Bookslut has an innocuous little link about books not read that got me going. Here are some perennial and recent entries of mine.
Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity essays by Abraham Joshua Heschel, edited by Susannah Heschel, has been on my bookshelf for quite a few years now. I love The Sabbath and would like to become more familiar with Heschel’s thought.
Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Dickens are, sadly, missing from my finished list. I did get 2/3 of the way through The Idiot before I decided I just couldn’t take the too-obvious symbolism any more.
A la recherche du temps perdu. My friend Jan loves it in French and has the stylish comic-book versions (in French and English). There’s a new translation in the works. I’ve picked up the first volume in bookstores I don’t know how many times. But I’ve never taken the jump.
The Life of Pi. I own it. I’ve started it. There it sits.
Into the Looking-Glass Wood by Alberto Manguel. Another book of essays sitting on my shelves for years. I loved A History of Reading, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.
Literary fiction. Haven’t read much. Don’t care to. Probably shouldn’t even mention it here.
One Reply to “Books not read”
One lesson I learned back when I started working as an editor at NSP is that I should trust myself when I put a book down. Before then, I always felt a little guilty, thought that there must be something wrong with me. But when I was in a professional situation where I had to (tactfully) explain why it was that the book shouldn’t be published as-is, I found that the answer usually lay around the page where I stopped reading. I took to noticing where it was that my bookmark kept getting stuck.
Maybe it’s not unlike the Quaker practice of squeaky bench eldering. Have you noticed this phenomenon? Someone will rise to give a message. It will be a fine little sermon, plausibly enough inspired by the Holy Spirit that people will listen prayerfully. The ministry will unfold itself and come to a pause–it’s obviously run it’s course. But instead of sitting down the minister keeps going. Maybe they go off on some tangent. Maybe they’re unnecessarily repeating themselves. Whatever it is, they’ve obviously “outrun their Guide.” And then it happens: as soon as their speaking recommences, everyone present unconsciously shifts in their seat. Two dozen benches will squeak out their dispproval as the audience resigns themselves to uninspired ranting.
Now I’m not trying to say that Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Dickens were uninspired. But I do think there’s something interesting to learn about a book–and your relationship as a reader to its author–by the place you put it down or start to skim.
ps: today I’ve finished the classic book about Quaker process “Beyond Majority Rule.” I had only read about five pages before and now decided to read the whole thing methodically. But in doing so I realized that those five page were really the best, and they are the same five pages that anyone who ever quotes from the book is quoting from. There is something especially inspired about that section and it’s the message that sticks in reader’s thoughts. (I’ll have a review of it soon on my site).
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