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.