So, Amazon shamed me recently. Yeah, that Amazon—that online orgy of toys, electronics, music, movies, books, groceries, this, that, and everything else. Apparently, they still want to sell books and decided to shame customers by sharing a list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime. The list is from the folks at goodreads.com, a website for readers by readers, so not all the books are classics or even literature—just books that readers think readers should read. For Amazon, the intent was likely to get the folks shopping for frivolous junk to pause and think about books. And I did.
You see, despite having an MA in English & Publishing, I am not that well-read as far as books are concerned. I just get distracted far too easily. Squirrel! It’s not even that I don’t read a lot—it’s not unusual for me to be online for about 18 hours a day, mostly reading. I absorb every tidbit and blurb I can, sometimes incessantly. And obviously, I had to read many articles and excerpts over the years for undergrad work, and I did fine. (There was quite a bit of doodling!) But entire books? They’ve always been painful. Truly painful.
Books, whether fiction or non-fiction, have to be completely engrossing to keep me from eventually staring off into the distance, thinking about something only mildly related to what I’ve just read. My mind needs to be fully stimulated at all times, and few books can accomplish that for me. But a few on the list have.
In high school, 1984 was one such book that engrossed me enough to finish. Once in college, I felt compelled to read The Catcher in the Rye and flew through it, because it resonated far too well. And there was no way I’d leave college without reading Silent Spring, the classic call to action to save wildlife from overuse of pesticides. A few years later, I received Angela’s Ashes as a gift, and it sucked me right in with its raw and brutal honesty. And most recently, I read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier for a non-fiction writing course in graduate school. The story drew me in enough to read it in a few days, a rarity for me. In all, I’ve read a whopping five books from this list.
Granted, I don’t agree with all the books included on their list, with or without reading them. I also know a few more that should be listed. Regardless, I should have read many more books than I have, especially classic literature.So I’m taking notes, and I hope to do something I’ve rarely done—read books because I want to, rather than have to. The sad reality is, I already own quite a few that I never got around to reading. Much like life in general, I’m working on it.