Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm prone to obsessively plotting out my reading and composing lists of books I want to get to within the next week/month/season/year. On occasion I actually manage to stick with a short-term list long enough to complete a few of its titles before I go on yet another freefall with whatever title I've chosen on the breath of the moment: I do believe that "Read at Whim!" ought to be a moral mandate. Listing is just a neurotic habit, a quick way of filling the white space on an empty page or the back of a handy envelope.

I'm plotting like mad this month. Between the dropping temperatures, which never fail to inspire a bout of new school-year resolutions, an ever-changing schedule and a bit of horrifying news my daughter shared with me this week about a classmate (and the stomach-churning that accompanies the conviction that the girl's parents simply must be told), I'm spending more time fretting over future reads than I am with the books I already have in progress.

Two more acts to go in The Taming of the Shrew. A re-read of Joyce's "The Dead" is complete, but while it's a brilliant story, I have no burning desire to blog about it. I'm almost to the mid-way point of Little Big Man ( instead of almost to the end as I should be) and while I'm no longer entertaining thoughts of returning it to the library unread, I don't find it as engaging as I'd hoped. I have not started In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. I can't discover how Harriet Hume will ruin Arnold Condorex (and deservedly so) if I don't continue on to chapter two in my current Rebecca West. Mark Haddon's Spot of Bother came in for me at the library and if it weren't for the fact that the library's computerized calling system was in harassment mode over the weekend, the book would still be waiting for me there.

New books gathering around me while I wait for my mood to improve:

Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore. It looks wonderful and I'd not heard one word about it until MFS sent me her extra copy.

Indiana by George Sand. The Slaves of Golconda selection for late October.

The Strange Necessity: Essays and Reviews by Rebecca West. How is it possible that none of the libraries here own this one? James Joyce and Marcel Proust are discussed within, as well as her "literary uncle" H.G. Wells.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. The Birds Fall Down and Black Lamb and Grey Falcon are the West titles included in Prose's "Books to be Read Immediately" list at the back.

Ordered from Amazon and expected by the weekend:

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby. A kindred soul in the can't-stick-to-the-list department.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Learning that much of this one is set in North Carolina tipped me over into Must Buy Immediately Before I Cancel Free Amazon Prime territory instead of waiting for my next free books voucher. I've convinced myself that this is the book I want on the flight out to Utah early next month.

And what are the books I'm listing for future attention?

Lots and lots of classics, especially French classics. It's embarrassing how many I own and have never read.


  1. I so admire your lists! I feel as if I am vicariously enjoying the titles in a very limited but wonderful way. And always have more to add to the TBR pile!

  2. Snap! That back to school mood has had me compiling ever more ambitious and unrealistic reading lists for the last quarter of this year. Then I moved on to next year and when I couldn't fit it all in by December 2007 I considered a five year reading plan. Before slapping myself on the forehead and coming (briefly) to my senses! I can spend hours re-positioning my classics in correct reading order, planning to romp through a dozen epic poems in a month and finish the Norton Shakespeare. Dreams, dreams! I love your lists so please do keep sharing.

    I've also given in and ordered Special Topics (and a few others..)

  3. I, too, am a lister. I have a list of my TBR books, which I update every time I buy new books - meaning that it runs in order of purchase, so I can keep track of how far my reading is behind my acquisitions (and so I can contemplate all the delights to come in times of stress/upset/whatever!). I then make smaller lists of what I intend to read over the next months. I generally stick to them, more or less.

    I'm terribly, terribly anal. I'm sure my reading would benefit from more whim-choices (although I'm hampered somewhat by the fact that my collection is split between my parents' house and my place at university). But at the same time, the discipline/analness means that I read books I'd otherwise keep putting off in favour of apparently shinier treats - and so I discover the joys of books like Middlemarch, or Vanity Fair, or a collection of English Mystery Plays...

    My whims reside in buying (and, boy, do I buy on bizarre whims!). The reading schedule is more exacting. :-)

  4. I used to have a list of the next 6 books I planned on reading but the list was forogtten as soon as it was written and then I'd find it from time to time and agonize over it. So I began selecting "next up" books for my night table. Didn't work either. I fear I allow read at whim to control me too much.

    Special Topics looks like a good one. I haven't ordered it--yet. Only a matter of time really :)

  5. I just got a copy of The Birds Fall Down at a library book sale, so I'm happy that Prose named it as a book that must be read.

  6. I love your lists. I can't seem to make reading lists though. Aside from book group selections, the rest is always up in the air.

  7. I like reading through your lists, too. I am always mentally (and sometimes on paper) making reading lists. But lately I have been in such a fug over my current reads that I just look at the pile I am meant to be reading and it depresses me (well sort of) that I am not making any sort of progress whatsoever. I am contemplating trying to just make my way through this pile before starting too many new things. Of course, I have gotten three emails this week about books at the public library I will be getting tomorrow night....


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