having a great summer.
Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.