At the start of every year, I like to assign myself an uncanny amount of books to read. Back in 2010, I had a wonderful habit of reading one book every single week, rarely faltering. Now that I’m dividing my time between advertising my own books, applying for jobs, fighting with seasonal depression, and trying to exercise, I’m lucky if I can finish a book in 3 weeks. Ideally, all of these plagues will have passed by spring, and I can get back into reading, and when that day comes, I certainly have a lot to get through.
I set big goals for myself, and I usually come close to meeting them. In 2010, I told myself to read several of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, and while I didn’t read all of his Histories like I hoped, I did read The Merchant of Venice, Henry the IV part 1, Antony and Cleopatra, and Titus Andronicus, which is more than enough food for thought for a year.
In 2011, I wanted to read every Saul Bellow book I hadn’t yet read, and while I haven’t covered his ouevre, I finished Mr. Sammler’s Planet, The Victim, A Theft, Seize The Day, and Ravelstein. Again, considering how deep every one of those books are, that’s pretty good for a year.
This year I’m less structured. There’s no single author I want to focus on (although I would like to read a lot more by Iris Murdoch). Instead, I’d like this to be the year I finally read the books I’ve been telling myself to read for a long time. Those include…
War and Peace: This is the biggest book on my list, and probably the one that’ll make me sound pretentious for listing. Back in 2010, I read Leo Tolstoy‘s masterpiece Anna Karenina and that was quite possibly the greatest reading experience I’ve had in my life. War and Peace seems like a logical step.
The Recognitions: I started this book by William Gaddis last January and thought it was brilliant, but it eventually consumed too much of my time and I had to set it aside. Now that a full year has passed, it’s high time I start it up again. It’s another giant book though.
Lolita: As I mentioned earlier on this site, I decided long ago that I wouldn’t read Lolita until I read most of Vladimir Nabokov‘s other books, the short reason being that I didn’t want to judge every book against Lolita, kind of like how everyone says Joseph Heller’s other books weren’t as great s Catch-22 (but what is?). Now I have read just about every Nabokov novel, so the time’s right to read this controversial classic. I wonder if I’ll read it and say “Lolita’s good, but not as good as The Real Life of Sebastian Knight…”
Finish a book by Slavoj Zizek: I have started several of Slavoj Zizek’s books, and found each of them fascinating, but was never able to make it more than 2/3 the way through any of them. Right now I’m reading his book Living in the End Times and I’d really like to commit to completing it.
The Good Soldier Schweik: This is what I’m currently reading. You might not have heard of it. It’s a book from the 1930s by Czech author Jaroslave Hasek about this bumbling soldier named Schweik who does everything in his power to keep himself from having to fight in WWI even though he’s a soldier. It’s definitely my kind of book: there’s a joke on every page, and each chapter features a comical illustration. If I could just finish it… The author himself didn’t finish it; he passed away while it was only 2/3 complete. I don’t want to share his fate.
Don Juan: Lord Byron’s Don Juan is a joy to read. It’s an epic sized poem about a man who constantly gets in trouble due to his affairs with women. Contrary to popular belief, Byron’s Don Juan isn’t an immoral seducer of women–he’s usually the one who’s being seduced! I started reading this and it was constantly funny and often beautiful, but the rhyming verse tired me out after a while and I didn’t make it through the first full canto.
Against the Day: It’s a shame I didn’t finish this book a long time ago. I read more than 400 pages (it’s 1,000+ pages long) then set it aside for several months, and eventually started over at page 1. This is another funny, insightful, and occasionally beautiful book, but like many others on my list, it’s pretty dark and depressing at times too. I’ve read just about everything else by Thomas Pynchon, so I should finish this at least for good measure.
1Q84: I rarely buy hardcover books. I have no real income at the moment, so spending a lot on a book can be a big mistake. I’m starting to think I made a mistake in buying 1Q84. It’s by Haruki Murakami, and in high school and college he was my favorite living writer. My tastes have changed a little bit. Apparently, a lot of the love I have for his work has faded, since I’ve only read about 3 chapters of this book. I’ll still force myself to read it if I have to. I know I didn’t care much for his book The Wind Up Bird Chronicle at first, but then found the second half enthralling. Maybe something like that will happen here.
Okay, I guess that’s my list. It’s hard to say how many of those I’ll complete this year. I should at the very least finish the Slavoj Zizek book I’m currently reading, as well as complete The Good Soldier Schweik.
—-It’d be nice if people could try to read my books this year. I have written two: The Madness of Art: Short Stories and A Rapturous Occasion. Both are available on Amazon in paperback and as ebooks. In fact, the ebooks are both priced pretty cheaply right now.
Have you made a list of books to read this year? If so, what are they (feel free to write them down in the comments box below).