I’m in a book rut, stuck in book blah-dom. Prose purgatory if you will. This is unusual for me. With the exception of hard-core sic-fi/fantasy, I usually can and will read anything you throw at me. Reading is my sole remaining vice, my escape, my can’t live without. While I am partial to fiction, I read non-fiction when it catches my eye and crosses my path. I’m not a high faulutin’ book snob. I read Booker Prize winners, but I love a good forensic thriller as well. From a biography about Samuel Peyps to the Twilight series, I’m really not that picky. Franzen to Myers, Brown to Marquez, Kundera to Austen, I read a pretty wide range of books.
So when I picked up Suite Francais at a used book sale last year, I put it on my pile. About 3 months ago I finally pulled it from the bottom. I got about 25 pages in before I picked something else up (I think an Elizabeth Peters paperback that I’d read at least 3 times before). I tried again. Another 20 pages or so. And then I guiltily gave up. Having just come off the colon heavy but wonderful Bringing Up the Bodies, I thought maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I turned to my bookshelf and chose something I’d read only once but really enjoyed and have recommended to others many times. 30 or so pages and….eh. I asked for recommendations from friends and was overrun by generous offers. I chose one by an author I’ve enjoyed before, a book which I thought I would devour and….I never got more than halfway through. I had a moment of panic.
Until recently, I can count on one hand the number of books I didn’t finish. It was a point of pride with me. Part of this was because there have been a few books in my life that had I not stuck with, I would not have been able to enjoy their brilliance (Foucault’s Pendulum comes to mind, as does Great Expectations). I even managed to finish the cinder block sized Heart of Midlothian which hung around my neck like an albatross for a college class. I don’t think I could tell you a single thing about it, but I know I finished it because I remember hurling it across the room in triumph once I was done. There are also plenty of books that don’t get going until you are well stuck into them (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for one). But also, it just seems wrong somehow to give up on a book. I have never understood people who sneak-peek ahead, who read the last page first. Part of my enjoyment of books is finishing them, although when you finish a truly wonderful book, saying good-bye is bittersweet. That said…
Life is too short. There’s not even remotely close to a portion of the quarter of a fraction of time I would need to read all the books I would like to read…and that’s only the ones that are already written. That’s not including all those gems that are only seedlings as of now, those future masterpieces, the ones that will keep me up at night just to get to the end or make me sob silently so as not to wake my husband or guffaw out loud or just shake my head in wonder. So to read books that aren’t doing it for me, for whatever reason, well, it just seems silly. Doesn’t it?
Recently I stumbled across a post on Mitten’s Kittens Blog which she called her A-Z of Literature. Aside from being a great idea, I also had a lot of fun looking at someone else’s likes, taking a virtual gander at someone else’s bookshelf. How do someone else’s choices compare with my favorites? It’s like sanctioned medicine cabinet investigating. So I’m being more than a bit cheeky in blatantly stealing her idea. Below is my A to Z of a Good Book, books that I’ve gotten lost in, that I have not only finished, but most I’ve read more than once. Almost all are books that I will gladly lend, but also hunt down if they are not returned to me. Borrowers beware.
So take a gander at my virtual bookshelf. Are there any of your favorites on there? One that you can’t believe I haven’t listed? There’s not enough time to go into the Wha?/Why?/Who??, but feel free to ask, I’m happy to answer.
A to Z of a Book to Get Lost In
A is for Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
B is for The Bone People by Keri Hulme and Backlash by Susan Faludi
C is for Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
D is for Deeds of the Disturber by Elizabeth Peters**
E is for The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
F is for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
G is for Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
H is for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban by J.K. Rowling
I is for In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
J is for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
K is for The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (the whole Dark Materials trilogy)
L is for Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
M is for From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
N is for Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
O is for One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez**
P is for Persuasion by Jane Austen, or Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Q is for Queen of the Damned, Anne Rice
R is for Regeneration by Pat Barker (and the following 2 books)
S is for Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
T is for The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
U is for Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
V is for The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
W is for Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson
X is for The English by Jeremy PaXman (am willing to hear any other Xs!)
Y is for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon**
Z is for Zooey, Franny and by J.D. Salinger
**In many cases there is a book on the list that is not my favorite by that particular author (for instance entries under “D”, “O”, and “Y”, but I had to do a fair bit of juggling to make sure I got the authors I wanted to include on there. This is a lot harder than it looks!
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Would you believe I haven’t read it? D
Wonderful post – you could do this every month as the greatest admiration for your literary taste-I love peeking in to your virtual bookshelf! Some have been on my “I should read list” but endorsed by you, I’ll move them up (Tom Robbins)
And a great point too about life being too short. I’m like you, it was a point of pride, if not rude, to not finish a book, but somewhere crossing into my 40s, I felt ok tossing a book aside if I’d given it a second and third chance. Oddly, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was one of those. I know it’s good, I wanted to read it, I wanted to become immersed, but it just wasn’t to be. Unfinished. My bad.
For what it’s worth one of my go-to reads, to lose escape, is The God of Small Things. Years ago it was The Moviegoer and All The Kings Men.
You do one! I want to see what you guys are reading too! Also, I love the liberation that being in one’s 40s seems to bring with it. A book? Pah, I will toss it aside! The Yiddish Policeman’s Union was a last minute choice–I really wanted to put The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay on there, but then I had to juggle the A with the Y and the K (first choice for Y was Year of the Flood, but again, I had a burning desire to put Alias Grace in there over that). I’m telling you, it’s not an easy exercise! Love The God of Small Things, but nothing was going to overtake Geek Love for “G”. Just wasn’t going to happen. Maybe authors next? Give me an author that starts with X though.
I am so glad you published this post! I had just been trying to slog through my third dud of a novel, feeling that I couldn’t give up yet again. This gave me the courage to put it down and pick up the God of Small Things that has been sitting on my bookshelves for years waiting to be read – and I am a much happier bunny now (back to reading in the bath). Thanks Dina, and my book suggestion would be Any Human Heart by William Boyd which completely took me by surprise by being so absorbing. I couldn’t do an A-Z though – I couldn’t bear all the leaving some things out and having to put some things in that were’t wonderful!
Thanks for the suggestion! The God of Small Things is a wonderful, beautiful book. My problems, as I said in another reply, was the at there was no way I couldn’t list Geek Love under G, as it is in my top 10 of all time. It was not an easy exercise, and there was a lot of juggling and a several compromises!