Saturday, March 28, 2009

Project Fill-in-the-Gaps

Awhile ago, my friend Andromeda Romano-Lax, the author of the beloved novel The Spanish Bow, told me about a project of hers, which I've decided to totally rip off (sorry, Andromeda).

She collected a list of 100 books that she wants to have read in her life to fill in some of her reading gaps of classics and great contemporary fiction. She knew it was a monumental task ahead of her--we all tend to choose fun things instead of things we should read, right? At least I do--so she gave herself 5 years to try to get through the list, and gave herself 25% accident forgiveness, meaning if she finishes 75 titles in 5 years, she'll consider herself to have been victorious.

I'm copying her rules EXACTLY except I'm giving myself 5 years starting now and rounding up (ie almost 6 years...) so my goal will be to finish 75 of these 100 books by New Year 2015. I hope this window will also allow me to pick up other non-list books along the way (cuz let's face it, I will... I have a compulsive book buying habit).

My list was generated by the following criteria:
-snobby classics I've always wished I could tell people I'd read, but would never read otherwise because I can't imagine enjoying them (these will probably end up making up the 25)
-books that I've bought and owned for a long time, but haven't read because they're reeeeeally long and I am easily daunted by length at time of reading-choosing
-a book by each of the great Alices (Mattison, McDermott, Munro)
-everything I haven't read yet by Michael Chabon, my secret boyfriend
-select recommendations from friends
-some books I've been curious about and keep forgetting to buy/read
-the gaps filled in with Pulitzer and National Book Award winners

Interestingly, a lot of the books on the list appear to be by white male authors, which I generally don't read. I do wish there were more diversity on this list (hmm, a function of what the establishment has decreed award-worthy? maybe a little) and will try to make sure that the non-list books complement this list effectively. (To that end, please keep sending me book suggestions, forever and ever.)

1. Native Son, Richard Wright
2. Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
3. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
4. Watership Down, Richard Adams
5. Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
6. Middlemarch, George Eliot
7. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
8. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
9. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles
10. The Lottery, Shirley Jackson
11. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
12. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
13. Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
14. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
15. Foundation, Isaac Asimov
16. House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
17. Persuasion, Jane Austen
18. Chocolate War, Robert Cormier
19. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
20. Dead Zone, Stephen King
21. Underworld, Don DeLillo
22. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
23. Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
24. Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham
25. Bless the Beasts and Children, Glendon Swarthout
26. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
27. While I Was Gone, Sue Miller
28. American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld
29. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
30. The Radetsky March, Joseph Roth
31. Digging to America, Anne Tyler
32. Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
33. War & Peace, Leo Tolstoy
34. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
35. A Light in August, William Faulkner
36. The Conservationist, Nadine Gordimer
37. The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing
38. Memoirs of a Good Daughter, Simone DeBeauvoir
39. Carry On, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
40. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong-Kingston
41. Gotham, Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace
42. A Fable, William Faulkner
43. The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
44. American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
45. Finnigan’s Wake, James Joyce
46. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
47. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver
48. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
49. The Plague, Albert Camus
50. Miss Lonelyhearts, Nathaniel West
51. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
52. Charming Billy, Alice McDermott
53. Summerland, Michael Chabon
54. Farming the Bones, Edwidge Danticat
55. Silence, Shusaku Endo
56. Ulysses, James Joyce
57. Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima
58. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
59. The Known World, Edward P. Jones
60. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
61. The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot
62. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
63. My Antonia, Willa Cather
64. Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
65. The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende
66. Herzog, Saul Bellow
67. The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow
68. The Boat, Nam Le
69. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
70. Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
71. Hounds of Baskerville, Arthur Conan Doyle
72. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
73. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
74. Possession, A.S. Byatt
75. Under the Net, Iris Murdoch
76. Housekeeping, Marilyn Robinson
77. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
78. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami
79. Runaway, Alice Munro
80. In America, Susan Sontag
81. The Stories of John Cheever
82. God’s War, Christopher Tyerman
83. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
84. A Model World, Michael Chabon
85. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
86. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos
87. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
88. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
89. The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
90. The Book Borrowers, Alice Mattison
91. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
92. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
93. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
94. Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
95. Empire Falls, Richard Russo
96. Rebecca, Daphne DuMaurier
97. March, Geraldine Brooks
98. The Second Sex, Simone DeBeauvoir
99. Gilead, Marilyn Robinson
100. Werewolves in Their Youth, Michael Chabon

I'm putting a column on the side so, you know, I can brag about my progress (or non-progress).

