Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. ~P.J. O’Rourke
I love this quotation by P.J. O’Rourke. I rarely follow the advice, though. As I’ve admitted here on this blog in the past, I like a healthy dosage of trashy brain candy along with the more nutritious fare. If I died right now, I’m pretty sure my copy of Tempest’s Fury wouldn’t have anyone thinking I was a literary savant. On the other hand, they might get the idea that I had a decent sense of humor and a longing for magic in my world.
And yet, having said that, I still can’t resist the temptation to mentally calculate how I measure up every time I come across one of those “Books You MUST Read Before You Die” lists. In case you were wondering, I never really measure up. I was googling book recommendations recently and came across a photo essay from Time Magazine’s website featuring the 100 Best Books published since 1923 (the year Time Magazine began publishing). I will not quote it in its entirety-if you’re interested, you can read it by clicking here.
They had a few conditions in choosing their list, most notably that the books had to have been published in English first, which excluded a few books one might have expected to make the cut, such as 100 Years of Solitude (which, though I started, I didn’t finish reading). Of the 100 books they mentioned, I have read in full exactly eleven, and seen the film versions of four. Measuring by that, I am not at all well-read, despite the fact that you’ll rarely see me when I’m not in possession of one or more books. What does this say about me as a reader? That I don’t read many modern classics?
How about the more traditional classics? Bumbles frequently extols the virtues of classics on this blog. In fact, (shameless plug) Quirky Girls is holding it’s 2nd annual contest, “The Classic Bribe” wherein Bumbles bribes readers to read a classic this summer. I fare slightly better at traditional classic novels, having read 32 of the 100 listed here. Thank heavens for my lifelong William Shakespeare obsession as it skewed the numbers slightly higher. But only slightly.
This has all got me to thinking about what I choose to read. When I finished college, I went on a glut of brain candy. I was exhausted from reading the more meaningful books and plays and spending all that time analysing them. Though I swore off it for a while, it has not escaped me that I continue to analyze books via this blog. And honestly my high school English teacher would fall out of her chair if she realized just how many book reports I’ve voluntarily typed up in the last year or so. For the daughter of a many times over published author and English professor, I could be awfully petulant about book reports.
But I’d like to read something meaningful again. Don’t worry, you’ll still see the cheese-tastic brain candy reviews from me here-must review Tempest’s Fury and Jehara and I have a joint review of The Golden Lily coming up. But I think I’m going to tackle this modern classics list from Time Magazine. I still reserve the right to maintain my 100 page rule-if I’m still not curious after 100 pages in, I’m done. But I’m going to try. And if you have any suggestions for me not listed in the Time Magazine bundle, share in comments!