Monday, June 11, 2012

30 by 30

You guys, I am 33 years old.  There is a post on Flavorwire (is it spelled "Flavourwire" in Canada?) that lists the 30 books that everyone should read before turning 30.  Since I've passed that milestone, I thought this would be a fun way to document just one of the many ways I've failed as a reader.

Some of these books I started and never finished and some of them I own, but have never read.  There are a few that I read after I turned 30.  In order to keep this all straight, I've developed a slightly complicated system to indicate my successes and failures.  While you read my comments on each book, you can use the key below to decipher my categorizations:

Not read
Started, but never finished (aka DNF)
I own it, but haven't read it
I'm not sure if I've read it (aka my memory is fuzzy)
It's complicated

Here's the list:

The Illiad and The Odyssey, Homer
I have zero interest in reading this.  I read a few parts in High School, but not enough to even mark it as DNF.  Yes, I understand that it's a good story and all, but this kind of thing is not my cup of tea.  Or coffee, for that matter.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Everyone tells me I should read this, and it's got all of the elements of a book that I'd love - a campus novel that opens with a death and goes back to reveal how it happened.  Totally my thing, totally on my TBR list.

Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson
There was a story ("Emergency")  from Jesus' Son in the New Yorker's Fiction Podcast a few years ago and I *loved* it.  Jesus' Son has been on my TBR ever since.  I wasn't able to finish Johnson's Tree of Smoke (not because of the book, but life disrupted my reading in such a way that I couldn't go back to it... maybe someday I'll give it another chance...).  I think "Two Men" was on the Selected Shorts podcast a few years ago too.  Whenever I go into a used bookstore, I look for a copy of Jesus' Son.

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
I have probably read a Flannery O'Connor short story, but I don't remember which one(s), so I'm going to play this one safe and say I haven't read it.

Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
I haven't read Shakespeare since college - hello English 322: Shakespeare's Tragedies!  I don't plan on reading any more Shakespeare.  Ever.  Do I get to say that now that I'm over 30?  I do.  I did.

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
I bought this at the airport in Minneapolis during the three years that I lived in St. Louis and worked in Mpls.  I think I read half of it and lost interest?  I don't exactly remember the circumstances.  I think I liked it, but I got distracted by another shiny book.  For me, a book purchased in the airport represents a last ditch effort to keep from being bookless during my flight.  These books are rarely something that I really wanted to read.

The Road, Cormac McCarthy
I read this when I was 31 over Christmas.  My oldest son was just seven months old and I was still sorting out my feelings about being a father, etc.  This book is about a father and his son at the end of the world and it was an uncomfortable, but really excellent read.

Maus, Art Spiegelman
I remember when this was first published because I thought it looked really cool.  Still haven't read it.

Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
I read this just last year, when I was 32.  It started a brief flurry of science fiction reading that mostly consisted of the first four books in the Ender's Game series.  I recommend Ender's Game over the rest of the books in the series and it can be read as a stand-alone title.  Recommended for those who aren't into science fiction but are looking for a gateway.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Austen, the Bronte Sisters - not my thing.  I have read some of these books and they're fine, but I don't reach for the classics when I want something to read.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
This book was so much better than I expected.  Highly recommended.

Ghost World, Daniel Clowes
I saw the movie?

On the Road, Jack Kerouac
I read this during the spring of my senior year of high school, which is probably the optimum time to read On The Road.  I even performed a monologue  that came from the text in my theater class.  This book holds a special place in my heart because I read it during a really great time in my life and I found it amazingly inspiring and wonderful.  I haven't touched the book since because I know it's probably not as great as I remember and I don't want to tarnish my memories of it.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
I am only vaguely aware of this book

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
I have read this, but I think that Slaughterhouse-Five is much better. I read Cat's Cradle during that period that I was commuting to Minneapolis every week and I remember thinking that I didn't get why people thought it was one of Vonnegut's best.  I thought Mother Night and S5 were both better books.
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
In the fall of 1997, I got into a minivan-van with a few of my best friends to drive from St. Louis to Denver.  We intended to catch three Phish shows in row - two in Denver and one in Champaign, Illinois.  We broke down on the way to Denver in Junction City, Kansas and ended up missing the first show.  We took a Greyhound bus to Denver and caught the second night (later released as Live Phish 11) .  Before we broke down, we were listening to an audio audiobook book of Lolita.  I never finished it.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Since I found The Lord of the Rings in my grandmother's Cape Cod home when I was 10, I've made at least five attempts to read these books.  It just never grabs me.  So I saw the movies instead.

1984, George Orwell
I have a nice battered 80's paperback of this, but I've never read it.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
I read this for a High School English class when I was 14 or 15.  I absolutely loved it.  

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I did my last two years of high school at a boarding school in St. Louis.  I loved my English classes and it was in the 11th grade that I read Gatsby.  I remember that I finished it waaaay ahead of schedule and I read it a second time just for fun.
Beloved, Toni Morrison
I've never read anything by Toni Morrison.  Maybe someone should sell me on it?

Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Done and done.  I've read this twice and it's my favorite novel EVER.

Lord of the Flies, William Golding
I think I read this in high school.  I can't remember if it was in the public school in Massachusetts or boarding school in Missouri.  I remember that I liked it and that I sought out a few film versions.

Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes

The Trial, Franz Kafka
I feel like I've read this, but I have no memory of actually reading it.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
I read Mrs. Dalloway in college, but never To the Lighthouse.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
I've read this at least three times.

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Read this in college and I remember that I liked it but I really didn't see what all the fuss was about.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Another high school read (public school, I think).  Who doesn't love To Kill a Mockingbird?!

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
Again, I feel like I've read this and I even own a really nice copy of it, but my memory is fuzzy.

In summation: I've read 13, DNF'd 4, own 2, confused about 2 , have a complicated relationship with 1 and haven't read 9.  Not too shabby!

How about you?  

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