Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Embarrassing Truth

Lately I’ve had a couple of different conversations with people about books, specifically those books you are embarrassed to admit that you’ve never read. And I wish embarrassed were too strong a word, but it’s really not. We all have them, those books that you think everyone in the world has read but you, or that, as a “well-read person,” of course you should have read.

Well, we’re here to share the truth. We all have them, and here are the five books (or authors) we are each embarrassed to admit we’ve never read. And I think Kim speaks for all of us when she said, “I’d like to point out that I really want to read all of these book, but they always manage to go to the bottom of the pile of books I have stacked next to my bed. One of these days. . . .”

Kim’s list:
1. Catcher in the Rye
2. To Kill A Mockingbird
3. Any of the Harry Potter books
4. Beloved
5. Lord of the Flies

Jessica’s list:
1. Wuthering Heights
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. Emma
4. Romeo and Juliet
5. The Diary of Anne Frank

Jacky’s list:
1. The Bible
2. The Bell Jar
3. Hemingway
4. War and Peace
5. The Poky Little Puppy



Anonymous said...

Shakes head in pity.
I've actually read all those books in all three lists except Pride and Prejudice. Jacky - go straight to the library and get the Poky Little Puppy, lol.

I think of all the books listed, To Kill A Mockingbird was my absolute favorite. Seriously Kim, you'll love it. It's got a lot of humor in it, Scout's voice is so wry and yet innocent, and the characters are magnificent.

Kim, I know you have one of my books (well, the first three chapters) But go read 'To Kill a Mockingbird first - I don't mind waiting, and then you can tell me how you liked it!


Anonymous said...

Okay, if we are going to open up the closets, here's my list.

Philip Roth (not one thing)
Don DeLillo (nothing)
Mrs. Dalloway
In Cold Blood
Things Fall Apart

Oh, the shame. I'm not sure if I feel better or worse for sharing.

Unknown said...

Does it count that I opened and read the first two pages of the Bell Jar? Nope, okay. But that one isn't going on my list.
1. Everything past Carrie by Stephen King, except I adore his book on writing.
2. Austen wrote one novel with Promises in the title or it is the title, I have not read that one.
Pokey Little Puppy is a must read as is Richard Scarey's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, almost everything one needs to know about life are covered in these two selections.

Christopher M. Park said...

There are so many wonderful books out there that it's hard to have read everything. I don't tend to feel too guilty about this, because I've read enough to feel literate. A lot of the books from Kim, Jessica, and Jacky's lists are ones that I have read and really loved, but I wouldn't ever hold it against someone who has obviously read a lot of other great works that I haven't.

My favorites out of your lists would have to be the Harry Potter Books, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord or the Files, and various works by Hemingway (if you want a good short story to start with there, "Hills Like White Elephants" is very indicative of his mastery of his craft, I think). I think that King Lear and Hamlet are much better than Romeo and Juliet (just my opinion). Oh, and Rebecca mentioned Things Fall Apart--that really is a great work, in my opinion, and you should definitely check that out!

Anyhow, my list:
1. Pride and Prejudice (but I liked the movie--yeah, slap me)
2. War and Peace (I've read excerpts, but that doesn't count)
3. Dante's Inferno (Excerpts again)
4. Wuthering Heights
5. Catcher in the Rye

To me, it's a lot harder to think of the great works that I haven't read than the ones I have. But Catcher in the Rye is one I do always feel guilty about, because it comes up so often. I don't even have the slightest clue what it is about!

I must say, it is very interesting seeing how I overlap with other literate people from different parts of the country. We've all read different selections of "the greats."


Gina Black said...

Though an inveterate list-maker, this is one list I haven't got. Still, I've been trying to get through the books I'd always meant to read...

I just read To Kill A Mockingbird about a month ago. It's brilliant. It restored my faith in the power of writing to change the world.

I just finished Judy Blume's Forever last night. Judy Blume came after my adolescence so I missed that one.

