Sunday, July 26, 2009

True Confessions

My daughter Geetha just got home for a much too short visit. As often happens, our talk has already turned to books. I was telling her how much I was enjoying (thought I am not sure that is the correct terms) reading Black Boy by Richard Wright which I remembered was on her high school reading list. She said, "Oh, I never read that. In fact I did not read many--if any--of the books on my high school reading lists." She did manage to turn in papers on these books that were good enough to consistently garner the praise of teachers along with a solid 'A' average. I don't know how she did it.

That got me to thinking of how many classics or well-loved books I have never read. (Though I do not think that I ever did not read books assigned in high school and only skipped a few in college. I can't say I always wrote papers that got and A either.)

Here is the short list of books I have never read, a probably never will. I know the list could be much, much longer, but not having read the books, I can't think of what they are.

  • Other than The Old Man and the Sea I have never read anything by Ernest Hemingway.
  • I have never read William Faulkner but one of my book clubs is curing that with As I Lay Dying which I will begin as soon as I finish Black Boy which is another book I have should have read years ago.
  • I have never read much Jane Austen and what I did read made so little impression on me that I can't remember which one I read that led to my rejection of all things Austen.
  • I know that Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is loved by the multitudes but my mother tried so hard to get me to read it that I dug in my heels and refused to read in my youth and still can't quite bring myself to try. Alcott and her family were fascinating people with interesting friends and beliefs. I am probably making a mistake in being so pig-headed.
  • Herman Melville is someone else who has never appealed to me, even though I know that he shaped American literature.
  • Speaking of American icons, I have to confess that I have dabbled in Mark Twain but never really enjoyed his books.
  • Alexandre Dumas is another author that never called to me. I am always surprised when folks tell me how much they like The Three Musketeers or any of his other swashbuckling novels.
  • This is probably heresy of some sort for a children's librarian but I have only read the first Harry Potter book and, while I can see its appeal, did not feel compelled to read any more the series.
  • Likewise, I have never been able to find anything to draw me to Eragon by Christopher Paolini despite the many, many students who have begged me to read it.
  • Jerry Spinelli is a children's author who gets high praise. I have struggled to try to enjoy a few of his books with no luck. Wringer and Maniac McGee were not my cup of tea, so how can I expect to enjoy those of his books that did not get wild praise.

Am I missing great things? Possibly. Is that going to change my mind? Probably not, though being "forced" to read things for book clubs has certainly exposed me to things that I might not otherwise have tackled.

The essence of this post is that not every book is for everyone. I know I have previously praised books that others will not enjoy at all. Just winning a prize or getting the classic label does mean that a book is for me or you. (There are some prize winning books that I have trouble believing anyone would enjoy at all, but that is another blog entry.)


SWE said...

If Jane Austen is a turn-off, try Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I just finished it and LOVED it. Want me to send you my copy? I think I'm not a "normal" Austen fan because I enjoy some of the fanfic more than her actual stuff. Carrie Bebris has some fun mysteries based loosely on Austen's character, for example.

My list of classics unread is dramatically longer than yours, but I'm pleased to see that we have Little Women in common. ;-)

Linda said...

I have been so tempted to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies so, yes, I would love it if you mailed me a copy. That should be a good introduction to a classic.