Monday, December 5, 2011

Important Books I Haven't Read

I'm currently reading Lit, a memoir by Mary Karr. Like Karr's first memoir, The Liar's Club, Lit is fantastic. (Thanks, Tina, for loaning it to me.)
I'm about midway through. At this point in the book, Karr is teaching at a college, struggling with a drinking problem and an unhappy marriage, and disappointed by the underwhelming response to the publication of her first book of poetry. This morning, I came to this passage that made me laugh out loud.

A few people are starting to trickle through the halls, and I seize up, 
overcome with a sense of inadequacy to teach anybody anything. I simply can't be the dumb person in this place one more instant. Before I can stop myself, I loudly say, Let's start a contest for who hasn't read the most important book. I raise my hand like a testifying evangelist to shout, I haven't read Spenser's Faerie Queene. Who hasn't read a greater book?
A friend pokes his head from an office, yelling, I never read Moby Dick.
Somebody behind me says, I haven't read Byron's Don Juan.
A passing scholar corrects the pronunciation to what I guess must be super-anglicized Oxfordese, saying, Don Jew-wan.
Pompous effing fop, I think. You should be shot.

The other day my cousin criticized me for never finishing Atlas Shrugged. He said "If you can't get through Atlas Shrugged, you have bigger problems than a book." He was kind of an "a-hole" about it. His words, not mine. All I did was agree with him. (He's really not an a-hole. He's just got the same smart ass gene most members of my family have.)

But I certainly do have bigger problems than a book. My friends, I have problems that would make you cry to your mommy, hide under your bed, and drink excessive amounts of gut-rotting moonshine. Oddly, I'm OK with my problems. I find them terribly interesting (which is why I'm writing a book about them and gazing at my navel all damn day).

When I'm not writing a book, though, I'm reading other books. (OK, sometimes I'm just watching Hitch for the 132nd time on TBS. Dammit, Will Smith, I can't quit you.)

Me and my bangs, 20 years ago
Watching Hitch or reruns of Sex and the City and going online to and clicking on stories about Taylor Swift's new bangs have kept me from reading plenty of important books. When I do these things, it's as if my brain cells aren't just dying, they are jumping overboard like doomed passengers on the Titanic. These cells know they aren't necessary while I think that, "Yes, Taylor's bangs are super cute and maybe I'm ready for bangs again. Bangs would cover my worry lines." Followed immediately by this thought: "No, Amy, don't you remember how long it took to grow them out 20 years ago?"

My brain cells also aren't required while I think for the millionth time that Carrie is a bitch and her relationship with Big is masochistic but I certainly would love to have Big come find me in Paris.

I hope these brain cells make their way to a lifeboat because they'll be needed if I ever decide to read all the important books I have yet to read. I confess, though, that I'm at the point where I wonder if I should even bother with some of these. There are so many books to read, more on the shelves every day. It's overwhelming! One day in Books-a-Million, a woman walked past me in the fiction section and said, "So many books, so little time." We both laughed, but I think we recognized each other as people who understand that "so many books, so little time" is not just a catchy little phrase. It's one of life's insurmountable challenges.

My favorite episode of Twilight Zone is the one in which the world ends and a henpecked bookworm played by Burgess Meredith is the last man alive. (He was saved because he was in the vault at the bank. This apocalyptic event must have been similar to the one in Night of the Comet in which the cheerleader survives because she was in a metal storage shed. Then she goes to the mall. But I digress.)
Poor Burgess is about to commit suicide when he sees the public library. He walks over and finds he is surrounded by piles of books.
"Collected works of Dickens! Collected works of George Bernard Shaw!" Bookgasm!
So many books, SO MUCH TIME! At last, he can read without his wife nagging him or his boss hounding him. In fact, the title of the episode is "Time Enough, At Last."
And then, and then...Oh God, it's just too horrific to say.
He bends down to pick up a book, stumbles, his glasses fall off and shatter.
Now he can't see to read all those wonderful books. (I wonder if he can see well enough to find a Wal-Mart and steal some glasses from the optical center. He should pick up some beer while he's there, too.)
Oh, the humanity.

Man, I loved that show. (You can catch a marathon of Twilight Zone episodes on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on SyFy.)

Anyway, here are a list of 25 important books I haven't read. (Warning: This list is random and in no particular order and is by no means representative of all the important books I have failed to read. This list may cause nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, or numbness. Do not read this list while operating heavy machinery. Do not read this list while pregnant or breastfeeding. If reading this list causes an erection that lasts more than four hours, seek emergency treatment.)

1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
3. Twilight by Leo Tolstoy (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (click on the title for a treat)
6. Don Juan by Lord Byron
7. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
8.  Paradise Lost by John Milton
9. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
10. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. (I have, however read Rushdie's pitiful attempts to hook up via Facebook with this "gorgeous, hottt! : )" chick. Oh, Salman, really?)
11. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
12. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
13. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
14. Animal Farm by George Orwell
15. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
17. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
18. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
19. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
20. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
21. Middlemarch by George Eliot
22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
23. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
24. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
25. Breaking Dawn: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

What classic, important books have you not read?
How many times have you watched Hitch on TBS?
Do you think I should have bangs again?


  1. Whatever you do, do not read Jane Eyre or Madame Bovary. Little known fact: Jane Eyre is the reason Prozac was invented.

  2. Frankly, the only thing you're missing with most of those books is a massive headache. But it does break my heart a little that you haven't read Tess...Hardy is my favorite British author. And Animal Farm is kind of cool and super short--a wonderful combination.

  3. Some thoughts:

    Your cousins are not smart-asses, I don't know where you got that idea :-)

    Do you remember that family dinner we had back in - oh gosh, Richard was 14 or so. Don't make me calculate the year. In Shreveport at some restaurant. Three generations of smartassery and drinking! I remember thinking that Richard was hanging with the best of us, but maybe that's because he was the only one too young too drink.

    Thank you so much for not putting Melville on that list.

  4. I, of course, have read every book on this list. And I've watched this particular Hitch scene approximately eleventy billion times. My fave!

  5. Important books that I have not read include:
    The Beautiful and Damned - Fitzgerald
    The Fable - Faulkner
    As I Lay Dying - Faulkner
    Ulysses - Joyce (although I've read about 50 pages at least 10 times)
    Lolita - Nabokov (but loved his short stories)
    War and Peace - Tolstoy (dear God how I tried because I loved Anna Karenina SO much, but I just couldn't get through W&P)
    Amy, if you don't read anything else on your list, you must read Anna Karenina and The Bell Jar.

    I have never watched Hitch on TBS, but I don't watch much of anything so that is not a slam at Hitch.

    I do NOT think you should have bangs - it shortens the face, and your elegantly shaped forehead is one of your most charming features.

  6. ok, i have read a few of those, of course, i don't remember them very well. It's funny that the first post discouraged you from reading Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary, and those were the 2 i was going to suggest. i agree with the Animal Farm person, it's a short read!! Oh, yeah don't get bangs!! I shudder to think of all the ones you didn't list that I haven't read!!!!!

  7. No. 2 has been on my list to READ for a decade maybe longer. I pass by it at the book store time and time again, only to find something ten times more interesting with a kick ass cover that i buy...leaving the store yet again without anna karenananananana. or however the hell you say it annna, nana, renana.

  8. I vote for bangs. During the time it takes them to grow, you could ... read a whole lot of books.


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