Another year, another classic

Happy New Year!

You may recall that last New Year’s, I decided to begin an ambitious book, “Moby-Dick,” a novel that turned out to well repay the hours (and days, and weeks) I devoted to it.

That gave me the idea of starting one long, classic book each Jan. 1, something to lose myself in during the winter months and to constitute a sort of intellectual self-improvement program. What is Jan. 1 for if not for outsized goals?

I was batting around the titles of various complex novels on my shelves, including “Don Quixote” (bought from a sale table at B&N circa 2001, never read) and “Crime and Punishment” (bought after seeing “Match Point,” ditto), before deciding to read a shorter classic book: Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd and Other Stories.”

I’d meant to read this last spring, sometime after finishing “Moby,” but got sidetracked. (The ambition of January gives way to the pragmatism of May.) Besides, given the alarming number of unread books piling up, this year my hope is to read more, but shorter, books, to fool myself into thinking I’m making more progress.

In a way, this choice is cheating, because I’ve spent the past month reading “…And Other Stories” — “Bartleby,” “The Piazza,” etc., including the short novel “Benito Cereno” — and 285 pages later, all that’s left is “Billy Budd,” which is about 95 pages. I’ll report back when I’m done. Since Melville isn’t a quick read, give me two or three weeks.

Anyone want to offer encouragement, or share their own New Year’s goal?

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • Ms. Lois

    You go, David! Reading is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you need encouragement, come by the library and you’ll have a whole chorus of: you go David!!

  • Well Dave my 20 year reunion is this July…so I’m going to continue hitting Iron Works Gym and Rains Gym at Pomona College.

  • RK

    Gee David, I have a few (thousand) books for you…

    Actually, if you want something long (but I suspect right up your alley), give The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth a shot. It is over 750 pages (I think, but compared to Moby Dick it is almost a short story!).

    And if you can find a used copy of this somewhere, that might be the route to go. The overdue fines (start it now and you will probably finish sometime in March) might be prohibitive…

    But no matter what, happy reading in 2009!

    [Thank you, Robert. And congratulations on your promotion to Rancho Cucamonga’s library director! — DA]

  • A Friend


    I wonder if your extensive library holds “The Pleasure of My Company” by Steve Martin? It’s short, cleverly written, touching and has many funny & quirky moments. I think you’d really enjoy it.

    Take care!

    [I have “Shopgirl” and “Born Standing Up” but not the one you mention, showing the limits of my extensive library. — DA]

  • DAve

    Slaughterhouse 5 and Tortilla Flat.

    But Bonfire of the Vanities is a STUNNINGLY good movie… as is Cannery Row.

    Billy Budd is a great one that I had all the wee ones read. Reminded me of the video “The Fountainhead” (Gary Cooper) that I just watched last night which was a good one too.