Saturday, 17 January 2009


I have noticed that I have not posted since Tuesday. My new job has a pretty strict internet policy and since I am also only part-time, I don't tend to do what I used to do, ie blog in the mornings before work got going or in my lunch hour. I must carve out a new niche somewhere in my hectic schedule for some online rambling.

Anyway, I was meandering through my Google Reader (I am too ashamed to tell you how many blogs are on there now. Take it from me, it's a lot.) and came across Three Minute Boy's post about how he is reading "Treasure Island" online, using an RSS feed. He also mentioned that this is not the first time he has read the book, and that he recently read "Kidnapped" too. That got me thinking (and commenting, because why think and not share?): I know the plots of both of those books and I have read other works by RLS, but I have never actually read those two books. I am slightly embarassed by that. It feels a bit like confessing you have never listened to a Beatles tune or seen "The Wizard of Oz".

The more I thought about it though, the more I realised that there are LOADS of books that I feel like I ought to have read/would love to read but have not got around to yet, and which people who know me (as an avid reader) might be surprised/shocked/horrified to find I had never read. And this despite the fact that I seem to find the time to read entertaining tosh like Tess Gerritsen no problem.

Am I alone in this? Feeling like there is some celestial reading list somewhere that I ought to be crossing off before I can read whatever rubbish takes my fancy on Amazon? And guilty when I don't? I have a copy of Catch 22 sitting in the pile beside my bed which I got hold of because I had never read it and felt I should. It looks at me reproachfully every time I go rummaging through the teetering piles looking for a new book and leave with Chris Brookmyre's new one instead. That book is making me feel guilty. (I may have to stick it in a cupboard so I don't have to face it.)

The really, really daft thing about feeling guilty about my reading material is that I often tell my kids that I will buy them pretty much any book they want (within reason) and that I don't mind what they are reading as long as they read (again within reason - Playboy and Jeffrey Archer, for example are off-limits. But you can bet I'd let them read the former before the latter!)

Anyway, rather than wallowing in feelings of inferiority because I am not reading Plato this afternoon, I thought I'd turn this into a game. So all of you lot, 'fess up. What books/plays are you willing to confess to never having read that you think other people will judge you for? I'll start. I have never read:
  • Hamlet (in fact most Shakespeare - I've read Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and The Tempest and that's it. My excuse is that drama is best seen performed, not read on the page!)
  • Any poetry that I was not forced to read at school, other than Roger McGough and Jacques Prevert (when I went through my poncy French phase). And that includes, to my shame, Robert Burns.
  • The Great Gatsby -always meant to, never have.
  • Sir Walter Scott, other than Ivanhoe.
  • Anything by James Joyce - I tried once, but just couldn't do it.
There are many, many, MANY more but I will stop there. Confess in the comments and I promise I will own up if I haven't read it either!


  1. Anything by James Joyce. And me an English major. Every time I start I get totally bogged and quit in frustration. We need an anti Joyce club, maybe.
    Thoreau. Never got around to it.
    Tolstoy. See comments on Joyce.
    The Life of Pi. Got it for Christmas, started it, went to sleep. Several times.
    Some of Atwood. I like some of her stuff and other pieces just leave me cold.
    This list could be a lot longer, but I think protective amnesia is setting in.

  2. Hmmm, I haven't read any of those you mention. I also haven't read Little Women, or anything by Charles Dickens. I am familiar with his work though, thanks to the wonders of television LOL!

    There's loads. I'm a big reader, but not necessarily a very high quality one!

  3. OK!

    I will start off by saying I haven't read Catch-22 or any Scott or Joyce* either.

    What else? I have not read David Copperfield. Or Anna Karenina (or any Russian fiction to speak of). Or The Life of Pi, or Cloud Atlas, or Midnight's Children, or indeed anything that's won the Booker Prize (with four exceptions.

    All of these are books I would probably enjoy - I just haven't got to them. I don't dislike modern literary fiction, but I tend to get recommendations for far more SF and fantasy books, and my reading gets skewed in that direction, interspersed with re-readings of old favourites. (Such as Treasure Island, indeed.)

