In 2016 I managed to beat 2015’s all-time-low but it came in at more than ten books less than the next closest year. 2016 was not as rough a year as 2015 but it remained a difficult one personally and professionally. Despite not getting much reading in I’ve continued to purchase books and my to-read list is becoming unwieldy. I’m hoping to knock off a significant number of titles in 2017. I don’t usually set goals but I’m going to try and read ten more than I did last year with my total somewhere in the 40s by end of year. I hope you’ll reach your reading goals this year as well.
We’re all guilty of it. You walk into a bookstore just to browse and end up walking out with a small handful of purchases to add to the ever growing of backlog of books you own but haven’t read. Or maybe a book is so popular in your social group that despite never cracking the book open you can easily describe the narrative as well as expound on the symbolism found within it. Or perhaps it’s a part of the canon and while you’ve never actually sat down to read the book you’ve fallen in love with a play, movie, or TV series that was adapted from or inspired by the book. In our media rich culture there’s almost an endless way to absorb a novel without ever having to read it.
However you came to it you I’m betting you there are books that you’ve judged, sorted, and ranked without ever having read a chapter of. Below I share my five favorite books that I’ve never read.
Five Favorite Books I’ve Never Read
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – Remember this book? You were supposed to read it your freshman year in high school. Like me though, you probably instead got the cliff notes on the book and made do. Why? Because every time you tried to read the actual book you fell asleep two paragraphs in! That’s okay though, because everyone in the English speaking world knows what this book is about. The story of a disgusting peasant rag child who through pluck, and incredible luck becomes rich and then through more pluck and incredible bad luck becomes poor again. At some point there is love and betrayal. And then more love. Like, I said you already knew what this book was.
4. Emma by Jane Austen – The first of two Jane Austen books on this list. No one has ever read Emma outside of English majors and screenwriters. The book sits sadly on its shelf desperate for attention, meanwhile Clueless is in semi-constant rotation on Cable TV. We’ve all seen Clueless, don’t lie, and we all secretly wished to either be Cher or Josh, though I suppose a few us were hoping to be Christian… So, you’ve kinda been fantasizing about a Georgian-Regency romance novel since 1995. Who knew?
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I know this book is really thick and I know we’re all supposed to have read it before. I also know that the English speaking world doesn’t have anyone in it that serves as an analog for the position Tolstoy holds in Russian literature and culture. War and Peace is a meditation on the Patriotic War of 1812 told through the lives of noble families in Russia. The cast is large and the relationships byzantine. Though the language is haunting and beautiful.
2. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – Post Modernism’s very own Ulysses, Wallace’s Infinite Jest is a 1000+ page, overwrought, disorganized, epic that at times seems to be describing the lives of drug addicts, tennis players, and terrorists in a dystopian NAFTA state. The book serves as a means in itself and the mere act of reading the book has been taken as some as a badge of honor. Understanding the book though? Not understanding it might have been Wallace’s point all along.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – It’s Bridget Jones’ Diary! That’s right! Another Georgian-Regency Rom-Com! This is the one where two people hate each other at first but then fall in love as their forced to interact repeatedly. So, basically it’s every rom-com you’ve ever seen. It’s also full of clever dialogue.
I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read since 2010 and this last year was by far the worst year so far. I’ve averaged about 50 books a year for the past five years, this year’s total comes in at a measly 23. There were a number of extenuating circumstances this past year (separation, new job, divorce, etc.) that took up not only time but mental space that I usually set aside for personal and professional reading. I’m hopeful that in 2016 things will trend back towards the mean.
I kept track, once again, of all the books I read in 2014. It came to a grand total of 48 this year. That’s six more than I read in 2013 and one more than I read in 2012. 2010 is still my best year in reading (69 books) since I started tracking this. My goal for 2015 is to break into the fifties this year.
Sit Down and Shut up by Brad Warner
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
This Gaming Life by Jim Rossignol
What the Koran Really Says by Ibn Warraq
Note from Underground Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Origins of the Koran by Ibn Warraq
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
Lumberjanes #1 by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
King Lear by William Shakespeare
The Simon & Kirby Library: Horror! by Jack Kirby
A Darkling Sea by James Cambias
X-Men The Dark Phoenix Saga by Claremont & Byrne
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Cities without Suburbs: a 2010 Perspective by David Rusk
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason
Normandy: A Graphic History of D-Day, The Allied Invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe by Wayne Vansant
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil
Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith by Ron L. Anderson
Cryptozoologicon, Volume 1 by Darren Naish
Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Christ Myth Theory and its Problems by Robert M. Price
Abominable Science by Daniel Loxton
Death Masks by Jim Butcher
Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
Anatomy of a Game: Super Mario Bros. by Jeremy Parish
The Diamond Throne by David Eddings
The Ruby Knight by David Eddings
The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings
Cthulhu in World Mythology by Jason Colavito
ZZT by Anna Anthropy
Chrono Trigger by Michael P. Williams
Terror by Dan Simmons
The Sleep of Reason edited by Spike
Tomboy by Liz Prince
In the Dust of this Planet by Eugene Thacker
Flame and Smoke edited by Andy Keener
Light in the Dark edited by Andy keener
Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection by Kris D. Komarnitsky
Piranha Frenzy by Colin Campbell
To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North and William Shakespeare