On Christmas Presents

I hope everyone got everything they wanted for Christmas and had some good quality Christmas partying with their loved ones too. It was a bit quiet here in the author’s household, but I did get some nice presents from my incredibly thoughtful spouse. These consisted, naturally, almost entirely of books. For the most part however, they weren’t ‘Fun’ books precisely, so much as reference type works. And one, particularly, will be incredibly useful to me as a writer. This one is the Updated Edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited (mainly) by Peter Boxall.

This book, is exactly what it says it is, a list with descriptions of 1001 books that everyone should read. And yet, as Peter Boxhall’s Preface and Introduction both state, it is so much more. It and its previous edition are, in fact, the opening shots to what apparently has become a worldwide debate on reading, why we do it, how we do it, and what we should read. More than the book itself, I think the ‘gift’ of this debate is the most precious thing of all for a new writer. Of course, the book will also boost my private reading list, making me a more well-read writer, which can only be to the good. But having this debate opened before me makes even more sense for a writer. After all, a writer who wishes to be published must cater to her Readers. But, before one can cater to anything, one must know what is desired. Thinking about the answers to the questions “Why do we read?” and “What do we read?” is important to this. This book doesn’t exactly answer these questions (indeed, I’m not sure such questions are precisely answerable in any definitive way), and neither does it pretend to be an exhaustive list of everything one should read. In fact, it cheerfully admits that some books are left out of the list which should be read, and hopes that we as readers will continue to read these. Nor are these titles strictly all best-sellers, or even all ‘literary’ (whatever that means) novels.

I admit, that at first, upon reading the title, my heart sank a bit. Here was another judgemental, dogmatic, pronouncement on what I ‘should’ be reading, regardless of whether it appealed to me or not. This sort of list generally offends and depresses me, because my favorite books are rarely on it. I was even further depressed, upon glancing through, not to even recognize most of the authors, never-mind the titles, contained within. However, upon further investigation, and reading of the aforementioned Preface and Introduction, I realized that my fears were unfounded. This book is not a list meant to exclude those who haven’t read these books from the ranks of the ‘well-read’ but rather more in the nature of a series of recommendations for those looking for something new to read. The more than 100 contributors to the book vary from critics, to academics, to novelists, to journalists, and the works listed vary widely as a consequence, not only in genre and style but also in time period.

Needless to say, I have not read all of the entries contained in this book yet, as I am still slightly overwhelmed by 1001 Books itself. Therefore, I don’t believe I can give my Reader an adequate post concerning the debate which it could be said to represent, and I leave that to be dealt with in the future. Nor have I even chosen a book to begin reading from within the list, though I am leaning towards Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible simply on the principle that I’ve enjoyed her other books and always felt I should read that one, but not yet read it. I shall certainly keep the interested Reader updated however.

Thought for the Day: I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”  Fred Rogers

Currently Reading: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited By Peter Boxall


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