Anyone else want to play? You can obviously vary the rules/books/time frame to fit your circumstances.


RedHawk said...

Well, I have read 8 on your list, but since the Foundation is really three books (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, & Second Foundation), maybe I have read 10.

PurpleClover said...

Oh gawd. That just reminds me of how much I haven't read. I think I've only read 4 of those.

I will have to come up with a list, but it isn't going to be a 5 year Maybe 10.

Aerin said...

I'm in!

writeidea said...

What a great idea. I already have over sixty books on my TBR pile, though. I had to read Swann's Way in grade 12. Very strange book, all stream of consciousness.

I've read twelve of the books on your list, some so long ago they probably deserve a re-read. It might take me a while to come up with a list, but count me in.

Lisa said...

I love it! I think I started doing this at the beginning of the year anyway. Read Bad Behavior as soon as you can. It's an easy read and one of my very favorite story collections.

I've got stuff piled up all over the place and I'm finding that I'm trying to sensibly group some of the books according to when they came out and how they actually influenced each other. Like when I finished the 3rd Proust volume in In Search of Lost Time, I thought it would make sense to go back and read Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma or Flaubert's Madame Bovary, but I didn't have the mental energy for it, so they'll have to wait.

Keep us posted on when you decide to take on some of the beasts so if the time is right, I'll do the same. Gravity's Rainbow, Ulysses and Infinite Jest are all sitting here taunting me too :)

David said...

You generally don't read books by white male authors? Do you mean that you just happen not to, or that you avoid those?

Sorry to pick that one line out of the post, but as a white male, I was struck by it.

MaLanie said...

I am inspired! I have not really spent much time reading fiction. Up until a year ago my books have always been books like A New Earth or Eat Pray Love.

I have wanted to start a fictional list but I keep putting it off. I keep hearing The Red Tent and Thousand Splendid Sons are good. I will think about my list some more. Thanks Moon!

iasa said...

This is a good idea. I've read 27 on your list. I'm going to fill my list with 100 pulp novels.

SaraLynn said...

Book suggestions:
i read this for a humanities class, it is not only good, but the oldest book ever written. very cool.

Also, Elizabeth Noble is good...start with The Friendship Test

The Pilot's Wife is good

I am very glad I discovered your blog and I look forward to visiting int eh future :)
I may have to put together a list!!

Bill Peschel said...

This is a fascinating idea. I've been toying with doing some heavy reading, but the thought of tacking it this way hadn't occurred to me.

I've read about eight of the books on this list. Save the Wodehouse after a particularly depressing episode. "Carry On" is one of his best.

And why, why, why, are you trying "Finnegan's Wake"? That's futile, even with a reference book at your side. Can you substitute "Dubliners" or "Ulysses" instead?

Briony said...

I've read five on your list (six if you count Anna Karenina, which I've gotten half way through six times and had to return to the library).

Count me in! And if we all read Ulysses at the same time maybe we can have a support group - I've seen people curled up in the foetal position for weeks after reading that book.

freddie said...

I'm in.

Helen said...

I second leaving finegan's wake off the list - it's not really a novel so much as a torrent of references. Beautiful too, but my uni had a morning class on it, and we would cover ONE PAGE per session, and that wasn't going in depth, but merely trying to understand it.

