Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The infernal book list

I'm sure you've all seen it, it has plagued the walls of Facebook for sometime now. It has brought on bragging airs and dismal looks. It has made your heart glow and made you want to rip it up in the same moment. It is the top 100 book list.

They lure you in by saying most have only read six (a complete and utter lie for any high school graduate) so that you think if you've read twenty-four of the books you've done pretty well. That is, until you see that one friend who has supposedly read eighty of them. Then you feel like, even though you are an avid reader, you have somehow failed yourself.

It's as if only these 100 books will ever matter, and if you dare read anything else your doomed. Well I have news, and maybe I'm the first one to say it (but probably not) I don't want to read every book on that list!

A few years back I had several people tell me to read Wuthering Heights. "You've read Jane Eyre," they said, "this was by her sister." "You're a hopeless romantic," they said, "this will tear at your heart strings." So I read it, and I hated every minute of it. Why did I torture myself and read to the end? Well because I wanted to know the end, but that didn't make me like it anymore.

"It's a classic!" those people shouted. "You're not allowed to hate the classics!" Well guess what, I don't care! Why am I going to torture myself by dragging through a hundred classics that I don't even enjoy?

Granted, there a few I would truly like to read, little women, for example. But I must ask, what is so wrong with simply reading books I enjoy? There is a treasure trove of brilliant unknown books out there, and if I like it, I'm going to read it.

So what if I never read The Republic of Plato? Am I really ruined as a writer or a person if I don't?

Maybe I'm just ranting. Maybe I should at least attempt Plato. But if I'm not enjoying it I'm going to stop.

For today, I'm going to continue reading the latest Jame Patterson novel. I'm going to eat some more Easter candy and I'm going to read every last indulgent line. And I'm not going to feel guilty, not even one little bit.

What are you're thoughts? Should a book be read just because it's a classic? Or should we broaden our horizons?


Michelle Porth said...

I've read "The Republic of Plato"-- and trust me, you're not missing much :) I definitely agree that we should broaden our horizons when it comes to reading. Sure, the classics are great (I happen to love them), but I also love Nicholas Sparks, James Patterson, and a whole plethora of other novels that most people probably haven't even heard of. I agree with you one hundred percent that this list is ridiculous. It makes people who think they are avid readers feel inferior when they realize they haven't read many on the list-- even if they have read hundreds of other perfectly good novels! Great post :)

Blue Skies said...

Here is my opinion. Read where your heart takes you. There are times that I want to read A Tale of Two Cities, and I will be a snob about it when I do and lord it over everyone else. Then there are other times when all I want to read is People magazine. I am not going to force any book down my gullet unless I really think that I can benefit from it. Think on Wuthering Heights, did you learn something about life from it (aside from the Brontes having some serious issues?) Just so you know, I have trouble with Jane Eyre. FYI.

J. A. Bennett said...

You crack me up. I so remember your snobish Tale of Two Cities ways, ha ha!

The only thing I learned for Wuthering Heights is that it is possible to hate a story more and more with every passing page.

Otherwise I agree with you!

Kathryn said...

Haha, I like your honesty. I've been slowly working through this list for years - whenever I don't have another book on the go I will pick one up and struggle through it.

I agree with you - I certainly don't want to read all of them, and some of the ones that I have read because they're on the list I haven't enjoyed. But, they're on that list for some reason (someone decided they were extraordinary) and so I like finding out why. Plus, they're books that are often referenced and I like being able to join in the dialog.

ps. I really disliked Wuthering Heights too!

Fiona said...

Nothing wrong with disliking something or finding it boring.

Glowless @ Where's My Glow said...

I tend to be disappointed with the books that everyone raves about - probably because I build them up in my head to be fantastic masterpieces and instead they're just good books. I've stopped reading recommended lists and just do my own thing now - it's much nicer :)

Melanie said...

My kids brought home a list of Newbery Award Winner books that I decided to read to "broaden" my horizons. The bad part about them is there is quite a few that are depressing. (Whatever happened to Disney endings?) Anyway, I've found a lot of good literature to recommend to the kids.

I, like you, have to read a book to the end if I start it so I always hope that the referrals I get are good ones. That goes for the "classics". If they don't interest me, I don't even start them.