The Bible is also on my radar. I was listening to it on MP3 last year until I got bogged down. I should get back to it.

I suppose I should add Catcher in the Rye to my TBR pile... and maybe The Poky Little Puppy? Somehow I managed to grow into adulthood and have two children without reading that one.

As for Austen...I'm always astounded to find people who haven't read her. It's like finding someone who's never tried chocolate ice cream. I reread P&P with great regularity. I don't think she has a book with Promises in the title. Maybe commenter jackie is thinking of Persuasion?

Anonymous said...

I hated the Pokey Little Puppy. Finally refused to read it to my kids because I loathed it so much.

I've read a lot of thoe books on these lists, but I read them as a teenager, and didn't understand a damned thing. Now, no time. My big confession: when I do try to read something that is supposed to be a classic, like Pride and Prejudice, or Catcher in the Rye - I usually finad I don't like them.

I did, however, love To Kill A Mockingbird. That's one I make sure to have my kids read :-)And count me among those who gobble up the Harry Potter books.

As for my own list of books I should read, but haven't, eh. Life is too short. These days,I ask but two things of a book: (a), I like it, and (b) it can be read in the bathroom.


Anonymous said...

Looking at your lists I don't feel so

I haven't read anything on Kim's list, the only one I didn't read on Jessica's list was Wuthering Heights which I was actually contemplating reading this year and on Jacky's list I've read everything except War & Peace, and there are some unfinished books of the Bible.

You guys are great!

Anonymous said...

I attended a high school that believed in reading lists. The lists started the summer before freshman year. There were four "elective" books during the year while you were reading your regular list for class(this is in NY, and the Regents Exams loomed). And of course, this didn't take into account the papers/book reports that were over and above.

All the required or elective reading was tested, and this was a bit before Cliffs Notes offered such a broad spectrum (before Sparks Notes, period.)We all did really well on the SAT's!

As was mentioned earlier by another poster, I didn't understand a lot of the reading I did, but I did it, and I believe my reading "muscles" were developed. I majored in history in college, but took lit electives all the way through, my fave being the Russians. W&P is a bit of a marathon, but for anyone who wants an incredible reading experience read Anna Karenina. I re-read every few years and it still takes my breath away.

Meanwhile, I am less well-read in contemporary literary, which I always mean to catch up on, but where to begin? I can't even make a list there are so many!! I would love some recommendations there. Right now I continue my current habits. I devour genre, love fantasy, mystery, romance and suspense.

Lisa Hunter said...

A college friend of mine used to "save" classic books for really bad days. He'd say, "Yeah, I just got a bad grade [or whatever], but today is the day I begin reading Brothers Karamazov, and 20 years from now, that's what I'll remember about this day, and it will be a good memory."

I think it's a good system.

Anonymous said...

What a fun post!!

I go into shock every time I realize that I've still not read:

1. Catch 22
2. Hemmingway(me too, Jacky. Not even The Old Man And The Sea...ridiculous!)
3. Pride and Prejudice (huh??)
4. More Fitzgerald
5. The Clown (beautiful copy given to me for Chrismas 2 years ago!)

I have, however, worn the pages out on tons of copies of TKAM and CITR...Wuthering Heights, too. All favorites.

Kimber Li said...

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

And I love a story with obsessive psychos who think they're actually the heroes too.

Cory Harris said...

I'm almost ashamed to do this as an English teacher, but then I remember most of my college reading was American Lit and Shakespeare and I feel better. There's just too many, though. So, here's a list of AUTHORS I've never read a full title from:

1) Anything Homer
2) F. Scott Fitzgerald
3) Anything Russian (Lolita especially)
4) Catch-22
5) Any non-short story by James Joyce.

I finally got to cross Updike off my list with Rabbit, Run. I liked it enough to buy the anthology.

Kate Douglas said...

I've actually read most of the books from most of the lists, but that was over forty years ago in high school when I didn't have a clue about life. A lot of what I read went right over my head. I remember discussing Moby Dick in English class and wondering where everyone picked up all the nuances...I sure didn't. Now my reading is mostly romance--books by my peers so that I have an idea what's popular. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for those happy endings. I doubt I'd want to read the classics right now. Real life is depressing enough!