If you must, I recommend an audio recording of it, because read in an irish (dublin specifically) voice, the rhthyms really make it soar, and you don't have to worry so much about catching the meaning.

if anyone is after another old book, I recommend The Golden Ass by Apuleius - 1st or 2nd century AD Latin novel about a man turned into a donkey who must undergo a schlep/nosying about/ religious conversion in order to return to human form. A lot of fun, though rather smutty, just to warn you!

moonrat said...

RedHawk--which?! You've been holding out? (I knew about Foundation.)

Helen--woohoo! I've read Apulius. I really love the Proserpina myth--it's just like a Norwegian myth I grew up with (East of the Sun, for Scandinavians out there...).

Lisa--good point. I'll tip people off. I'm starting today with REBECCA.

David--I happen not to; it's not intentionally AGAINST white males, but I guess I generally am more attracted to books by women or books with international themes. I buy whimsically, but if I'm picking things out on my own I gravitate toward particular books.

MaLanie--you MUST read RED TENT! and *i* must read THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS--i loved KITE RUNNER and i heard TSS is actually the better book.

SaraLynn--i've read THE PILOT'S WIFE. my dad is most impressed with your suggestion of GILGAMESH--he'd never heard of it before today.

and to everybody who's asked me about FINNIGAN'S WAKE--hmm, this might end up being one of the 25. but at least i'll be able to say i've *tried*.

writtenwyrdd said...

I've read some of these(maybe fifteen to twenty), but I'd blind myself before sitting down to read the rest of them. I mean poke my eyes out with my thumbs. I think it would hurt less.

I don't understand the lure of the type of fiction you read, although it must be good. Some of us are just too lowbrow, and woefully proud of it--or I am anyhow!

Jo said...

You've got some wonderful books on this list. I've rad 34 but I worked in a bookstore for four years when business was very slow. And you've reminded me of some titles that I always meant to read.

moonrat said...

oh ps--everyone who wants to play, please leave me a comment when your list is up! (it took me a couple of days to make mine, so no pressure.) but i want to be able to see if we share any books--i like lisa's idea of a reader support group.


Dana said...

I'm totally in! As an English major, I have always felt bad that there are so many classics sitting on my shelves unread. :) I think I'll follow your five year, plus a buffer plan as well. :)
List to come on the blog.

Richard Lewis said...

ULYSSES as Twitterized:

Bloom: Awake, dear! Molly: Letter from Boylan! Bloom, eating liver: Damn that Boylan. Molly, in bed again: All I ever said was yes

TheWriterStuff said...

I belong to two Facebook groups with a similar theme--1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and Reading All The Man Booker Prize for Fiction Winners. I'm too old to do finish the first and too stuck on what *I* want to read for the second. Let me say however, that I'm stunned, STUNNED, that you don't have one book by Toni Morrison.

moonrat said...


moonrat said...

TheWriterStuff--that's because I've read all of Toni Morrison already. She's one of the few authors I've taken in wholesale. A couple of others are Ishiguro and Coetzee.

Kiersten said...

47- It's Raymond Carver, not Chandler, which you probably knew but I didn't want you to not be able to find it.

Also--I LOVE Marilynne Robinson. Both of those books are gorgeous and genius, and not difficult reads. Plus, Robinson herself is amazing.

All of the books on this list that I have read (sadly only twelve) I've loved. What a fun project!

J.C. Montgomery said...

If I were brave, I'd pick something by Proust but being the big biblio wussy I am, I will stick with trying to get through my existing list which includes a few from the 1001 List, Pulitzer winners, what my mom has sent me, & a couple of doorstops I got while in school.

This is a great idea though. I think I'll make a list of 100 books that everyone seems to have read but me.

For instance, I have never read a book by Neil Gaiman. A short story yes - book, no. Yeah, my reading repertoire is seriously lacking.

kathy said...

oh moonrat...Don't start with Rebecca. You'll demoralize yourself before you even get started. Start with The Chocolate War. It's a page turner and you can mark one off quickly.

