About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, October 05, 2007

How many of these books have you read?

This meme is doing the rounds at the moment. I found it on John Wilkins' blog.

As far as I can work out, these "books of pretension" are supposed to be books commonly found on people's shelves but left unread.

I've bolded the ones that I've read myself. One is supposed to italicise partly-read books, but that is almost irrelevant since I seldom give up on a book once I begin. Nonetheless, there are a couple. E.g. I doubt that I've read the entirety of The Canterbury Tales, and I must get back to Foucault's Pendulum one day.

There are quite a few here that are on my waiting-to-be-read list, such as Cryptonomicon, which has now been there for a long time - I'll get to it soon. There's an awful lot of classics that I somehow missed on. It really hurts to me to admit some of them, e.g. that I still haven't got around to reading The Satanic Verses. I don't think I've ever actually read A Tale of Two Cities, either, or The Grapes of Wrath, I realised, though I've read enough about them that I kind of thought I had for a second.

Oh well, let the plain-text titles stand as a nagging check-list of books that I must get to.

Anyway, here goes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers


Anonymous said...

I've only read 8! I really need to get cracking.

Russell Blackford said...

There are some mistakes in the list - e.g. I'm sure they mean Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, not 1984 by Samuel R. Delany. It's not a huge issue for me, since I've read both.

I know that there are at least four books on the list that Jenny has read but which are still on my "must-read" list, including the three by Neil Gaiman. (I suspect that there'll be quite a few more than four when she has a look.)

My knowledge of Neil's work really is based on his early stuff such as the whole Sandman thing, so this reminds me that I must go and catch up on what he's been doing in the last few years that has made him such a huge name.

The bastards don't list any philosophical works, dammit. I might have done better if Plato, Kant, Hume, etc., had been there. It would have produced a lot more italicised works, I suppose, since it's difficult ploughing through the entirety of huge philosophical tomes (though I've read such things as Leviathan, Hume's Treatise, and even the biggest of Plato's dialogues, in their entirety).

As someone with an Eng. lit Ph.D, I don't have much excuse for missing classics like Middlemarch. I took a set against George Eliot as an undergrad and dodged her major works all the way through my first degree.

Russell Blackford said...

Yeah, Stuart, but you have more time ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

In 2005 I had this habit of going to op shops and buying all their good books. This means I actually own a few 'books of pretention' that I haven't read (eg Watership Down, Crime and Punishment, Treasure Island) which I plan to fix over the summer.

Interesting that the list includes Cryptonomicon over Snow Crash.

Blake Stacey said...

I've read all the Gaiman books on that list, at least. I'm surprised that his novels would be "found on people's shelves but left unread"; they just don't strike me as that kind of book. Ditto for Slaughterhouse-Five. It's just too short!

Lolita, I've heard, is a book people pick up in the expectation of pornography. They get midway through and then give up.

The only "book of pretension" I've got around right now is Murasaki's The Tale of Genji. I started reading it, and I was really enjoying it, but it was demanding more time than I could give. Soon, soon!

Cryptonomicon is thicker than Snow Crash, isn't it? Maybe that's why it's on this particular list, although for most other purposes — say, listing the important works in the history of postcyberpunk — Snow Crash would be the more prominent.

Blake Stacey said...

This reminds me: I really need to write up the story of the one time I met Neil Gaiman, almost exactly six years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm just happy that any Science Fiction made it onto the list. Rarely on a list of important novels you will see Sci-Fi other than the usual dystopian suspects.

Russell Blackford said...

Dammit ... over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers has read (slightly) more of them than I have.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Blake - Snow Crash should be on there rather than Cryptonomicon. I see you haven't read Cloud Atlas. I can highly recommend it - the most amazing book I've read in several years.

Russell Blackford said...

I suppose Snow Crash isn't on there because it's a book that people actually read. :)

Remember, these are books of pretension - books that people have on their shelves, uread. In my case, I have Snow Crash on my shelf - but I've actually read it. I do have Cryptonomicon on my shelf, too, but it's been too daunting so far. The damn thing is huge. So, it works well as a book of pretension for me.

But I need to read it soon for another purpose, so I'll report back. There are a couple of others that I need to read for the same purpose.

Russell Blackford said...

Er, "unread" ... though "uread" would be a nice word.

Blake Stacey said...

An ur-ead would be the original ead, whatever an ead might be. And The Uread (or maybe Uriad) would be the epic poem of the hero Ur, the one who founded the city named after himself, of course.