What I want to read

My semester is pretty well underway, and although I’m not to the busiest part of it yet (that’s when the papers come in to be graded), I’m beginning to feel the pressure of prepping for class and attending meetings and holding office hours and answering student emails. And it’s at this point when I become acutely aware of all the hundreds and hundreds of books out there that I want to read now. Even though deep down I know I would probably go insane or become thoroughly depressed if I didn’t have a job to keep me busy, I do often think it’s cruel to have to work all day, when all those books are waiting at home for me to read them. Here’s what I’m particularly longing to read these days:

  • Books about walking. I wrote about this interest not too long ago, but I haven’t had a chance to actually pick up a book about the topic. These include Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Jeffrey Robinson’s book The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image and W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. And there are lots of others that wonderful blog readers suggested to me as well.
  • Books for the Reading Across Borders challenge. I’ve read one in this category, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter, but I’m eager to get to more, especially Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City and Mahfouz’s Palace Walk. I particularly like the Literary Saloon, a blog that focuses on world literature, and I’m both fascinated and overwhelmed by the number of books that blog discusses.
  • Long 19C novels. I’ve listed Balzac, Anne Bronte, and Elizabeth Gaskell as authors I’d like to read this year, but I’d also love to read others, more Trollope, some Turgenev, maybe some Zola. Alas, I don’t think I can handle all this …
  • Interesting, smart, literary nonfiction. I’m thinking here of things like Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary, and the short biography of Proust I’ve got, and Nicholas Basbane’s A Gentle Madness, and a biography by Richard Holmes, and Janet Malcolm’s book on Chekhov, and something by Jenny Diski, and Geoff Dyer’s book on D.H. Lawrence (I’m not sure what I think of D.H. Lawrence, but who can resist a book described as “the best book about not writing a book about D.H. Lawrence ever written”?), and The Oxford Book of Essays, and Lawrence Wescher’s Vermeer in Bosnia and Karen’s Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth. I could go on and on.
  • Travel writing. I have Peter Matthieson’s The Snow Leopard and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia on my shelves and I’m on the lookout for some Jonathan Raban, Robert Byron, Robyn Davidson and others.
  • Pre-20C poetry. I’m not sure when I’ll actually sit down to read some of this, but lately I’ve gotten a hankering to read people like Keats and Shelley (inspired by Richard Holmes, most likely) and Browning and Rosetti.
  • Ancient stuff. Stefanie’s reading of Hesiod and Homer is so inspiring I want to try a little of it myself, although I’m not sure where I’d begin. But wouldn’t it be great to know more about classical literature?

This list doesn’t even touch on all the contemporary novels I want to read, and the mystery stories and the poetry and the essay collections. You can see, probably, why it’s so hard to accept that I can’t spend all my time reading, and why it’s hard for me to believe that if I could spend all my time reading, I’d probably go crazy and start longing for some work to do.

13 Comments

Filed under Books, Lists

13 responses to “What I want to read

  1. if you like travel books, i’d suggest as the romans do by alan epstein. it’s about life in italy and the culture. i wasn’t very interested in italy before reading it, as i’m more of a francophile, but after reading it i fell hopelessly in love with italy and it’s now on my list of places to visit.

    http://sulz.daria.be

  2. I suffer from the same thoughts. It is silly to wish years of my life away, but retirement sure sounds enticing. I never understand those that are worried about how they will spend their days of retirement. I forsee a book a day…

  3. Oh yeah. I can relate to this post. I have a few of the same titles in there as well–especially the 19th C. books. I am curious about the books by Jenny Diski–I saw that Sandra at Bookworld raved about her, though I am not really familiar with this author. I want to read something by DH Lawrence–did you not like him? Does he have an iffy reputation? I really need to read something by Steinbeck this year, too. I still think I don’t read enough American authors. Great list–I am always thinking about this same thing!

  4. I know exactly how you feel. There’s nothing like being busy to make one’s exciting new books start singing a siren song. I’ve just received Richard Holmes’s Footsteps through the post, because you made me want to read it so much. It looks wonderful!

  5. I feel exactly the same way. Wish I could just read all day. At least, though, you leave your books each day. Mine sit around like babies crying for attention as I try to ignore them and focues on the computer.

  6. I add my voice of agreement to everyone else’s. After your post the other day I’m thinking Johnson’s suggestion of five hours a day of reading might not be a bad idea, especially looking around at the books piled on the floor next to my TBR shelf because the shelf is full!

  7. LK

    I hear you, Dorothy. It is so overwhelming sometimes. My job has become extremely difficult in the past year, and sometimes I feel I can barely understand English, much less read books.
    And, I taught 3 adult ed classes at one point, so I completely empathize with how much work is involved in teaching.

    Having said that, you’ve got your list — it will happen! I feel it in my literary bones. And, oooh, I so agree with you about the longish 19th c writing. I’ve been very drawn to that ilk myself lately. I’m toying with the idea of Hugo right now…

    At the risk of tipping you over the edge, have you checked out Words Without Borders? http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/ They have a wonderful e-newsletter all about international writing.

  8. I sympathise! And you’re right, the hours of reading might pall if you didn’t have a job to go to. (I just made my own problem worse today by buying Snow and Anna Karenina. Aaargh.)

  9. I hope you get to everything on your list! I’ve also been inspired by Stefanie – The Illiad is on one of my challenge lists.

  10. It would be so great to have a good knowledge of the classics! Sadly, both the Iliad and the Odyssey have been on my shelf for years and I have no inclination at present to delve into them. The closest I’ve got is Herodotus, which The English Patient inspired me to read.

  11. Thanks for the recommendation Sulz! A book a day sounds lovely Brad. I’m not sure I could that pace though! Danielle, I find Lawrence bizarre, although other people love him. Actually, I’m not sure if I think he’s bizarre in a good way or in a bad way. His novels are sort of realistic, and yet not really — his characters strike me as ways to explore his ideas rather than as actual people. Definitely read him if you are interested — maybe Sons and Lovers to start? That one strikes me as the most approachable. I do hope you enjoy Footsteps, Litlove! You’re right Emily — who knows how much work I’d do if I sat next to my books all day. My TBR shelf is looking that way too Stefanie — overflowing. Amanda, yummy indeed :) I’ve briefly checked out Words Without Borders, LK, and it does look like a great source of recommendations — and I’m always happy to get more. I hope you enjoy your new books Charlotte! Heather, you’ll have a great time with The Iliad, I’m sure. Booktraveller, a good knowledge of the classics is something I’ve wanted for a long time too, but it’s hard to find the time and energy for it.

  12. Hmm. Now I am going to have to give Lawrence a try. I’m not even sure I have any of his books, but I have always been a bit curious about him.

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