Sara Nassrine said...

hahaha I love the idea of a Ulysses support group. I watched a friend read that for a class once, and from what I can tell, support is necessary. I loved the twitter version up there. :)

Werewolves In Their Youth is fantastic. And how dare you! He's MY secret lover. ;)

Tip for reading Tolstoy: just get through the first eighty pages. After that, if you are one of those people who almost EAT books rather than read them, you'll do just fine. But the first 80pgs of Anna Karenina and War and Peace are almost impossible to read in less than 4 sittings. We're talkin' extreme boredom.

The Brothers Karamazov is best read after flipping through an essay or so talking about it. I missed a ton and found it boring, but after some background stuff was pointed out to me, it was a lot more fun.

I loved your list! Best of luck reaching that goal.

moonrat said...

Kiersten--woopsies!! thanks.

Alas I meant to have a Raymond Chandler book on the list. I seem to have missed. But I wanted to read Raymond Carver, too.

Diane T said...

Last summer, my friend Jacqui started a remedial English lit reading project that was shorter but similar to yours. Copying from her, I mean, inspired by her, I did my own mini-project, first hitting some American Lit classics I missed, and then some classic films. Oh, and all my reviews were in the form of haiku.

I'm glad to see you have some sci-fi classics on your list. If you want more diversity, I would add Octavia Butler's Kindred, which isn't technically sci fi but has time travel as its center and is a fascinating read.

I look forward to seeing your progress--I hope to make inroads on my foreign-language classics this summer.

Holloway McCandless said...

Great idea--this type of formal structure will help me finally attempt that huge Golden Notebook on my shelf.

One vehement vehement recommendation, if you haven't read it: Their Eyes Were Watching God. One of my lifetime favorites. Also: A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter.

I'm a big fan of the ultimate sentence-maker but when I tried to read Summerland with my kid during his peak baseball phase we both gave up.

Now to find my unread copy of Rebecca.

moonrat said...

DianeT--it's really funny, it hadn't occurred to me there were any scifi books on my list. hahaha. i'm not much of a scifi reader. but those are all books Dad talks about all the time.

but yeah. now i've bought KINDRED.

moonrat said...

Holloway--I have read THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. not the other, though. innnteresting.

yeah, i just finished Mr Chabon's (or Mr. Moonrat, as he's known in some circles, particularly those in my head), debut, MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH, and i have to admit i didn't love it. but i'm bent on fleshing out the oeuvre.

jimnduncan said...

Suggestion. Replace 'Watership Down' with 'Maia'. Better book in my opinion, and one of the better heroines in a fantasy novel I've ever read. It's the only book I've ever read more than twice.

If I were going to do a list like this, given my current rate of book consumption, I'd need about 20 years to finish.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, I feel pretty good. I've actually read quite a few of these. This sounds like fun but I don't think I have the time to make up such a list right now. I will do so one of these days, though.

Whirlochre said...

I daren't do this. No-one could possibly have read fewer books than I have.

Emily Cross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Cross said...

what a brilliant idea! i can see this wipping around the blogosphere in no length.

I have a friend who is very graphicy - perhaps if you like i could ask her to set up a little icon to stick up blogs who want to follow the project? maybe entitled 'filling in the gaps: 100 Project' or something?

freddie said...

Mine's up:

Emily Cross said...

Heres my list:

Anita said...

OK, I know you love Chabon, but I wish you would remove one of his books (my suggestion is SUMMERLAND) and please consider replacing it with George Sand's HORACE. I know it is incredibly impertinent (and perhaps downright RUDE)of me to make such a suggestion...but I'm starting a campaign to get HORACE read by the world, and what better place to start than Moonie's blog? :)

moonrat said...

Anita, my dear, I must put down my foot and declare myself wedded to my list, or I foresee all chaos would ensue. However, since you put forth your suggestions so passionately, I will read it extracurricularly :) Hence giving myself 5+ years; I can read other things, too.

Re: Summerland: several people here have reacted against it; how interesting. But I am also quite stuck on the idea of reading all Chabon's stuff. When you say you have a favorite, it's best to know all of what you're talking about (hence the random Faulkner on this list, too).

