Sunday, May 4, 2008

I have a little list...

You've probably seen the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die post that has been going around the book blogging community like a bad cold. It has a handy-dandy spreadsheet on which you can figure out not only what percentage of the list you have completed (24.9% or 250 books for me) but also how many books you must read a year to make it before your statistically appointed time. I am pleased to report that I read a good deal more than the 25 books per year, given that I must read that many if I am to fulfill their mission, but most of the books I will read this year aren't on the list. Somehow it's not troubling me too much. I find the list, which takes the trouble to defend itself by saying it is not exhaustive (whew) strangely weighted toward recent popular fiction. Why so many of Ian McEwan, Jose Saramago, Margaret Atwood, and Don DeLillo's books are there, even some obscure and not too great ones, and why Tim Winton, Andre Dubus, Hilary Mantel, or Wallace Stegner are not I can't tell. On the other hand At Swim Two Boys is there! I've never seen that absolutely brilliant book make a list before - John McGahern, Virginia Woolf, Chinua Achebe, and Rohinton Mistry are represented, I approve. It did a decent job of pointing out some glaring holes in my reading experience like Philip Roth, who I've never been able to stand, and John Updike, whose novels feel dated to me, V. S. Naipaul, and Rebecca West. I guess I have some work to do but I'm going to do it on my own rather than bring out the competitive in myself by signing up for the 1% challenge that 3M is offering - I'm all challenged out - but please don't let that stop you.

Hat tip: Ex Libris


Sheila O'Malley said...

No Madeleine L'Engle? And I honestly do not understand why The Blind Assassin was so praised. I'm baffled. I'm a huge Atwood fan but I thought that book (to quote my dad) "stunk up the field".

Cat's Eye? Hell, yes - one of the best books I've ever read!! But Blind Assassin? Do not get it.

I have only read 153 of the books. Good lord! There are huge gaps in my education - Thomas Pynchon (I've tried, really I have), Saul Bellow, Philip Roth - you know, those big macho American greats ... haven't read them.

And I wish that I HADN'T read The Awakening and Yellow Wallpaper. They were additions to the English curriculum in college, to kind of even out the playing field and get some women in there ... but as far as I'm concerned, the inclusion of those books doesn't do women any favors. Yuk!! (apologies to anyone who liked the books ... it's just my taste!)

I'm going to read War and Peace this summer. I need to gear up my strength for that! And Stendahl too ... really want to read him, just haven't gotten to it yet!

Eva said...

I'm not worried about ever reading all of the books on this list either. Contemporary literary fiction is probably my least-favourite genre, so this list just isn't my style. :)

Ted said...

S - I'm totally w/ you on the Blind Assassin, I like your Dad's quote on it. I've tried w/ Pynchon too, can't do it. But Bellow's Augie March is pretty great! I think you would really like it. I have a real problem w/ Rushdie too, who is all over that list.

Anonymous said...

Read about the 1% challenge from Danielle. I've been looking for Rebecca West's The Birds Fall Down but have no luck. The only V.S. Naipaul I've read is the travelogue/religion book on Malaysia and Islam. I suppose many of these reading lists are very subjective and that only reflects a very niche of interest. Atwood is laudable writer but I suppose not all her works should make the list. I certainly don't care for a lot of contemporary literature.