The books we haven’t read

Britain’s Telegraph has a charming video asking authors what famous literary work they’ve never read. I found the link through my friend Greg Stepanich’s blog. He offers thoughts on authors whose names pop up repeatedly in the video or in the reader comments — such as Melville, Faulkner, Joyce and Dickens — and addresses the challenge in reading long-winded old novels in 2008.

Is there a famous novel you’re sheepish about not reading? I could list reams of them, but you’ll find my choice as a comment at the end of Greg’s blog post. It’s a book in a series I almost, but not quite, finished 30 years ago. I keep meaning to read the whole series again from stem to stern, but a more sensible approach would be just to read the darn book. Maybe in 2009.

Feel free to comment here or on Greg’s blog, or both places, on your own secret shame.

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  • Will Plunkett

    Well, as an English teacher, I’ve tried to fill in those gaps over the years (last five summers: about 130 books read), but I still have not finished Tolstoy’s War and Peace (I only got about 900 pages in, back in high school). Others I plan to get to at some point:

    – Nietche [sp?]
    – Nabakov [sp?]
    – Cervantes (specifically Don Quixote)
    – the author of The Tale of Genji (among the earliest novels ever written; it’s from Japan)
    – James Patterson
    – Tom Wolfe
    – Nora Roberts/JD Robb
    – Tom Clancy (I haven’t gotten into the current popular writers)
    – Kurt Vonegut [sp?]

    I seem to need a dictionary first, to know the spellings of their names!

    [“Only” 900 pages into “War and Peace” — har! But how are you coming on “Maltese Falcon”? — DA]

  • D-Force

    Get to Vonnegut, he’s an easy read and hilarious… I recommend starting with Slaughterouse Five. When I finally got around to it about 5 years ago, I was VERY happy, and have now read almost his entire catalog.

  • Charles Bentley


    A longtime fan of the written word, I know the number of books I haven’t read far exceeds the count of those I have finished. There are several that have always been on my “must-read” list but just never seem to fit into my schedule. The one that stands out in my mind is “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I feel intimidated by what is seen by some as a life-changing piece of literature.

    What am I reading now? “John Adams” by David McCullough (a birthday gift). I highly recommend it!

    [I’ve read “Atlas Shrugged.” How was it? (Shrug) — DA]

  • Ramona

    I’m pleased and astonished to see an English teacher include authors like James Patterson and Nora Roberts on his reading list. They are a couple of my favorite authors.

    I’ve delved into Tom Clancy but his choice of subject matter just isn’t my cup of tea. Likewise for Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, and the JD Robb side of Ms. Roberts.

    In my high school years English teachers crammed the classics down our throats and decried reading for pleasure as a distinct waste of time. Basically, this instilled in us a dislike for reading in general.

    Kudos, Mr. Plunkett, for your attitude.


    [FYI, and before someone else brings it up, Will’s Tom Wolfe is a different animal than your Thomas Wolfe. “Bonfire of the Vanities” vs. “You Can’t Go Home Again.” — DA]