A to-read list

January 10, 2010 at 12:49 pm 1 comment

Last year, I began to think more about reading — in the traditional, curled up on the couch with a novel and a cup of tea sense — and feeling as though I don’t read enough — in the traditional, curled up on the couch with a novel and a cup of tea sense.

I probably read more books than I actually remember or give myself credit for. But, unlike some people, I’m not the kind of person who can devour book after book after book. The Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series…es may be the rare exceptions to this rule, although it’s probable that if I had not been reading them out loud to my husband and he had not been begging to continue on with the next book, I would still be trudging my way through Goblet of Fire, and speculating about the purpose of the Subtle Knife.*

The truth is that I love books; I love stories. I love the idea of reading them. But given a choice between reading or creating, more often than not I’m inclined to create,** and so I have ended up in a terrible cycle of buying a book, ready to dive into it after being spurred on by a thrilling description or positive recommendation — but never following through. I have maybe a dozen or two half-read or never-read books. So I’ve resolved to start working through them.

I’ve scoured my shelves and picked out seven books — a somewhat eclectic mix of titles — to read this year:

  • Life, the Universe and Everything, by Douglas Adams. This is the third book in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, which I admit, I started last year — in August. I’ve been picking it up in fits and spurts, but thus far have barely made it one-quarter of the way through.
  • Candide, by Voltaire. My brother recommended this to me as one of the great works of comedy. I admit, I don’t know much about it, but my brother’s taste in books is more parallel to my own than anyone else I know, and I trust his judgment in this case. Perhaps paired with a bit of background research beforehand, it ought to be a promising February read.
  • Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. I received this book two Christmases ago. I’d added it to my Amazon wish list after reading a review, probably in The Washington Post — where I was introduced to a few other books that have since become favorites, and some unread ones that may very well become favorites. Amazon.com Review calls it “an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith.” I’m looking forward to checking it off the list this spring.
  • Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. I already know this is an unhappy one. Which is why I’m saving it for the summer, when the emotional carryover I’ll inevitably experience won’t be exacerbated by short daylight hours and cold temperatures.
  • Measuring the World, by Daniel Kehlmann. This was a Washington Post recommendation from several years ago that I found personally enticing (I have a soft spot for historical fiction) and thought Keith might be interested in too, even though it falls beyond his regular literary realm of fantasy fiction. The Enlightenment-era setting should be a nice follow-up to Candide. From the review by Ron Charles: “[…] 31-year-old Daniel Kehlmann is entertaining his countrymen with a story about Enlightenment-era scientists and references to isothermal lines and modular arithmetic. This sounds like something to be printed on graph paper, but it’s actually more zany than brainy, and laughter almost drowns out the strains of despair running beneath the story.” Another road trip novel?
  • Founding Mothers, by Cokie Roberts. Yet another Post recommendation. I’m not often drawn to nonfiction, biography, or history books, but occasionally a nonfiction author with a penchant for storytelling (I like dry facts, but not a whole book full of them) is thrust in my path. The Good Women of China by Xinran was one — a book that provided (melancholy) entertainment and a fresh perspective on my historical knowledge. And after getting sucked into a few pages of Founding Mothers when I pulled it off the shelf to add to this year’s reading stack, I fully expect it to be another.
  • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Okay. I admit that I’ve already read half of this one for a graduate course — about two years ago. I enjoyed it immensely — but never was able to finish it, and even though I’d always vowed to, I never have. So it’s on the list.

I know it’s not as ambitious a list as many other reading enthusiasts, but for me to finish it is a goal both challenging and obtainable. Which is what New Year’s resolutions are all about, right?

What’s on your 2010 to-do list?

* Incidentally, while I enjoyed Harry Potter, I found His Dark Materials to be far less prosaic and less adverb-laden, with the story wrapping up in a way that was generally expected — but with unexpected twists — and neat as a pin. The story pace was even, I never got bored with the main characters (sorry, Harry), and the overarching meaning was expertly complex and original, yet understandable. And even though Pullman’s series is further removed from our world than Rowling’s, I found Pullman’s work to be more relatable in a philosophical sense: The difference between good and not-good is usually ambiguous, grayish, and a little fuzzy.

** Not to mention I need absolute quiet, and my husband…well, let’s just say quiet is hard to come by.


Entry filed under: Head & Heart. Tags: , , , .

Oh, serendipity The oatmeal that changed my life

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. keith  |  January 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Try ear plugs silly ;)


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