Anita said...

Yes, I can see the potential for chaos with a book change. Godspeed to you on this book-reading journey! (I can't wait for updates)

Justus M. Bowman said...

"-snobby classics...(these will probably end up making up the 25)"

Ha ha. I can't blame you. I'm not a fan of classics either.

By the way, I've decided your whole life consists of reading and being a rat.

JES said...

Shiver me timbers. "People" who can actually make lists like this and then stick to them for -- in this case -- five freaking years clearly are driven by genetic imperatives unfamiliar to my own species.

That said, it's a wonderful list (or so I assume, having read a good number of those books but completely unfamiliar with others, because you usually, well, often exhibit good taste and common sense, at least in bookish matters).

If this were more like, "the two fill-in-the-gap books I'd like to read this year, after which I'll come up with another two for the year after that, and so on" it might be more tempting to participate. Too many other books -- many recreational, many "serious" -- come up, too often.

You know, you could pick up a Kindle or other e-reader and have all those books plus a thousand others just waiting for you all at the same time, all the time. :)

Janet Reid said...

There is only one way to read Finnegans Wake and that is with the FW Society of New York which holds monthly meetings. You've missed the most recent one on 3/25, but I will shanghai you for the next (IF you have on a clean shirt).

And I'll be interested to see if Valley of the Dolls holds up. I thought it was racy as hell when I read it *&% years ago.

Word verification: launderyIsYourFriend

Cheryl said...

I disagree with Kathy--REBECCA is really really good and quite an easy read. I think you'll like it!

You've got some of my favorite books on this list--Fahrenheit 451, Foundation, Ender's Game, As I Lay Dying. You're making me want to re-read them.

Megan said...

I have joined in! Thanks for the suggestion!

We have a few in common (the ones I copied from you)...

And a suggestion for Infinite Jest - start now because it could take all five years. But once you finish, no matter your opinion of the book, you will feel such a huge sense of accomplishment! Personally, I loved it, but the ending was a bit abrupt. The Broom of the System is probably a better starter. :)

Vasilly said...

Moonrat, your a bad influence of your viewers. =) Here's my list:

Emily Cross said...

Hey moonrat, i emailed you there (just in case it ends up in the span: my email address is

Also if anyone is interested a talented friend of mine is doing up 'fill the gap' badges/logos that people can use for their blogs

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, I make it 13 I've read.

Given the Huge Size of my TBR pile, I'd better not join :D.

Kelly said...

I love this idea so much, I'm de-lurking. Count me in. I've already read Foundation, Ender's Game and Fahrenheit 451 (shows you where my interest lies, eh?) and a few of the others...

Since I've not read more than I've read of Moonrat's List, I'm stealing it wholesale with only minor substitutions of the books I've read.

I'll post a list when I decide what those are.... (I should probably just choose those on the top of the TBR pile...but that would be too easy...)

Diane said...

I've only read (14) on the list, but many sit on my shelves unread..LOL

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Hooray Moonrat -- I don't mind at all you stole my idea. (I'm flattered, actually.) I wrote my list longhand, didn't post -- I kinda deplored letting the whole world have a record of all the great books I HAVEN'T read. But you've got the better version -- make it public to make it stick.

My favorite thing about my list (which still has some blank spaces actually) is that it made me feel MUCH BETTER to realize the major gaps are finite. Nice to look down the road in 5 years and think it's actually possible to read some of the "shouldas" as well as lots of prize winners, for example. And again, as you stated, the list isn't all that you (or I, or anyone) will read - it's only 15 to 20 titles a year, to be balanced with lots of new books or new recommendations.

And it's great to have permission to drop some books. Nothing worse than getting stuck in a book that's getting you nowhere. Godspeed!

