So I was going through various lists of books at this site last night and it was making me feel a bit illiterate or unread. Most of the lists are based, I’m guessing, on best sellers, English studies programs or critics’ choices. A few might be the creator’s favourite books, which explains why they’re so short. Even with various sources the lack of diversity in these lists confuses me. Millions of books in the world, why are some always on these kind of lists?
In school I never was introduced to keeping track of what I read concept, I only started doing it in 2009. I try to read at least twelve books a year, difficult when I am also trying to write one, I read online articles and downloaded PDFs and I go through periods of not wanting to read at all. I occasionally have multiple books on the go and it can take months or years for me to complete some. I’ve been posting the yearly list in my year end blog posts but have decided to add a page.
I have no clear idea how many or which books I’ve read in my nearly forty years. I will spare myself the agony of going through my book boxes to make a list of ones I still have that were read pre-2009. Over two hundred last time I counted, trying to figure in library books, borrowed books and books given away would be a brain exploding process. My to read/reread list is much longer than my read list, in fact I’d have a clone do reading for me as long as I got the information or entertainment value from each book.
Part of what annoys me about some of reading lists around the internet is the sense of arrogance and conformity in them. To read every must read book on these lists is a life’s work that limits the potential of self discovery and diversity. The list I would recommend to read will vary with each person who asks for my opinion. I would start with the individual’s interests and I would add a few books to challenge each person to push their envelope.
Books, like any experience, are personal. I will never be able to experience a book the way anyone else does, nor anyone experience a book the way I do. The reason can be as simple as what we’ve read or experienced before reading a book. We can only ever engage a book within the limits of who we are. Even after we’ve read something we may end up reinterpreting it by what we read and experience after. An example being I see the writings of Guderian and Rommel differently after having read Fredrick the Great’s Instructions to his Generals. Bet I’ll see all three differently again if I find some Von Moltke the Elder to read.
Maybe the lists should be broken down by genre more so we can just do the genre we like and discover something new. Maybe we should rely on trusted people to recommend something outside our comfort zone to expand our horizons. At the very least we need context to why this book and not that book makes a critics, curriculum, or individuals list. I guess that would mean logging back into GoodReads or someplace similar. Actually I think I’d rather find where I left John Le Carré’s The Mission Song.
Where did I steal the title of this post from?