    I have read everything confirmed to be written by Shakespeare, and I think I agree with you on the whole - plays are meant for performing, and I'm not so keen on the poetry (or Hamlet for that matter).

    *Other than a short story from Dubliners.

  4. Heh - it seems your commenters so far have a bit of an overlap in the books they haven't read!

  5. I'm ashamed to admit this, but Catcher in the Rye and On the Road. Worse, I totally nod and play along pretending that I have because I'm too embarrassed say I haven't...

  6. One of my majors was English/American Literature way back when, and I did not enjoy James Joyce. Nope. Not for me.

    Always rather enjoyed F Scott Fitzgerald's books and short stories, though, so you might consider giving Gatsby a go one of these days. One of my favorite short stories was The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.

    Anyway, I just finished The Time Traveller's Wife, which a lot of people had recommended to me.... rather enjoyed it. And I'm now reading a chick lit, well, because I can. :-)

  7. All the Brontes. Seen the tv adaptations, read lots of books about the Brontes, know the stories but... just never fancied the books much. Must do though. Call myself an English teacher?

    I love "Gatsby", though. And you should read Norman MacCaig if no other poet.

  8. If I write sweary words in your comments will that get you into trouble with your new employers? ;o)

  9. I'm having a poll over on
    Please come and vote! I need your opinion on this!!!

  10. There's a "1000 Books You Must Read" series going on in the Guardian this week. I read the first two segments over the weekend and felt almost sick with guilt at the gaps in my reading.

    I have no trouble reading new stuff, but the oldies just scare me. I haven't read any George Elliot, much to my mother's annoyance, or James Joyce, and I think Dickens is long-winded. Anna Karenina has been sitting on my shelf for years now and is still unopened.

    The Great Gatsby is one of my favourites though, start with that one!!

    TA x

  11. There's lots of classics I haven't read, but the one I really regret is Moby Dick.

    I love any movie adaptation of it, and I once started to read it, but, well, it's a little on the dry side, you know?

    I'm sure I'll pick it up again one day. Sometimes you just have to be at the right point in your life to read certain books.

  12. I've read pretty much everything and totally indiscriminately. As a teenager I fluctuated between DH Lawrence and Harlequin romances; Somerset Maugham and Micky Spillane. So I think I've covered all the biggies except War and Peace. I don't feel a bit guilty about not having read that. And you shouldn't feel guilty about not having read stuff either. Reading what you want, not what you think you should read. (But Catch-22 IS really good - the rest you mention I wouldn't bother with... except maybe Burns. For Shakespeare, go watch a play. That's how it was meant to be enjoyed)

  13. Ah now, Jeffrey Archer ... Kane and Abel was brilliant! I'm sorry, but it was, and I am not afraid to admit it. I've read it at least ten times!

    But as for stuff I feel I "should" read? Hmmmmm. I've never read any Walter Scott. Or RSL. Treasure Island just never appealed somehow. Burns? Nah. I'm a Gael, and reading Scots language just doesn't appeal to me somehow.

    I've got a pile of Russian novels my mother read when she was in hospital expecting either me or my brother, can't remember whom, and I keep meaning to make a start on them. Solzhenitsyn, Sholokov, Dostoyevski ... I WILL read them, because I think they look great, it's just ... I never get round to it. Anna Karenina and Dr Zhivago are in that collection too, awaiting.

    But oh you should read Catch 22! For one thing, you'll learn what the "real" Catch 22 situation is. And it's NOT the way people commonly describe it. I see it in the bookcase opposite as I type this and am tempted to dig it out again!

  14. Catch 22 = brilliant. It's not tough-going, and it's really funny.

    Going through the BBC's top 100, there are a lot I haven't read, including (but not all of them, by any stretch):
    The Lord of the Rings trilogy
    The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    The Wind in the Willows (MUST read this soon)
    Tess Of The D'Urbervilles
    Treasure Island
    and many, many more.

    I am a disgrace.

    The link, if anyone wants to join me in feeling thoroughly ashamed:

  15. My usual late arrival on posts but I appreciate the mention. Would it actually be possible not to have seen at least a snippet of The Wizard of Oz? To be fair you'd need to have been living in a shoebox.