Friday, November 09, 2007

Confessions of a Lazy Mind

You may have already surmised this from my monthly reading reports, but I am the world's laziest reader. I love reading, but I'm sort of child-like about it. You know the kid who only eats peanut-butter sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) and Fruit Loops (but no milk) for the first six years of his life? I'm the literary version of that. I like what I like and I'm not much interested in branching out.

I also have a habit of dismissing things out of hand for the most miniscule and irrational of reasons. I don't just do this with books, I also do it with movies. This drives Peter absolutely crazy and its a testament to his patience that we've been married for 11 years. For example, I'm not real keen on watching old movies or watching movies about the past. Anything before World War II? I'm not interested. Black and white? No thanks. That rules out a good chunk of the world's movie library.

I'm very good at whittling down the rest of the choices by fixating on one tiny flaw or issue. For example, I won't watch Bridge Over the River Kwai because I can't stand whistling. I hate Sean Connery and his marble-mouthed manner of speaking. (Yes, I know I'm in the minority on this one.) I refused to watch Red Dwarf for ages because its name suggested a tedius Star Trek-esque science fiction drama. (I eventually agreed to watch just one and ended up hooked on them, but I still maintain it's a really bad name.)

When you combine my mental laziness with my snap-judgementalness, you get someone with extremely narrow reading tastes. I pretty much stick to mysteries and chick lit, with some suspense and few contemporary literary fiction thrown in for good measure. I've always felt a little bad about this, because as a writer, I really should read more widely.

So, when I followed a link on Fence's blog to the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge, it seemed like the perfect sort of kick-up-the-arse that I need. I love challenges.

Having made the mental commitment to sweep out the cobwebs, the next step was to come up with my reading list. I actually came up with a few reading lists. But the thought of having to go out and find twelve books was a little overwhelming. Sure, I could go on a monthly basis, but the chances of being able to find a copy of The Education of Little Tree in the Middle of Nowhere seemed slim.

Tonight, I was hunting through our unpacked boxes looking for a book on baking bread. I'm not sure it made the cut when we decided which books would make the trip to Ireland and which would make the trip to the Goodwill drop-off centre in Naperville. I didn't find the bread book, but I did find the twelve books that will make up my year of reading dangerously. Peter and I used to belong to this Classic Book of the Month club, because, well, because the books looked nice and it's good to have real books around the house. I'd never so much as cracked the cover of any of these books.

I couldn't find twelve books in our Classics collection, because I'd actually read a few in school. So I cast my net a bit wider and included a book I'd bought for research (and never cracked the cover) and two books Peter has encouraged me to read and I have politely avoided them.

Here's my list, along with occasional comments about why I picked the book.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott - I've always owned a copy of this book and have never actually read it. I'm not sure why.

Paradise Lost - John Milton - This is one of those books whose passages always end up in epigraphs. It seems like any writer who's anyone has read this book. (But I hate poetry, primarily because of the breathless, pretentious way it is always read aloud.)

Gipsy Moth Circles the World - Sir Francis Chichester - This is one of Peter's books. (The ocean creeps me out.)

The Transformation of Ireland, 1900-2000) - Diarmaid Ferriter - Research for a mystery novel I have in my head. I just don't have the background to write it. Yet.

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin - Another of Peter's books. I guess this is sort of medieval fantasy. (I hate the Middle Ages and I don't understand Rennaisance Fairs at all.)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson - I've no good excuse or reason on this one. I think this is probably the book I'm most looking forward to reading.

Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriett Beecher Stowe - Seems silly that I've read so much about this book but have never actually read it myself.

Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman - One word - poetry.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo - I have a bias against French literature. Don't know why, just do.

Faust - Goethe - Again, no idea why I haven't ready this, maybe because it's so old.

Rights of Man - Thomas Paine - I think I was supposed to read this in a political theory class, but I didn't read it.

Moby Dick - Herman Mellville - When I was in school, people talked about this book like it was the ultimate punishment. The worst book you could ever have to read. Sounds like the perfect candidate for reading dangerously.

6 Comments:

At 9 November 2007 at 23:08, Blogger laurie said...

whoa, that's an ambitious list.

i have never thought of you as lazy in any way--not intellectually, not physically, you runner camogie girl, you.

i've only read a few of those--little women, ... ok, little women.

i love your reason for not watching the bridge over the river kwai. did you know that you're never supposed to whistle in a newsroom? it's bad luck, though i haven't been able to track down exactly why.

 
At 10 November 2007 at 17:27, Blogger Kaycie said...

What wonderful choices! I adore "Little Women" and have read it, along with almost every other book Alcott wrote. I tend to be obsessive about authors.

I predict you'll enjoy Milton more than you'd think. I love Jekyll and Hyde, I hope you do, too.

I've never read "Moby Dick". I've never even tried. I may have to read it with you. And it's been so long since I read Paine or Goethe that I don't think I could talk intelligently about them at all.

I can't wait to hear what you think of all them. I'm with Laurie, lazy is not a word I would use to describe you.

 
At 11 November 2007 at 03:33, Blogger Bren said...

Wow, what an impressive list! "Little Women" is one of my favorites. There are a few classics on your list I should read but for reasons like yours, I've avoided them.

 
At 11 November 2007 at 04:00, Blogger -Ann said...

Laurie - I didn't know that about newsrooms. Weird. I guess I'd be right at home in one then. :) Maybe lazy isn't the right word, maybe unmotivated or something. I'm just way more inclined to take the path of least resistance and only do things I enjoy. (For example, even though I will quite happily run 12 miles, I despise doing sprints and never do them, even though I really should.)

Kaycie - Thanks. Given your book list on your Crazy 8s post, you seem to be very well-read. I trust your judgment and will not be so suspicious of Milton. I haven't decided an order yet (except Jekyll and Hyde is probably a good February book since it's so short), so I'll let you know when Moby Dick is on the schedule and we can have a book group. :)

Bren - Let's see if I can get through the list. It looks good on paper (or on pixels), but I hope I can carry my enthusiasm into actual follow-through. (I attempted 2 years ago to start reading all of the books on Time magazine's 100-best list and I didn't get off the 4th page of the second book, which was by Saul Bellow.)

 
At 11 November 2007 at 13:56, Blogger laurie said...

just keep in mind it has taken me four months to get within the finish line of Ulysses.

 
At 12 November 2007 at 18:53, Blogger Kaycie said...

I'm like you, Ann. I read what I like. If I don't like something I put it down. I read a lot, but there are a lot of things I've never read that I probably should have. Like Moby Dick. Do let me know when you'll read it and I'll read it then, too. That will be great fun!

 

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