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Books *ouch*

I 'm in stupid pain (left arm hurts all the way up to the shoulder - or should I say all the way down from the shoulder, and the right is getting cranky), so I'm cheating and going with the book meme I ganked from stanci :

These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand. The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One hundred years of solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
The Silmarillion (104)
Life of Pi : a novel (94)
The name of the rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A tale of two cities (80)
The brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
War and peace (78)
Vanity fair (74)
The time traveler's wife (73)
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The kite runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great expectations (70)
American gods (68)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
Atlas shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (65)
The Canterbury tales (64)
The historian : a novel (63)
A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
Love in the time of cholera (62)
Brave new world (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59) (X 3)
A clockwork orange (59)
Anansi boys (58)
The once and future king (57)
The grapes of wrath (57)
The poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & demons (56)
The inferno (56)
The satanic verses (55)
Sense and sensibility (55)
The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
To the lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's travels (53)
Les misérables (53) - I imagine seeing the musical doesn't count.
The corrections (53)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay (52)
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
Dune (51)
The prince (51)
The sound and the fury (51)
Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
The god of small things (51)
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A confederacy of dunces (50)
A short history of nearly everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The unbearable lightness of being (49)
Beloved (49)
Slaughterhouse-five (49)
The scarlet letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
The mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
Cloud atlas (47)
The confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger abbey (46)
The catcher in the rye (46)
On the road (46)
The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (45)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values (45)
The Aeneid (45) - I know I've read this one, but I'll be darned if I can remember what it was about...
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's rainbow (44)
The Hobbit (44)
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (44)
White teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The three musketeers (44) 

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised at myself - I'm okay on the classics (though I refuse to read any more Ayn Rand, and the Russians always defeat me), but I'm not so up on my contemporary literature.  I'm amused by the amount of Jane Austen on the list - does everyone buy her books and then not get around to actually reading them?  There's some fun stuff in them that never shows up in the movies/miniseries, so they are worth it.  Also, we're short on my favourite philosopher, Camus.  Either no-one buys his books any more, or everyone still reads him.  

I'm guessing the former, though you really should at least read The Plague, if you want a rounded literary experience.

I also find the composition of the list interesting, since it seems to reflect the books people have bought, but not read.  It looks like people are buying books they think they "should" read, but quite rightly are leaving them on the shelf and reading something else.  I don't see anything wrong with this at all - a book should be a pleasure, not a chore.  It can be challenging, frustrating, infuriating, delightful, easy, or hard, but it should never be boring.  Life's too short.

The "Classics" are called such because they reach across generations with a message relevant to the people still reading them; in my opinion, it's all right to let a "classic" die if it no longer has anything to connect it with the current generation of readers.  Forcing people to read simply makes them hate reading; sneak up on them with things they like, then introduce them to some "classic" books.  

And everyone has a different personal "classics" list - mine has most of Jane Austen's work, but would leave out Emma, because I always thought she was a spoiled bitch with no real redeeming qualities.  I'd put in almost all of Ray Bradbury's work, but only a couple of Vonnegut's.  My beloved Camus would be on there, but fuck that second-rate philosophical hack, Umberto Eco.

The Inferno would be on there, but so would Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno, as it's a good book, and would help someone new to Dante to understand where he was coming from.  And Ethan Frome would be nowhere to be found, because I can't read it without wanting to scream (well, I kind of feel that way about all of Edith "the depressinator" Wharton's work). 

(Though I have almost all of her books.  I don't know what I was thinking - I kept reading, hoping one would have a happy ending, but they never did.  The only one with a quasi-happy ending was finished by someone else after her death - and boy, Ms. Wharton must have been pissed about that.)

...And I'd have more poetry.  People don't appreciate poetry any more, and I miss it.  Good poetry, I mean, though funny will do in a pinch.  As long as it's not lame.
 

Comments

( 32 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
isabelladangelo
Oct. 2nd, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
I read a lot of the Jane Austin books (as well as many others on this list) back in High School. Some were for class, some were for myself. I always giggle at Watership Down simply because I fell in love with the movie when I was 7 and read the entire book when I was 8. I still remember the look on the Librarian's face...

...and does it count if you read only part of the book but it was in it's original language? Well, technically the illiad isn't a book anyways, it's a ballad...
isabelladangelo
Oct. 2nd, 2007 11:30 am (UTC)
UGH! Note to self: Do not post before breakfast.

What I was going to post was that I didn't like Ethan Frome either but it's not as bad as that book that haunted me through my High School and even college learning experiences...I, to this day, loathe "A Separate Peace" I'm glad that didn't make the list. It's terrible. If you haven't read it, thank God you have avoided it.

I'm slightly surprised that "The art of War" and none of Shakespeare's plays made it...and what about Jules Verne?
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soldiergrrrl
Oct. 2nd, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)
This is totally OT to the book meme, but I had to laugh at your icon.

I own a zombie bunny. It was the second present my husband ever bought me. The first was a leopard-print dice bag and a cube of pink six-siders.

