Shoulda, coulda, woulda

Ask anyone at DGLM (Jane in particular) and they will tell you that I’m an insufferable bookworm.  When a simple reference to Kim Kardashian would make a more relevant point, I will cite Anna Karenina.  If we’re debating the merits of the writing in a manuscript we’re considering for representation, I’m apt to dismiss it by suggesting that the author is no Ivan Klima (or fill in some other relatively obscure Slavic author).  See what I mean?  Annoying.

Of course, I have a lot invested in turning my nerdy childhood, spent eating chips while buried in the pages of doorstoppers, into a source of irritation for my friends and co-workers.  They may have been partying while I was reading The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire but they have no idea how hilarious Gibbon’s footnotes were.

And, of course, like any pretentious book person, I’m terribly insecure about the books I didn’t read.  The gaps in my reading list are, as you can imagine, a constant source of embarrassment—not so much that I’m rushing to download those titles on my Kindle, but, you know….  For instance, even though I struggled mightily and valiantly through Romola, I never did get around to George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I did lose steam after the first volume of Proust’s 675-volume Remembrance of Things Past and I’ve never gone near a work by Herman Hesse.  This Today list of books everyone really should have read, reminds me that, well, there will always be books that I should have read, should read, haven’t read, and…probably won’t.

How about you?  What are the ones that got away for you?

10 Responses to Shoulda, coulda, woulda

  1. Ciara says:

    Oh dear everything Austen has passed me by. I simply can’t get into it, so it’s not so much a gap as wilful ignorance. I know it’s something I *should* read but a few lines into Emma or Mansfield Park and I find myself looking for distractions!

  2. I got through my entire English degree without reading any Dickens because someone told me it was depressing. Now I’m rectifying my shameful ignorance downloading them all free on Kindle. And yes, they are depressing.

  3. It’s amazing how many “classics” I haven’t read, despite lifelong compulsive reading and a B.A. in English and American Literature. I don’t think I’ve ever made it through anything by Tolstoy. Never read Crime and Punishment. May not have finished David Copperfield, although I have read and re-read several other Dickens novels. No Proust, only one Hesse (Siddhartha). And if I read Passage to India, I can’t remember it. (My mother loves it and keeps asking me whether I’ve reread it. Sorry, mom, I’m not sure.) Have read only snippets of Moby Dick.

  4. Lydia says:

    Dickens. Great wit, but I just couldn’t get through his work. Gone with the Wind, too…read first chapter, and shut the book with a sad shake of the head and sigh.

  5. Teri Carter says:

    The list is so long. I just posted yesterday about all the fat books, the 1,000-pagers, that have scared me off. ANNA KARENINA is certainly in that category — every time I tried to start it I would think, “who are all these characters, again??”

    Dickens. I think I’m most ashamed about Dickens.

  6. Christi says:

    The one I have most regret is Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME and other Ender and Bean books. My father is such a fan, and he’s a hard man to please regarding literature. He loaned me his audio books. I didn’t listen to them. My husband went and bought me the books. I haven’t read them. I don’t know why I put it off. I’m looking at ENDER’S GAME right now. It’s on the top of the nearest ‘to be read’ piles (I’ve many of these). I don’t know if I’m afraid it won’t live up to the hype or if I’ll be so inspired, I’ll change genres. :-)

  7. I’ll own up to it: Off of that list, I haven’t read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I know the basic story, but haven’t read the full text. I was in advanced English classes in high school, and they skipped over it because they figured we would all read it on our own, anyway. I was generally busy reading Asimov and Vonnegut, and never got around to it. (Actually, I’ve never read SIDDHARTHA off that list, either, but that doesn’t elicit the same types of “OMG you haven’t read ____?!” reactions, in my experience.)

    I’m an SF/fantasy writer, and there are quite a few books in the “canon” that I haven’t tackled yet, either. I’ve taken on a few in recent years, and it’s scary on occasion to realize I’ve written a similar story to one of them. Like, “yup, nobody will believe I WASN’T influenced by Book X…”

  8. Rowenna says:

    I’m hopeless on the great Russian novels…partially because there’s still so much short Russian fiction I haven’t yet read, and short Russian fiction is often the length of a “normal” novel, so…I find myself picking up another Pushkin short story rather than dive into Crime and Punishment.

  9. Poetry. Unless it has a specific rhythm and rhyme scheme, I am completely and totally Poem Deaf.

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