Every now and then I see, popping up on my feed in Facebook, some link to some site that advises me which books I should have read. Just yesterday was one about the books I should have read before I'm 40. That was November 11, 1984, so I've had more than thirty extra years to get them read. Wonder how I did?
Thinking I'd do a post about this topic, I went back to look for the link on Facebook. Couldn't find it. But on Google I found numerous others that declare I ought to have read this or that book. Here's a list I did find (books you should have read). In case you're too lazy to go to the site, here's what they are:
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
- Maya Angelou: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- M. J. Ryan: Attitudes of Gratitude
- Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
- Travis Bradbury & Jean Greaves: Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now
- Viktor E. Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning
- Marcus A. Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton: Now, Discover Your Strengths
- Anne Lamott: Traveling Mercies
- Harville Hendrix & Helen LaKelly Hunt: Making Marriage Simple
- Mitch Albom: Tuesdays with Morrie
- Julia Cameria: The Artist's Way
- Brené Brown: The Gifts of Imperfection
- Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point
- Jonah Lehrer: Imagine
- Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture
- Nicholas Sparks: The Notebook
- Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz: The Power of Full Engagement
Well, I just went over the online list and count only 19 titles. So it goes. (The site says there are 20.)
I should also confess this: When I started typing this list, I had no idea that it was, uh, a bit heavy in the self-help genre. Geez.
Anyway, I've read a lot in my life. I'll turn 72 in a couple of months. I've been a professional book reviewer for nearly two decades. But as I look at this list, I can say I've read only four of the titles (#s 1, 4, 8, 15). So ... 4 out of 19 ... that's ... uh ... just a hair about 22%-- an F in anyone's book, right?
And here's another confession: As I look at the ones I have not read, I don't think there's a single one that I have any desire to read.
Here, of course, is the trouble with such lists: They should be titled this way--Books I Have Read and,Therefore, You Ought to Read, Too.
This reminds me of an incident involving William F. Buckley, Jr., from years ago. Someone had written to his magazine (I think? Or was this in a newspaper column?) to complain that his vocabulary was too ... erudite or remote or eggheadish or elitist or whatever. And he replied (very sensibly, I thought) that everyone knows words that other people don't. He said he didn't attempt to find the most arcane, dusty word he could find just to be annoying. These were words that just flew out of his mind, into his fingers, onto the keys of his typewriter.
The same is true for books. We all have read things other people haven't. And to present a list of yours and say that everyone ought to read what you have read is a bit ... uppity, don't you think? Or naive?
We've all been accosted over the years by eager friends who tell us we just have to read ... whatever. Sometimes I'll do so; other times I can't make myself read the damn thing(s). (Some adolescent stubbornness and recalcitrance remain, I guess.)
Anyway, we could all assemble a list of titles everyone ought to have read (the implication, of course, is that we've read it, and if you haven't, well, you're just ... ignorant, under educated, whatever).
I've actually spent lots of my adult life reading things I "should" have read (but just have never gotten around to). I hope I will continue to do so until the Lights Go Out.
I know it's a hopeless task, trying to read every wonderful/significant/key work that there is. Impossible. But struggling to do so has been (and continues to be) one of my life's great thrills.
PS--I also read lots of stuff, just for fun--detective novels, thrillers, popular fiction and nonfiction of all sorts ... gonna get to the new Harry Potter very soon ...