Thursday, September 09, 2010

Novels I'm Ashamed I Have Not Read

I've seen a lot of lists recently in the blogger community about books that people are ashamed they haven't read.  I know I'm going to leave something out of this list and I'm going to have to revise it, but I'm going to give it a shot.

My initial thought is that many of these novels will be epics.  The reason I never seem to get to these books is that I like to get through 2 books a month, and since the book club takes up one which is usually less than 500 pages, I am limited to what else I can take on if I want to finish both within the month.  I suppose I could span two months "War and Peace", but I don't like having so many novels up in the air at one time.  Perhaps that's just a cop-out and I'm actually frightened by these books, but I'm not sure where the truth lies.

Here's my list in no particular order.

1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
I have heard this is not the slog that I originally anticipated, so I really have no excuse here.  I actually have not read any Tolstoy and given my love of other Russian greats (Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Turgenev, Pasternak) I'm ashamed to have not made it to Mr. Tolstoy.

2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I enjoyed watching this on BETA as a child and have always wanted to read the novel and in addition to #3, both seem to be regarded as some of his best work (as far as I can tell).

3. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I feel a tremendous guilt for not reading any Dickens other than "A Christmas Carol." For some reason, not reading the above makes me extremely agitated and I can't tell you why. I just feel like I'm doing a disservice to the literary community by not reading any of Dickens' works.  A friend told me that this is the ultimate (and that I will enjoy it), and I trust her.

4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I wasn't a huge fan of Crime and Punishment, but I loved Notes From Underground.  Someone once told me that I should wait until I'm older to read this one... and that's the reason I haven't begun it.  I don't know when I will be considered old enough, so I keep putting it off like it's some sort of justification.
5. Ulysses by James Joyce
I have heard this is a tremendously difficult read due to syntax and/or language so I have put it off.  Plus the size of the work is daunting to me.  Again, have yet to read any James Joyce.

6. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I think I feel guilty that I have read 'The Invisible Man' by H.G. Wells and not Ellison.  They are completely unrelated (one a science experiment turned wrong versus blacks in America), but I guess I feel bad that I read the least important work first.

7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Honestly, how have I not read this?  I am constantly reminded of a Pablo Picasso painting of Don Quixote and for some reason that makes me want to read the work even more.  It doesn't make sense, but there you have it.

8. The Iliad by Homer
There is no excuse for not reading this.  Since I have seen numerous movies on the subject, I feel as if I should have read this long ago... before all the adaptations which are floating around in my head.

9. The Odyssey by Homer
I read a good part of this in high school, but I would like to read the work in its entirety.  I think I'm at a point in my life now where I can get a lot more out of it... though I loved it as a kid, for probably different reasons - more like an adventure novel.

10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
See #3... I generally regard this as the third Dickens book I should read but I contemplate putting David Copperfield here.  Maybe Roof Beam Reader can enlighten me on the order I should read Dickens, since he has delved into quite a few of his works.

11. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
I read about a quarter of this and loved it... but never finished it [this continuously nags me at the back of my brain every time I hear the title mentioned].  I have a vivid picture of Queequeg and I'm so interested in learning what he's all about.

12. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
I'm scared of reading this and I don't know why.  I almost feel like I need to learn Italiano before I delve into it.  I almost bought a 500 Euro Italian copy in Florence, but I realized this would have been stupid.  It was a beautiful brown leather copy which came in a special case.  If I find the picture I took of it, I'll post it here.

13. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
No hippy (or semi-hippy) has an excuse for not reading this.  After hearing from Dead White Guys on the subject though, I am not running to my shelves to get into it.

14. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
I read part of this book on a trip to the Dominican Republic.  When I started reading the part where God unleashed his furious wrath on the vessel, my plane got struck by lighting.  You can't make this up.  I never finished the book after that and I don't know why.  I also own 3 copies or more of this one.

15. The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
I feel like I cannot praise the work of Darwin without reading it.  I have heard a lot about Russel's works too and I would love to read both if I ever got the chance.  The size of this one unnerves me and I also would have to read "The Voyage of the Beagle" ...and I can't figure out which I need to read first. 

16. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Since I went to Chateau D'If off the coast of Marseilles, I think I owe it to myself to read this one.  The reason I haven't is due to length and the fact that 'The Three Muskateers' was such a slog to me.

17. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
See #1.

18. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I can't watch the movie until I read the book.  Why this is the only book by a female author on my list... I do not know.

19. Herzog by Saul Bellow
I simply loved "Henderson, the Rain King" and this book is supposed to be better.  Plus, Bellow is Canadian.  I don't have a copy of this one, so that's my excuse.  I also want to read 'The Adventures of Augie March' and 'Humboldts Gift', but I think I need to read 'Herzog' first.

20. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
I read "The Chrysallids' in high school years ago and enjoyed it.  I have had numerous people tell me to read this one, and I never have.  My rationale is that I don't have a hardcover of this one because it's so tough to find.  One day I will find a copy of the Omnibus and read all three works in it at the same time.

Those are the books that haunt my existence, and I'm sure the list is growing rather than shrinking.  I'm currently taking suggestions on which of these I should start with.

What books do you feel ashamed you have not yet read?


Suzanne said...

I wouldn't be ashamed about not reading Ulysses. I'm working my way through it now and if it weren't for the fact that I'm blogging about my progress I'd have given up long ago. It is not a pleasant book.

My book of shame is Little Women.

IngridLola said...

If I were you, I'd start with Anna K. It's long, but not TOO long, it's fun to read, just great all around.
I actually liked Walden. There are a couple weird parts but overall I enjoyed the spiritual nature-y aspect of it.

Teacher/Learner said...

I haven't read any of these either! There, I said it :oD I was also ashamed to not have read Pride & Prejudice, and I am currently starting it (so far, so good). Thanks for bringing up the topic.

I'm Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

This is an excellent list. I made one for myself two years ago and now I've read almost everything I listed.

It certainly helped me focus.

I'm a new follower!

I stopped in from the Hop. I'd love to have you stop by my blog, too.

Susan said...

I've only read two of the books on your list. Classic literature's not my favorite genre, unfortunately. That's why I'm excited to have found your blog via the Hop. Hopefully, it will help me broaden my horizons :)

Jair said...

I don't feel particularly ashamed about not having read books. I keep an ongoing list in my head of books I ought to read some time, but I have plenty of time to get around to it. What really annoys me, though, is when I think about books I never quite finished - The Idiot, Tale of Two Cities (never finished the last fifty pages for some reason!), Moby Dick. It's like having a permanent itch.

I don't think you need to be especially old to read The Brothers Karamazov. I found it very engaging as a teenager. I picked it up at the library knowing nothing about it or the author and found myself strangely attracted to it. The plot is loose and meandering, but the characters are fascinating and the dialogue entrancing (and very humorous as well). That said, it did take me a couple months to get through and I'd like to read it again someday when I'm older to appreciate it more.

Hannah said...

Most of these books are on my hugely long can't-believe-I-haven't-read list of classics. (Not posted are anything--just in my head.) I'm committing myself to work through it, starting in January! It is the really long ones that most terrify me, too. And Joyce.

Kristin said...

I'm with you on a Tale of Two Cities and Brothers Karamazov, but I love love love both Dickens and Dostoevsky. I feel the same way you do about Origin of Species as well.

Might I suggest you do read the following: Don Quixote, Great Expectations, and Count of Monte Cristo. Count is sooooo much better than Musketeers, which I felt lost in because I didn't know all the politics. And also the Odyssey. Frickin' awesome. I read it in preparation for Joyce's Ulysses and should have stopped there. It didn't help.

Don't feel bad about not reading Ulysses. I wouldn't bother unless you want to feel pleased with yourself when you're finished (which is why I read it - to say that I did). I also read Invisible Man (Ellison, not Wells) and didn't care for it too much...I prefer James Baldwin's "Go Tell It On the Mountain."

Ellen said...

i like your list, i think because i share a lot of the same books. But I read Anna K a few years ago, and I'd recommend starting with that one - after the first hundred or so pages, it flew by.

Moby-Dick I also read, but I had to drag myself through it...just the thought of the months I spent on that one is painful.