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

P.S. Books you listed that are among my favorites or were formative -- how I wish I hadn't read them yet so I could read them for the first time!
Sophie's Choice
White Teeth (!)
Middlesex (!)
The Corrections

Books you haven't read that I haven't and can't BELIEVE I haven't (shame shame):
French Lt's Wife
Moby Dick
Of Human Bondage
Murdoch, Murakami

And one question, even though you say you won't alter your list: American Pastoral? I'm getting close to having read most of Roth, and this one is OK, but there are so many better Roth books written in the same vein, including Human Stain, The Counterlife, Zuckerman Unbound, Ghost Writer, Goodbye Columbus. I'm curious why you picked this one. But of course, if you answer all our questions you won't have time to read all those books...

moonrat said...

but blogging about reading is so much more fun than actually reading...

i haven't read ANY roth at all, ever. (ps i meant to have an updike on this list; i missed. sigh.) i picked AMERICAN PASTORAL because it was the one of his that had won the most awards. there was literally no other factor. no recommendations, didn't even read the plot summaries. i hate plot summaries.

PurpleClover said...

Good grief...I'm only to 52 right now. How are you guys doing this so fast?

moonrat said...

PurpleClover--it took me about 3 days to do mine. I mean, 3 full-time days. Hahaha. I think taking your time is great; it will mean you're most likely to come up with a list you can live with.

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of Roth and American Pastoral is my absolute favorite (besides, of course, Portnoy's Complaint). I think it is one of his finest works of imagination and an unforgettably tragic depiction of his hometown, Newark. If there were ever going to be a short list of Great American Novels, this would have to be a nominee because of the way it captures a slice of American history at a very fractious and interesting time. But more than this, the characters just get under your skin.

Jacqui said...

This is a good idea. I want to be in, but I have to think of my list.

As Diane T said, I did my remedial 15 Classics in 15 Weeks last summer, and at the risk of offending Melvillians everywhere, Moby Dick is really, really long and better to HAVE read that it is to suffer through.

Also, American Pastoral is definitely the one to read. I like some Roth, but I loved that one.

J.C. Montgomery said...

I finally made up my list.

Here it is

Whew! Oh boy. What have I done?


Alyssa said...

My book recommendation: leave Atlas Shrugged in the discarded 25!

I like this idea but suspect it might take me five years to come up with a list... but then again, perhaps just the rest of the week at work.

freddie said...

Moonrat, my e-mail is


I'm ass-deep in school right now, so it will be a couple of months before I'll be ready to post.

Jeanie W said...

Moonie -

You should be able to mark number 10 off your list pretty quickly. "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson is actually a short story, not a book, and you can find it online.

Emily Cross said...

Hi MoonRat,

Heres the logos : Have the image and url links in the post. :)

Hope they're ok

Ink said...

Just for a second opinion on Moby Dick, I thought it was wonderful and rather zany. I was expecting dour... and insteady got something strane and loopy and funny, the sort of thing Pynchon or David Foster Wallace might have written if they were zapped back to a whaling ship in 1850.

And for Finnegan's Wake... may I suggest starting now and reading one page a day? It's beautiful... but sort of incomprehensible and not really a novel. Reading a page a day and treating it like poetry works pretty well though. Luxuriate in the language and just skip all the textbooks you need to translate all the invasive bits of foreign language wordplay.

And can we just steal your list? I've read half of them, so it will be shorter that way. :) Lazy, I know, I know. And I must say that while you have some difficult reads here, you also have some fantastic books here. Murakami and Endo... ah, good stuff. Now all you need to do is sneak on some Lethem and Cormac McCarthy...

My best,
Bryan Russell

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

When to read the really long books (like Moby Dick and others) and when to leave them behind -- isn't it a tough question? I recently finished Anna Karenina (took me 4 months while also reading other books), and we could have a whole debate about whether it's brilliant or just OK, but the main thing I felt was that it ate up SO much time I wanted to spend reading many thinner but perhaps more innovative books. Anna K. was quite easy to read, and parts were great, but I wasn't sure it was worth it, except to have it under my belt. And that's an acceptable reason, but given that we are mortals, how many such doorstops do we read? After Anna K., I read a long string of shorter WONDERFUL books including books by J. Safran Foer, Junot Diaz, Evelyn Waugh, and some slimmer classics, and every one of them felt more rewarding.

