What’s on your ‘should read’ pile?

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?


  1. Anthony Pyle

    I have so many books on my desk that have piled up to an insane height. Most of them gifts from christmas that I just havn’t got around to opening yet, and then I have a habit of buying new books before i’ve even started the ones I already have, but i’m sure thats the same of any book lover.

    Also any penguin classics I have bought because i’d heard the story is good and the books are cheap, but am yet to get around to reading them has become the most unread books I now own.

    • I do exactly the same thing – buy new books when I’ve already got several I haven’t read. I am also very good at buying classics and then not reading them for a long time – but I often find they’re great and I should have read them earlier.

  2. It’s so funny I should come across this today because your book was on my “should read” (well, let’s call it the “want to read”!) pile until last night! Nothing to do with your book, but rather because I owned it rather than being a library book I am always in a hurry to finish my library books before the overdue fines start and books I actually own get left on the pile. Last night all my half-started library books were at the other end of the house and rather than risk waking the baby by making all the doors squeak I started “What is Left Over, After” and am already half way through – couldn’t stop!

    But back to your question; first of all I heartily recommend Anna Karenina, I read it just last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. A little on the long side for my liking though. I have Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in my “should read”, because I loved “Love in the Time of Cholera” but can’t get into Solitude despite three attempts. Interestingly I also have “Atonement” there, and after your recommendation I might finally start it. I also have a couple of Patrick White novels. High school English lit destroyed him for me and I’ve never found a way back in but feel like I “should”.

    • Well, I’m definitely going to have to put Anna K at the top of the pile as everyone seems to be recommending it. And do give Atonement a go, it is a fabulous book. I loved it against all my expectations.
      Yes, Patrick White is another author I must confess to never having read and but he’s one I always think I should read.
      And I’m glad that What is Left Over, After has made it out of your ‘should’ read pile. I hope you enjoy it!

  3. Just finished Born to Run (it’s been in that pile since the start of the year) and the most annoying thing is that I’ve got all these new training ideas and absolutely NO time to impliment them before the Half, oh well =)
    Solitude has been on the mind since discussing Magical Realism in Fantasy and Cultural from last Sem.
    Atonement was such a good movie and they always say the book is better so I may investigate that too =)
    A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns (actually anything to do with Warhammer 40k, but those are at the top of THAT list. I’m a sci-fi geek, what can I say ^^)
    Most of the Penguin Classic section because how do you know where you’re going if you’ve no clue where you’re coming from?
    And your next book Tash…. *poke poke* hurry up =D

    • Solitude is definitely worth reading – but I found I did need to have the time to read it in large chunks, rather than picking it up and putting it down.
      And I might just have some exciting news to share about my next book in a few days time ….

  4. Glen Hunting

    G’day Natasha, and everyone else. I don’t normally post blog comments (though I do read a few) but this topic rather caught my eye.

    I too have an enormous repository of books that I haven’t read yet. In fact, I reckon I’d like a year off everything just to get to the end of the pile. Given my current time constraints/mis-management, I am predominantly reading short stories at the moment. This is mainly because they’re the only things I can finish without losing the thread halfway through because I haven’t picked it up (whatever it is for) for so long. I too have sworn off bookstores, and of course I have already fallen off the wagon, so to speak.

    I bought my copy of “Anna Karenina” at least a decade ago and I haven’t read it yet (pretty shameful, huh?) I can definitely recommend “Atonement” (the book) – I loved it. I liked “Possession” too but felt it was a bit long-winded and overwrought. And I have similarly tried and failed on multiple occasions with “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, even after being utterly entranced by “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

    On the Patrick White front, I managed to get through “The Tree of Man” and about two-thirds of the way through “The Vivisector” before I let it go. I find his style quite idiosyncratic, and I struggle to find a rhythm to his prose, which makes him difficult to read. But I am going to try again – he fascinates me as a man and as an artist, and I have a well-loved copy of David Marr’s biography of him ($2 from Save The Children) which I often dip into. Evelyn Waugh holds a similar fascination for me. And I can absolutely recommend “The Outsider” (or “The Stranger”, depending on how you Anglicise the title) – Camus writes in a way that I wish I could emulate.

    I have heard people raving about Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I saw a copy in the bookshop the other day, while I was there trying not to buy anything. I succeeded this time, but one day I know I will succumb.

    Last Christmas, my writing group had the idea of everyone coming up with a recommended Christmas reading list. I didn’t want to limit it to the season alone, so mine became a “Best of the Best So Far.” If I can figure out how to post attachments to this, I’ll put it up here.

    Cheers, y’all…

    • I was going to put Evelyn Waugh on the list too but stopped because I wanted to make my list manageable. But I might rethink that now you’ve recommended he’s worth reading. I will join the people raving about The Handmaid’s Tale – it’s a fabulous book and Atwood is one of my favourite authors. Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

      • Glen Hunting

        I can’t seem to upload attachments to this, so I’ll tip a few more names in here: Iris Murdoch, particularly “The Bell”, “The Black Prince” and “A Severed Head”; Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook”, and Muriel Spark’s “The Driver’s Seat” and “Memento Mori”.

        Incidentally, I started “To the Lighthouse” and Ted Hughes’ “Birthday Letters” last night. Ms Woolf has an…unusual style, no? At least when viewed from a contemporary perspective, which of course tends to sell the text short. Hughes’ collection of poems, which are all about his relationship with Sylvia Plath, looks like it’s going to be magnificent.

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