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.