Sunday, September 16, 2012

31 Before 31

In the midst of half-marathon training, planning for my trip to Abu Dhabi,  writing my book (supposedly), and all of my normal life activities (trivia, happy hours, Book Club, a Weezer concert, making curried chick pea and lentil stew, and drinking lots of pumpkin beers) I decided that I was bored and needed yet another challenge to occupy my time.

I come up with lots of Challenges for myself, don't I?

Whatever. It gives my life purpose and meaning where without it, all would be lost.

Or something like that.

My latest Challenge came out of reading Wild a couple of weeks ago. In the book, Cheryl Strayed takes on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking from Mexico to Oregon, and her sole source of entertainment (beyond the great outdoors) is a series of books she mails to herself and reads along the trail. Books like Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and other tomes. And I realized that I've never read Faulkner.

Yes, I confess it, out loud, here in public - I, who call myself a writer and someone well-read and well-spoken, have never read Faulkner.

I wondered if perhaps I was alone in this phenomenon, and so I turned to Google to make me feel better about myself (which works only about 14% of the time, btw), and started generating lists like "50 Books Every Writer Should Read" and "10 Books Every College Graduate Should Have Read," and I started to feel worse and worse.

In my defense: I was never an English Lit major.

In my defense: Sophie Kinsella is very entertaining.

I thought about the very long flights I have coming up quite soon in my life, and I came up with a new challenge for myself: 31 Before 31 of Books I Feel I Should Have Read. The "31" aspect being that I have until my birthday to complete this challenge, which is just about 8.5 months.

My method for constructing this list was completely arbitrary, and mostly made up of works I've heard and seen referenced in art, culture, cocktail conversation, or on those lists of "Why The F%#* Haven't You Read This - Was Your College Library Bereft?"

(Answer: no. But I was too busy in college learning film theory and how to write a treatment and analyzing boys' AIM away messages.)

I tried to get Lee on board with this project, but since he has recently left the freelancing world and joined the ranks of the rest of us 9-5ers, he is disgruntled about life and feels he has no time for such silliness. Oh, and also, he's like renovating his house or something that sounded more important than reading books and stuff.

So, I have laid out what is a pretty daunting task for myself. Especially since my brain, after work all day and writing this stupid book I'm supposed to write so that I can have a stupid puppy, just really really wants to read some Louise Bagshawe. WHO, BY THE WAY, RAN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE. AND WON. I just thought I'd point that out, because I feel it lends a bit more street cred to delicious gems like The Devil You Know, which I bought from a Waterstone's in London.

Anyhoodle, here's the list. So far, I am crawling my way through Portrait of the Artist. I need to come up with some level of accepting when a book can be considered "read" because, let's be honest, between Dedalus's whining about his Catholic guilt and all of the "ideal woman" imagery it's just slow-going. I don't want to force myself to eat something I don't like, but I must taste everything and I must at least come up with a sound reason as to why I don't like the book. I think that's fair. The purpose here is enlightenment, not punishment.

Also, I only have 25 books listed here as I am open to suggestions.

1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
2. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
3. The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing
4. Lolita, Nabokov
5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
6. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Hemingway
7. The Rules of Attraction, Brett Easton Ellis
8. Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Dandicat
9. Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
10. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
11. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
12. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
13. The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
14. Cities of Salt, Abdul Rahman Munif
15. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
16. The Satanic Verses, Salmon Rushdie
17. Native Son, Richard Wright
18. The Savage Detectives, Bolano
19. Jesus' Son, Denis Hale Johnson
20. Notebook, Agota Christof (NOTE - not "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks. Come on.)
21. White Noise, Don DeLillo
22. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy
23. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
24. The 19th Wife, David Evershoff
25. As I Lay Dying, Faulkner

Ready, set, read.


Anonymous said...

How did you not read "Native Son"? That was required reading in 11th grade. (Good book though!)

The New Glitterati said...

No...I didn't. Wait - did I? Hold please....Wikipedia to the rescue. No, I really don't remember reading this. I'm pretty sure I took "Contemporary Voices" in 11th grade so many I missed this one?

The Canadian/Lebanese said...

I personally think Atlas Shrugged is over-rated and I found Satanic Verses way too philosophical. But if you're into philosophy and such, I would strongly recommend The Prophet by Gibran Khalil Gibran. Bonus: It's fairly short too.

Anonymous said...

Faulkner is a must! But I feel this list is missing two amazing authors, Fyodor Dostoyevsky to which I would recommend The Brothers Karamazov for the list, and my personal all time favorite Kurt Vonnegut. Not sure which book of his I would choose however.


Anonymous said...

We ALL took Contemporary Voices in 11th grade. Who knows, maybe Mrs. Smithers decided not to teach it your year? Regardless, good to read it now! :-)

The New Glitterati said...

@The Canadian/Lebanese: Good call. I added that one. Been wanting to read it.

@Tom - You loaned me 2 Vonnegut books four months ago. I have read exactly none of them. Fail.

@Kris - I didn't have Mrs. Smithers. I can't remember who I did I not read Native Son? I feel cheated from my public school education.

Anonymous said...

I was at the DC book festival this weekend and heard the author Eric Weiner speak. He writes about his search for God by exploring different religions around the world. There's a lot of humor, and it sounded like a good read. I don't know if that would count as a 31 before 31 book, but I still thought I'd mention it.

The Canadian/Lebanese said...

I thought Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos: A Novel was a very fun, easy read with a cool perspective on evolution. Unless you're a creationist, which is totally NOT cool.