Guilty Book Confession Corner: The Books I’ve Missed and Mean to Read–Someday

homer-confessionEveryone in the book world has been buzzing about Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to her acclaimed novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

I’ve been following the much talked about debate on whether or not there aren’t other forces behind the book’s mysterious and unexpected release. There’s also a lot of questions on the author’s mental state, if she’s cognitively involved in all the marketing and publishing decisions. All these questions and controversies serve to generate even more publicity, which will end up bolstering the sales even more. It’s probably going to be the most talked about book of 2015, except for this blogger.

There’s no protest going on here. No financial reason why I haven’t preordered/bought the book. It’s just—and here it is—I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s on my Kindle, and it’s definitely a book I plan on reading someday, but I just haven’t yet.

That’s right. I haven’t read Mockingbird. It’s always been a book I’ve been meaning to read, but somehow it just didn’t happen. It’s just one of the many book guilty baggages I carry around with me.

A lot of us have that one book, or in my case, several books, we haven’t read. Usually these books are Classics that we should have been exposed to as a child. If for some reason we were deprived reading them during such time, then we should, at some point in our adult lives, voluntarily read these books for no other reason except for our personal benefit. It’s like going to exercise: you know it’s good for you but you keep putting it off.

Part of the reason for the paucity of Classics in my repertoire is due to the school I went to growing up. Now I don’t know if the school was possibly underfunded (but probably) or if it had to do with the region (again, probably,) but I do know that there wasn’t an emphasis on reading Classics in and outside of the classrooms.

It’s not to say that I had bad teachers. I had wonderful ones, but I can only recall rare instances when my classmates would actively participate in discussions. A glut of what we were taught, what we were assigned to read, was mostly Colonial literature. No idea why, but as a kid, that literature was some of the driest material I’d ever come across, even though as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the rhetoric of essay writing and epistolary. Just as we’re being introduced to Nathanial Hawthorne, my teachers decide to only teach his short stories. Yup. I haven’t even read the The Scarlet Letter. I want to, but I just haven’t made my way there yet. For whatever reason—bad timing or poor curriculum planning—the teachers I had from elementary through high school all seemed to agree on teaching the obscure works of authors and poets. Maybe there was a convention that year that I didn’t hear about initiating a new reading list? No idea.

I understand not teaching some of the most popularized Classics, but at some point, I thought at least one of my teachers would give in and teach The Great Gatsby, which I wouldn’t read until I was in college. [Note: There’s nothing sadder than an English major who’s never read The Great Gatsby. My professor looked at me like a hungry puppy for the rest of the semester.]

Finding these Classics in our school library was not an easy task. Considerably small, my school’s library had all their books categorized into these sections: Fiction, Non-fiction, and Sports. Yes. Sports. Try not to let it get you down too much. There was also a section called ‘Current/Political Topics,’ which I couldn’t make sense of, other than it housed the books on eating disorders and the psychology of serial murderers.

Below are the top ten books that I someday (soonish) plan to read that I somehow missed reading growing up, along with the humorous reasons or lack thereof:

  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R.R. Tolkien
    • It was on my dad’s shelf for years! All three books! I think it was their bulky size that scared me off.
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
    • This book seemed perfect for a misfit like me; yet I was never introduced to it. Know the references. Inspired one of my all-time favorite Anime. Just didn’t happen…
  • “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
    • The teacher said we’d never have any use for reading Elizabethan language, so she popped in a VHS tape for us to watch. We only made it to Act III before she said we’d never have any use for Shakespeare either. Turns out, I would study English Literature and take a class on Shakespeare, which skipped R&J.
  • Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift
    • It was never on the syllabus. Ever. Not even in college!
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabovok
    • It’s seriously on my book shelf right now. Classic edition. Beautiful cover. It’s a book I’ve always wanted to read. It’s been on my shelf for a year now.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    • I started to read this one, but then put it down after I was hit with a black hole that vacuumed up any ounce of joy in me, i.e. Depression. Admittedly, it probably wasn’t the best book to be reading post graduation while jobless.
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
    • In high school, I was in the English Honors class with more of an emphasis in writing than reading. It was the regular English Class that read all the classic literature. Go figure.
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
    • It was on my dad’s book shelf…and now I have a copy of it on my shelf, but someday I hope to say, “Yes, I was reading “Ulysses” the other day. ..”
  • 1984 by George Orwell
    • English Honors Class again.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    • I literally don’t know how I missed this one or why I never bothered to pick it up. I’ve read Jane Eyre. I love Jane Eyre, but I’ve heard that Jane Austen’s books and Charlotte Bronte’s books are completely different. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to reading this one. But who knows? I may just need further convincing.

The major reason though I haven’t tried to read these Classics that I missed is this: I’m afraid I might not ‘get it’. It’s a silly reason, but fear and anxiety are rarely ever rational. I worry that I won’t understand it, that the book is too smart for me, that the book is too boring for me; thereby, making me inferior in some way. I know from experience Classics are not necessarily harder to read, but they can seem intimidating, especially if you don’t read a lot of them. That’s okay too. While there are possibly things I won’t understand, it shouldn’t deter me or anyone from reading them, and, not to mention, that’s what the internet is for! Going in with an open mind and working at your own pace is all anyone should expect: sage advice that can be universally adapted and applied to everyday life.

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