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
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
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)
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
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!)
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!