Kim said...

Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood were all required reading when I was in high school. Now they are three of my favorite books, and I watch the film version of Mockingbird whenever it's on - Gregory Peck is awesome! Lord of the Flies was also required, but I hated it then and I still do.

As for Harry Potter - I resisted as long as I could - I think I made it to the Goblet of Fire and then I was hooked and now I'm a Potter nerd.

IThe Poky Little Puppy was one I made my mother read over and over.

So, my list would have to be:

1. Emma I had to read Northanger Abbey in college, and it literally put me to sleep every time I opened it, so I'm sorry to say that I've yet to read anything else by her.

2. The Bible (though I did own a children's Bible and read that a few times. Does that count?)

3. The Sound and the Fury - I've tried a few times and get lost within a chapter or two.

4. The Lord of the Rings trilogy - though I have seen the movies.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

Anonymous said...

My high school was strange, we missed A LOT of the classics for such things as On the Beach and some other apocalyptic book that's name escapes me. I do remember reading Dickens and Poe freshman year though. Much of my reading of the classics was done on my own initiative on my own time. Finally got some good lit classes in college too.

I'm probably going to get booed out of the forum, but I don't like Harry Potter. Tried it, didn't like it, still don't get why everyone goes nuts over those books.

Anonymous said...

I'd skip War and Peace (which I've read), definitely read the Bell Jar. I'm not really a Jane Austen fan, have read a couple of her books but prefer the movies. Give me a Bronte any day. The Diary of Anne Frank is excellent. R&J...whatever. I haven't read ANY of the books on Kim's list. I majored in English, but focused on Canadian Lit--that's my excuse. I've read the Bible in its entirety after taking a class on the Bible as Lit. It took me 9 months...but that was before I had kids. I read War and Peace after having kids. Maybe that's why I found it such a tough slog through. I much prefer Anna Karenina. I don't even know what the Poky Little Puppy is! Oh, and I've read Hemingway for my one American Lit course.


Mark Terry said...

My list would be significantly longer than yours, I'm sure. I just thought my reaction to your lists might be of interest.

Kim’s list:
1. Catcher in the Rye
My personal vote for most overrated novel in the literary canon. On the other hand, most writers wish we could successfull adopt Salinger's approach to book marketing.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird
Haven't read it; haven't seen the movie.

3. Any of the Harry Potter books
Love them all.

4. Beloved
Sorry, haven't read it.

5. Lord of the Flies
Read it in 8th grade and sort of didn't get it then, but it's loomed larger and larger in my mind; probably because I have two sons.

Jessica’s list:
1. Wuthering Heights
Chick-lit. Haven't read it.
2. Pride and Prejudice
Chick-lit. Haven't read it.
3. Emma
Haven't read it.
4. Romeo and Juliet
Read it several times, seen it performed once or twice. Not my favorite of Bill's.
5. The Diary of Anne Frank
Yes, I agree, this is a real flaw in my education.

Jacky’s list:
1. The Bible
Yeah. I've read it.
2. The Bell Jar
3. Hemingway
Quite a few and many of them work well. My favorite is probably "The Old Man and the Sea." "For Whom The Bell Tolls" leaves me a bit cold.

4. War and Peace
Nope. But my wife read it. Does that count?

5. The Poky Little Puppy
Never even heard of it.

Mark Terry

MsSnarkyPants said...

I have an English degree...I never thought I'd be sick of reading, but I sure was before I finished! And still, I have a HUGE list of things I should have read.

1. The last two books of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. (I am a great lover of fantasy, and I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I found the first one a little slow.)
2. Wuthering Heights
3. The House on Pooh Corner
4. Little Women
5. The Popul Vuh

Rob Brooks said...

