Sunday, 24 October 2010

Essential Reads

Flicking through the Sunday papers (as usual) I came across a rather interesting article by Rick Gekoski`, entitled What Happened to Essential Books? The gist of the article is the point that young adults now-a-days do not read together. We have lost the art of reading books then discussing them with friends and relations. That is not to say that young adults don't read, on the contrary we avidly consume books, rather that there is no longer a stack of essential must reads. The kind of books that cause a debate in the office or at a dinner party. And as much as I hate to agree, I think he may have a point. I read. A lot. I read literary fiction, historical fiction, popular fiction, chick lit, autobiographies... the list continues. Rarely, however, do I have the opportunity to discuss my reads, and when I skimmed through the list of 'essential reads' I was surprised to find I scored quite poorly. 

I have read Pride and Prejudice, a selection of Shakespeare and The Heart of Darkness. I forced myself through a bit of Thomas Hardy, Dickens and Emily Bronte. I enjoyed Angela's Ashes, The Colour Purple and Birdsong. And, I love To Kill a Mockingbird and Pygmalion. Not a bad selection of classics in my opinion. Until I discovered that the Penguin classics series is a collection of over 1,200 titles. I would love to find the time to read Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, Lady Chatterly's Lover  and Women in Love. I haven't read Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, nor have I managed to persevere through Lord of the Rings. I haven't read Dr Jekyll either, or One Flew of the Cuckoo's Nest, Crime and Punishment  or Bleak House.

But here's the problem. How am I supposed to read a good selection of classics when I also want to read contemporary literature. One day Child 44, The Kite Runner, The Book Thief, Lovely Bones and a whole host of other modern literature will be classics and essential reads. On top of that there's Booker prize winners, Pultizer Prize, Nobel Prize for Literature, Costa Books awards, the list goes on.

It seems to me that being 'well read', is a pretty impossible task.

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