Do you have books on your shelf that you think you should read, but have not yet got around to reading because you’re worried that when you’ve finished, you might not see what all the fuss is about? Well, I have. And I’ve decided that, as I unpack them from my boxes in my new studio, I’m going to put them all in a pile by my bed and make my way through them, one by one. And I’m not going to buy any new books until I’ve finished them.
I have often been pleasantly surprised by books in the ‘should read’ section on my shelf; not only did I end up appreciating what all the fuss was about, but a couple of them have even become true favourites. AS Byatt’s Posssession and Ian McEwan’s Atonement fall into this category; both of them sat on my bookshelf for at least a year or so – I’d bought them because I’d read so many good reviews of them – but then I was too scared of disappointment to open the covers. But when I did, I loved them. I even remember taking Possession to bed with me in the middle of the day when my (then) one child was asleep and reading the book, ignoring, for the first time, the writing I was supposed to be doing.
So what have I put in the ‘should read’ pile? Anna Karenina is at the top. This has been sitting on my bookshelf since before I had children. I’m worried that, as well as not appreciating the fuss, I just might not get it. But Brenda Walker spoke so eloquently about this book at the recent Perth Writers Festival I’m now actually looking forward to it. Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, is another. I must confess to never having read a Henry James novel, which I’m sure is a mortal sin in the eyes of some. So I’m starting with this one. I’ve already begun Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which has been sitting on the shelf for some time. I enjoyed Woolf’s To The Lighthouse but the last of hers that I read, Orlando, left me underwhelmed, hence the hesitancy to begin Mrs Dalloway. But so far, so good.
My friend Sara Foster’s book Beneath the Shadows reminded me that I’ve always wanted to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier but never have, so that’s also been tossed in the pile. And Beloved by Toni Morrison is one I’ve been wanting to read for years but I always forget that when I’m in a bookshop so I’ve never bought it. I’m going to buy it tomorrow and add it to the list. Same goes for The Stranger by Albert Camus.
The more I type, the more books I think of. There is clearly not enough time to read all the books I want to read. Which makes choosing one book over another a big decision. I’m investing a couple of hours so I want to make sure it’s a good investment. Let’s hope this list pays of. What about you? What’s on your ‘should read’ list? And what have I missed?