There's some really good books on those lists. The very first two, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye, are two of my favorite books. I do also need to read Lord of the Flies (I have it--does tha tcount?) and more Hemingway. I've only read The Old Man and the Sea by him, and loved it immensely. I'd also like to read more of Shakespeare's plays.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I have to speak up for Wuthering Heights. It is NOT like people expect. Yes, you have to get through Lockwood's opening, but just picture the most whiny person you've ever met, and you've got him and you'll see that Bronte got the ridiculousness of him perfectly.

Beyond that, WH is so much different than the other Victorian novels (which I also love, but, anyway...). It's tight and spare, without wasted words. It's a frame within a frame within a frame, and a carefully structured novel in which the second half of the book/second generation of Bronte's world has to (and succeeds) in healing from the damage the first generation did.

Okay, now my list. I don't know if all these are an embarrassment, but...

1. Paradise Lost (Not embarrassed, relieved. Every time I took a class in college where Milton was on the syllabus, the prof would say...Well you've all read PL, so we're going to read something different. (And it was always shorter, too, thank goodness!)

2. Witch of Blackbird Pond. (On my list TO read.)

3.Moby Dick. (Not embarrassed. Perfectly fine without it.)

4. Tom Sawyer. I want to, and I've read Huck Finn several times, but never gotten to this one.

5.Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Tale of Two Cities. And I LOVE all the Dickens I have read, so I have no clue why I haven't gotten to these.

Bryan Catherman said...

Yea, everybody has these lists. I read 30 books standing in food lines, waiting for Blackhawks, or not sleeping while I was in Iraq. None of them were on "my list" but I'm surprised how many of them land on other people's lists.

Most the books in Iraq got there because someone crammed a book on their bookshelf that they wouldn't read anyway. The soldier who received the care package takes one look at the book and leaves it in the "library" for someone else. I saw and read a few books from the lists on this post while I served in Iraq.

(Also, anybody interested in literature should read the Bible. Regardless of your religious persuasion, the books of the Bible cover some amazing themes. The King James version is great for pacing, but if you want to get through it like any other long-winded book, read it in The Message version. The Message doesn't have all the number references. It's written like any other book.)

Virginia Miss said...

Oh, oh, oh! But, most of my favorite books are on those lists! I pity you for missing out on the pleasures of Jane Austen, Harper Lee, Hemingway, and Tolstoy. (I didn't particularly care for the bell jar or Lord of the Flies.)

The only two books on those lists I haven't read are Beloved and Poky little puppy. And I haven't read all of the Bible, since I tend to re-read the bits I like.

Ok, here are my mine:

1. Moby Dick
2. Ulysses
3. anything by Thomas Pynchon
4. The DaVinci Code
5. The Confessions of Nat Turner

Anonymous said...

It's too late to read Catcher in the Rye. You have to read it as a teenager to really enjoy it.

When you're 15, it reads like a scathing critique of adult phoniness. When you're 35, you realize the narrator is having a nervous breakdown because his younger brother died and no one will talk about it or help him grieve. It's incredibly sad to me now, whereas it used to seem hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh... Wuthering Heights. Becky, I really enjoyed it the first two times I read it, but for some reason while I was deprived of To Kill A Mockingbird, I had to read Wuthering Heights five times. And I always had to write a paper, so it's not like I could just fake my way through the class. After the second read, Catherine was just annoying....

I adore Jane Austen, read and loved most of Dickens, devoured almost all of Shakespeare's works.... and yet I still feel I missed out on so much! Wait a second... Did I only take British Lit classes?!

Anonymous said...

Can we admit to hating books that everyone else loves?

I hated THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER. Boring. Boring. Boring.

The examples in excellent writing stopped impressing me after the third chapter, and I forced myself to read to the middle of the book, where I finally gave up and jumped to the end to find out what happened.

Anonymous said...

Oh - Kim - PLEASE read To Kill a Mockingbird! As a sophomore English teacher, I have taught it 8 times and get more excited to start it each year. Excellent. And, oh, that Atticus. If only he were real . . .