My Reading Shame (and reboot update)

I stumbled across a blog about not reading the other day. The author made a case for not being ashamed of skipping some classic reads. She was interested in reading books she enjoyed, not books she was told she should read.

It got me to thinking about my own reading history. I read a lot, like a crazy amount. When Facebook shows me my memories, they’re filled with Goodreads posts about books I’ve completed.

I’ve gotten good at dumping out of books that I’m not enjoying. But I do feel a need to read certain titles that are considered classics. I don’t remember to put them on my Kindle (named iocane powder) or pick them up at the library. I have newer titles that I want to get to.

I'll take any excuse to reuse this photo
I’ll take any excuse to reuse this photo

Here’s a list of books on various “must read classics” that I haven’t read and probably won’t read:

  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Kite Runner
  • A Tale of Two Cities (really, any Dickens)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • Crime and Punishment
  • War and Peace
  • Ulysses

Other than wanting to read new titles, why haven’t I touched the books above (plus a host of others that routinely pop up on these lists)?

Some of them bore me. I’m sorry, but I haven’t been able to get into Austen or Dickens. I know some people love them, and I can acknowledge the authors’ contributions to literature: They’re just not what I want to curl up with. I tried The Kite Runner and gave up before page 20.

Some of them have too much of a “great book” aura around them. I’m supposed to love Catcher in the Rye and have a strong opinion of Ulysses. I just don’t want to take the time. And this is from a person who read Atlas Shrugged AND The Fountainhead for fun.

A lot of these must-read lists often come across as a reading list for AP English. That’s where I had to read Billy Budd and Moby Dick and started to question reading lists that wanted to kill me with chapters on maritime lore and whale biology. Yet, I also first encountered The Crucible on some high school reading list and loved it.

Steinbeck shows up on a lot of lists, mainly The Grapes of Wrath and/or Of Mice and Men. I love Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books.

Maybe I don’t want to read something because I’m told “it’s good for me.” I don’t know.

So, fellow readers, are there must-read titles that you haven’t read and don’t intend to? Why haven’t you gotten to them?


Quick Reboot Update – It’s not going well. When I started the project, i actually felt good about the things I wanted to improve. Now, it’s as if the act of tracking improvements stopped all progress. I’ve purposefully exercised more in September than I had in August; I cooked more (even trying a new dish that ended up with no taste) — it just doesn’t feel like more than stagnation. So no post devoted to feelings of failure and some vague determination to make October a month that counts!


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