When do you read just to get it done? When do you refuse? (P.S. I never made it through Swann's Way.)

Would enjoy hearing others' thoughts.

Ink said...


I like to vary it up. I like long books... but I have to be in the right mood, particularly if it's long and dense. And I usually frame it with much shorter novels. After spending a chunk of time on a single book I like that feeling of movement I get while going through a few books in a short period. I'm also less patient with books than I once was... particularly for long ones. If it's annoying and a hundred and twenty pages... I'll still usually scrape through. If it's annoying and eight hundred and twenty pages... not so likely.

My best,

Jacqui said...

Andromeda, I felt the same way about Moby Dick last summer; in the end I started to resent it for taking up so much time. So I skimmed a lot.

Swann's Way was different for me. I felt like to really enjoy it properly I would have to read it over fifteen years, stopping to think about every word. Someday...

Linda said...

A little late to the game, busy writing grant proposals, but... you inspire me. I'll post my own list together, look for it sometime after Tax Day. I'll work off of yours, with the first TBR Franzen's THE CORRECTIONS. I heard him speak at last year's MUSE AND THE MARKETPLACE (Grub Street) and he was fantastic. My stoopid library doesn't have the book, so I'll have to break down and buy... pleased to see several titles here (if you need a copy of #25, holler), you tickle me. Happy reading. Peace, Linda

iasa said...

Took me a long time to compile my list. It's very anti classic.

Amanda said...

Okay so it's taken me a few days to come up with and post my list of 100, but this sort of goal is right up my alley. Here's my list. Thanks for the idea!

mapelba said...

As I skimmed down the comments I noted someone suggested you replace Watership Down. No to that I say.

But this list me think about lists of classics and all those books we're supposed to have read... I'm all for reading classics and established books, and as an idiot with an MA in English, I've read plenty of them, but sometimes I wish we could find some new classics. You know, go read something you've never even heard of. Go to half price or to your library and take a chance on a new, unheard of author. All these authors were unknown once obviously--but now they don't need the press.

How about one unknown book for every famous book? Why not help out those living writers who are about to have their book deals squashed because they don't have a big enough following? If I spend my time reading all these books, I'll never get to the book only I can love.

Just a thought.

Kate said...

This project is pulling me out of lurkdome...nooooo...

I took a few days to put a list together, but I'm in, too!

Stephanie said...

Mine is up at, though I'm starting to think I should have assembled it after reading the comments here, as they're making me think I have some contenders for the 25 unread before I've even started.

Debra Young said...

This is a great idea! I've read a number of novels on your list already, but there are many that I have not sat down with and would like to. I'm going to make my list, pick a book, and get started. d:)

Jen A said...

I'm in too.

Nom de Gare said...

Oh, this is a fantastic idea, and irresistible! And hard, too - every time I think I've finalised my list, I think of something else or spot something on someone else's list and have to rethink the whole thing!

But I think (I THINK) I'm done. My list is here

Nancy said...

I too am being sucked out of lurkerdom for this one. Thanks for the great idea!

After looking at your criteria Moonrat, I asked myself some questions about what I wanted to achieve in the next five years, and how a reading goal could help me along the way. The answers I found left me with an unfinished list (a "working list", I like to call it) with the following make-up:

30 authors previously read
10 short story collections
15 debut (since 2005) novels
5 poetry collections
30 previously unread authors
10 novels in German (either original language, or translations from languages I can't otherwise read.)

My list is here.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Interesting list. love it. would prepare mine even if i am late...thanks

moonrat said...

never too late, Nana! if you want to join the group blog we've put together, check out Emily Cross's, and shoot her an email--she'll set you up as a contributor.

BiblioMom said...

This is such a great idea.

Finny said...

I'm in, but I have no confidence in actually making the end.