Do you know I've never read . . . (fill in the blank). In my case there are quite a few books that could fill that spot. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling as though I have missed great swathes of literature--books I should have read but never seemed to have gotten around to or had the opportunity to read. Do you ever feel that, too? Now I realize there are so many books out there that it's impossible to have read so broadly (though I suspect there are people who can claim to have done so) that you feel like you're really, really well-read. I shouldn't say "you" when I really mean me in this case.
It seems as though there are certain 'foundation' sorts of books that many people read both as children and as young adults that I've missed out on. And then there are the many books as an adult that I have yet to get around to reading as well (can't even quantify that one). And it's not necessarily the 'classics', though I suppose I am thinking primarily of the sorts of books that have passed the test of time and endured. I've not read any of the Anne of Green Gables books for example. I don't recall ever having read Alice in Wonderland (the entire story anyway), or The Secret Garden. I have yet to read Huckleberry Finn (though finally as an adult I did read Tom Sawyer. No Walden. I didn't even read Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights until college or after. Heck, I've not even read any of Steig Larsson's books (okay, I know--entirely different class of literature, but the sort of book that everyone else in the world has read and can talk about, or so it seems).
Now I know this is sort of a slippery slope I'm on as there isn't exactly a perfect list of books everyone should read. Okay, there are many lists out there, but who decides and which books are included and excluded. You never really have a perfect list whatever good intentions the listmaker may have. I'm thinking, however, of the sorts of books that most people have read and that other readers can find a common ground on which to discuss them. A familiarity of the stories because they are part of a common culture--that very hazy area of reading.
I swear I don't spend hour upon hour agonizing over this problem-wondering about all the books that I have never read, but that I probably should have (I could spend the rest of my life reading the books I think would fit in that category and still never read them all), but occasionally I will come across a book that makes me stop and think. What set off this post is Beatrix Potter. A friend asked about her and whether American children read her now/still and which of her stories were the most popular or the most read. I'm familiar with Beatrix Potter, but I've never actually read her--at least not more than Peter Rabbit in any case.
Isn't he sweet, though? Doesn't he just demand to be read about? As I don't have any children, I never had the second opportunity to read his stories to a family either. Doubly deprived, right? So I couldn't quite answer my friend's question. Do most American children read Beatrix Potter's tales? I know when I worked in a bookstore we carried all the little books in the set and I remember seeing them and probably flipping through them. But I couldn't tell you much more than that.
What do you do when you find a gaping hole in your reading history? In my case I look for the book (well, if it's something I'm interested in and feel I really should have read by now--a moment when all the stars and the moon align just right, you know) and try to read it after the fact. It's a little like a dripping faucet however. A trickle, but imagine trying to fill the area of an ocean with that trickle. Almost impossible, I know. But those little drips do add up over time.
So I went to my public library's online catalog, found a nice edition of The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter and now am going to sit down and start reading. You're never too old to read a good children's book, right? Maybe I'll look for a few more children's books to read before the end of the year in order to fill in a few of those gaping holes. There's nothing for it but to whittle away when I can at those I feel I 'should have read' and still enjoy the rest of the books I am reading.
What about you. Is there a book (or books) you feel you should have read, but you haven't?