Spent a little time last night and (inspired by Book World, who was in turn inspired by Francine Prose) made up a couple of new lists which you can see at bottom right, after the LibraryThing widget and my list of books read so far this year.

The first is a list of authors whom (to my shame) I have never read (not a single work, be it a short story, book, poem, play...). I am baring all my weaknesses to you, kind readers, so... be kind. The second is a list of authors of whose work (because I enjoyed what I have read so far or because their work is so gosh darn canonical) I would like to read more. I put these lists up in the hope that, at some distant point in the future when I am seeking out a new book, I will be inspired to take up one of the authors I have never read, or to expand my knowledge of those I have already sampled. [Both lists are somewhat foolishly organized in alphabetical order by the author's first name. This is a silly organizational method, but I am now quite fond of it, since it is, in essence, a sort of organized shuffle that puts authors out of the order in which I am used to seeing them.]

I must admit that this second list is also inspired by a LibraryThing discussion about what encounters with authors have inspired you to read everything that author wrote. Although from time to time I get this urge when I read new authors (most recently with Pat Barker and Paul Auster), I almost never follow through in any kind of exhaustive way. As I say on LibraryThing, Jane Austen (and, for that matter, Tom Stoppard) is the rare author about whom I can claim any kind of extensive knowledge. Maybe a few other authors I covered for my orals would also count, like Shakespeare or Congreve, but even with the kind of enforced devotion to single authors that qualifying exams evoke, I only managed to cover parts of these writers' canons.

Are there egregious gaps in your reading? Authors you have always meant to try but haven't yet gotten around to? Tell me about them....

[Loose Baggy Monster's comment has inspired the possibility of a challenge relating to these lists, and the gaps in all of our reading. Go here for more details.]

8 Responses so far.

  1. Wendy says:

    Oh yes...huge gaps in my reading, but I fear I won't live long enough to fill them all. There always seems to be a new and wonderful author who catches my eye. I have read every book written by Laurie Colwin, who I adore (she used to write wonderful cooking articles for Gourmet magazine until her untimely death from cancer). I also can now say I have read all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novels (okay...she's only written two, but it still counts, right??!). Since reading The Book Thief, I have vowed to read every word ever written by Markus Zusak. And it goes on and on.... :)

  2. Wendy says:

    I saw that you want to read more Edith Wharton...I just finished Ethan Frome. Great book, and short so you can read it in a day!

    On the other side of the spectrum: Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace is one of the best books ever; but it is so long that most people don't pick it up. I recommend it highly!!

  3. Bybee says:

    I saw that you read "Custom Of The Country"'s one of those books I keep circling but don't buy. Should I? Did you like it?

    Reading gaps: I'm ashamed that I don't read more international authors. I also hate having to admit that I've never read "Robinson Crusoe" or "Heart Of Darkness".

  4. Perhaps there should be a readng challenge to come out of these lists? I know that I love to circle the summer reading tables (the bookstore I used to work at had one) because more often than not it would remind me that I have not read as many books as I should have. I've managed to cover Edith Wharton and Tolstoy pretty extensively (strange combo eh?) but there are so many books to go....

    and I second Wendy (and not just because I wrote my senior honors thesis on War and Peace) but I loved War and Peace, as well as Resurrection. What about Boris Pasternak? Is he on your list? I liked Dr. Zhivago quite a bit. And one of the best books I've ever read is "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.

    don't worry, you're not alone! I'm about to tackle Trollope and Gaskell!

  5. I don't know anything about Laurie Colwin, but now I will hurry out and look into her work, wendy! What book would you recommend that I start with?

    And, of course a two-book canon counts towards author-mastery! I mean, how else are we ever to pretend we can read everything by an author!

    Although I had some criticisms of "The Book Thief," I really enjoyed it, and will be very interested to try "I am the Messenger."

    As for "Ethan Frome," I am glad to get your recommendation - both it and "War and Peace" are languishing on my shelf at home!

  6. bybee- I am also ashamed of not having read "Robinson Crusoe," but every time I try it just seems so mind-numbing. It is probably time for a reread of "Heart of Darkness," which I was marched through in high school (along with "The Secret Agent," which seems an odd choice for high schoolers) and certainly didn't appreciate it then.

    As for "Custom of the Country," I liked it somewhat less well than "The House of Mirth," but still found it to be Whartonish and very enjoyable. It is certainly worth a read, but perhaps after "House of Mirth" and "Age of Innocence" (I haven't read the latter yet - oh the shame!).

  7. loose baggy monster - Your suggestion about the challenge is so exciting that I am going to run of and write an entry about it right now!

    I haven't read any Pasternak, and will add him to my list. I am the rare person who reacted really badly to the film version of "Doctor Zhivago," and that made me a little wary. The Bulgakov I actually did read in college, in a remarkable course on Slavic literatures. I also took a course on 19th C Russian literature, which sadly did not include "War and Peace" (that is when I read "Anna Karenina," though, as well as some Turgenev, Lermontov, and Pushkin).

  8. Wendy says:

    Laurie Colwin's books are what I would call "quick reads." She is a master at characterization and dialogue. You can't go wrong with any of them. I LOVE her cooking books (Home Cooking, AND More Home Cooking) which are a series of stories/vignettes with the recipes at the end of them. Not sure which of her novels was my favorite...maybe Goodbye Without Leaving OR Happy All The Time.

Leave a Reply