Thank you for the giggle and the trip down memory lane.
attack_laurel
Oct. 2nd, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
...That icon came from a discussion in my old on-line journal about why vegetarian zombies aren't scary. I love zombie things - have you seen the zombie Marvel superheroes figurines? They sell them in the Entertainment Earth catalogue here.
(Deleted comment)
attack_laurel
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
It's definitely different styles. I can't pull it to mind offhand (since it's oacked away in a box), but there's an excellent translation that also provides a synopsis at the beginning of each verse, and that helps a *lot* with a first-time read. Foreign-language translations (especially verse) are one of the few instances where I actually recommend getting the Cliff's Notes to help with understanding what's going on. No just reading the CFs and skipping the book, though!
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ladyaneira
Oct. 2nd, 2007 12:52 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I get it. That is, what does "marked as unread" mean? These are not the books that gather dust on library shelves, never seeing the light of day. Why do I say that? Because even if I haven't read it, I've *heard* of almost every book on this list. The truly unread and untalked-about books are the godawful physics monographs and stuff like that.
attack_laurel
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
Like I said above to another commenter, these are the books that LT users have catalogued as part of their libraries, but they haven't read. i.e., they bought them, but didn't read them. In that, it's an interesting sociological meme - people buy books because they feel they should have them, but (let's give them the benefit of the doubt) haven't gotten around to reading them.

I have a couple of history books I've added to my research library that I still haven't made time to read...
(Deleted comment)
odettedamboise
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
I am big fan of the Richmond Lattimore translations of the Illiad and the Odyssey. They are particularly readable.
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
hazebrouck
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:03 pm (UTC)
I predict this list will go around the sca lj world in a flash. I can't stand Jane Austen. Enduring weeks of boredom just to find out that, predictably, the heroine DID marry someone nice was just too much for me, even as a teen. I never got it. Oddly, I read the heck out of Dickens. I've read MOST of Dickens, really read it.
attack_laurel
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
They're great satires on the insecurities of the English class system, but unless you're really into the English class system, you're really only reading a wordy romance novel.

My favourite JA book is Persuasion - the flow of the book works well for me. But then, I cut my teeth on her books, and have always loved them. I can even relate to her - I am related to an Earl on my mother's side, while my grandfather was estate manager for the Astors. :)
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dragonazure
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I haven't done too badly on that list thanks to taking advanced English and Literature classes in junior and senior high school. Oddly enough, a lot of the standard works that most people had to read (Grapes of Wrath, Catch-22, Great Expectations) got bypassed in my classes in favor of longer or more philosophical works.

I'm a little puzzled by the "Unread" designation, though. I think I have only a couple of (literature/novels) books that I have bought that I have not actually read. For some reason, I have a copy of The 39 Steps that I have never opened. History books are a different matter--they get used as reference material. 8^) I suppose some people are putting in books they inherited, bought as décor, to make themselves appear more literate, or intend to read "someday".

ealdthryth brought a large number of books into the marriage with her. Surprisingly, there wasn't a tremendous amount of overlap in our personal libraries, so two large collections turned into one really big one. And it continues to grow--ever heard of the term "explosive parthenogenesis" or the theory that books have their own special gravitational attraction that causes other books to to be attracted to them?
attack_laurel
Oct. 2nd, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
I just always thought my books had mad lustful booksecks when I wasn't watching them. :) We're putting a library into the new house not just because we love libraries, but because we have far too many books to fit into other rooms - they've already taken over the computer/SCA room, and that's just the Elizabethan-specific reference books, not the Tom Swift collection of Bob's, or all our fiction/non-fiction/art books that are either in boxes at the new house or taking over my studio.
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countess_rosina
Oct. 2nd, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to find out that someone else feels the same way about Emma. So annoying! It is the only Austen book I've only read once, and it was a struggle to get through even then. Persuasion? I probably read it once a year. Sir Walter Elliot kills me!
odettedamboise
Oct. 2nd, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
Captain Frederick Wentworth... *sigh*
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xntryk
Oct. 2nd, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC)
A shame about George Orwell. Lots of people purchased 1984 around, well, 1984 -- thinking there were great philosophical insights to be gathered. And when they didn't see what they were looking for, out into sheds and discount bins it went.

Orwell's insight on the matter, reading it now, is spooky. He got a lot of things right -- just got the year wrong. I see us moving closer to Orwell's Oceania than further from it. The whole idea of "who controls the past, controls the future" should be of some discussion for us SCAdian sort, certainly.

Was surprised to see On The Road on there. I'm assuming this is the Jack Kerouac journal... and there are great insights within. However, it's also a period piece (in the same vein as I view Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) and it's aged. I think when the original rights lapsed a few years ago, booksellers flooded the market, aiming at the youth culture and totally missing the target. Sad, too. Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson are the great measure of that generation... and to see both fade is disappointing.

And, I'll break the cycle here. I can't stand Jane Austen. Maybe it's the fact that my mom and I both rebelled against the faux-Victorian morals and culture my grandmother tried to force on both of us, but Austen seems predictable. I'd rather read a Star Trek novel.
sileas_1
Oct. 2nd, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Amen! I would far sooner read a Star Trek novel than Austen as well. Contrary to comments earlier, I loved the Russian novelists, I found the insight into the totalitarian regime fascinating, but then I read the Russians during the Cold War. I really can't handle Stienbeck though, he's much more depressing than any of the Russian authors.
( 32 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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