Monday, March 21, 2011

Top Ten Meme

Top Ten Books I Absolutely Had to Have -- But Still Haven't Read

I got this one from Litlove. I know I'm being repetitive, but in case you're new to this blog, I feel I need to inform you that my house is full of books I haven't read. Usually, I blame this on Bob. I married a man who has no self control when it comes to buying books, and he fills up our house at an alarming rate. But then I start browsing our shelves and realize someone else is responsible. Bob isn't buying Margery Allingham and Georgette Heyer. Perhaps my friends are sneaking in here and putting books on my shelves. Finally, though, I have to fess up to the fact that I am not someone who goes out, buys a book, reads it, then goes out and buys another book to read. No. I am someone who goes out and buys a book (or 2 or 5). Period. Unless it's the latest David Sedaris, or something I'm reading for a book discussion group, or I am unexpectedly stuck somewhere with nothing to read (a rarity, but it's been known to happen a time or two while traveling), chances are, it will be some time before I actually read it (maybe a month or a year or 20 years).

Nonetheless, I am going to try to choose ten from my vast quantities of had-to-read-until-I-bought-it books for this meme. It just seems like a fun thing to do. I will, of course, be cheating a little (I prefer to call it creative math). You will see the numbers 1-10, though, so I say I've done my job.

1. Over half the Persephone Books I own. (I own 11. I've read 5.) Who can possibly resist Persephone? I'd own their entire bookstore if I could. But it's expensive to order their books and to have them shipped to the U.S. I figure they need to be parsed out and savored. Really, though, I probably don't need to be quite so parsimonious.

2. Every book by Jeffrey Lent except In the Fall (he's written three others). Bob and I were both so blown away by In the Fall that we got all his others. Could it be that I maybe wasn't quite as blown away as I thought?

3. Every book John Irving has written since he wrote A Prayer for Owen Meany. John Irving was a pivotal influence when I was in my teens and early twenties. I've actually read both The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany twice. Ask me to list my favorite contemporary authors, and he's right at the top of the list. And yet, once he published A Son of the Circus, I basically quit reading him. In the beginning, it was because he took so long between books that I wanted to wait a while before reading A Son of the Circus, so I didn't have to wait so long for the next (poor logic, I know, but I never claimed to be rational when it comes to books). I think I've been waiting something like sixteen years now, and he's published plenty of other books since then (all of which I had to and do own). I have no idea why I'm still waiting.

4. Almost every Library of America book we own. That may not sound like much, but Bob used to have a connection who would get these for us free. You wouldn't be too far off if you guessed that we have practically an entire bookcase full of them. I haven't completely ignored them. I've read at many of them -- a novel from this one, several short stories from that -- but the only one I've read all the way through (despite insisting we must have this one and we must have that one) is their collection of light verse.

5. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. Christmas 2008, I told Bob this was the only book I really wanted. I didn't care if he didn't get me anything else. I had to have it. I couldn't wait to read it. That was over two years ago. Okay, okay. I actually happen to be halfway through it now, but that's only because a. it's in my TBR challenge and b. my book discussion group just discussed it on Sunday (due to all kinds of extenuating circumstances, like getting stuck out of town without it, I didn't finish it in time for that, but I will. It's a great book!)

6. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghesi. Last summer, when I was visiting Connecticut, I met friend-not-husband Bob and his wife Ann for dinner and a play. Ann told me I had to read this book. The next day, I headed off to Borders with Zoe's Mom and bought it. It looks fantastic. Everyone I know who's read it has liked it. Have I read it? No. Why not? Let's blame Zoe's Mom, because I'm sure I keep picking up books she's lent me instead.

7. Little, Big by John Crowley. Back in the summer of 2009, when I wrote my blog post on Lud-in-the-Mist, one of the comments I got suggested I might like this book. I turned to my friend Mr. Fantasy, the same one mentioned in that blog post, who has a keen sense of my "picky-ness" when it comes to fantasy, and asked if he thought I'd like it. His answer was a very enthusiastic "yes!" That week, I went out and bought it. It's been sitting unread ever since. Sigh!

8. A Family and a Fortune by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Speaking of Mr. Fantasy, he introduced me to Ivy Compton-Burnett when he lent me A House and Its Head, which I loved. Shortly after that, he and I went to a library book sale together, and he found this for me. Okay, I was living in Connecticut at the time, which means it's been at least 3 1/2 years, and I'd say probably, realistically, you could double that number. God, it looks so good. Why haven't I read it?

9. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. And speaking of library sales, they're certainly a source for must-have books, aren't they? I bought this one at the Lancaster library sale two years ago. I still remember how excited I was to find this nearly pristine copy that looks as though it's never been read. I guess I've decided to keep it looking that way.

10. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Bob loves Calvin and Hobbes, so it was easy for me to pretend I was getting this birthday gift for him a number of years ago instead of for myself. Our shelves just wouldn't be complete without this handsome set. I can't remember exactly when I bought it. That's how long it's been that I've been meaning to read it.

Looks like I need to finish that TBR challenge and start a "Books I Had to Have" challenge, doesn't it? Maybe I'll do so in 2012. Anyone want to join me for that?


Stefanie said...

I giggled my way through this but your concluding sentence for Forsyte Saga made ma guffaw. Good thing it is spring break and the library is empty. And I am sure you can still find a way to blame Bob. Say his lack of book buying self-control wore you out after all these years and it just seems so fruitless to impose restraint upon yourself that you finally gave in. Or, it's only fair that if Bob can buy books whenever he wants to that you should be able to do the same.

Susan said...

You are so hilarious!!! I'm tempted to do this meme too, just so I can also feel as guilty about all those books I bought (or made my husband buy) and still aren't read...only I'm afraid of how big the list would be..... I think it's a good challenge, though for 2012. We could have three: books I've been meaning to read, Books I bought and haven't read yet, and books I should really finish (that was another hilarious meme you did).

I am delighted to see Little, Big on there, only it would go into my books I need to finish challenge now. I feel so badly because I couldn't finish it, like something's wrong with me! everyone loves it so.....

I totally agree on Persephone books, I already have two that are waiting to be read (one is even placed here right beside me, but have I picked it up? no), and I have half the catalogue circled for my next shopping with them.

The Forsyte saga even I've picked up and almost bought at a library sale because so many people rave about it here on the book blogs!!! So far I've resisted, but it was a very close call a couple of months ago.

Rebecca H. said...

You packed a lot of books into this list of ten! I'm with you on the Compton-Burnett and also the Galsworthy.

Carrie#K said...

LOL!!! Isn't it the most sinking feeling to realize that a book that you just HAD TO HAVE the second it came out in sitting unread on your shelves when you see the paperback edition. Hopefully the first paperback edition.

I assume the books are holding me off, getting to know me better before we consummate our relationship. Or I have the attention spat of a gnat. Six of one...half dozen of the other.

litlove said...

This is so funny,and so reassuring. Yup, I do that thing of rushing off to buy up the back catalogue of an author I've just discovered. And then never getting around to reading them because of all the other new authors that need to be discovered too. As for John Irving, do you think it's just that he's gone off the boil a bit but your loyalty remains true? My husband likes his books a lot, but not the recent ones so much.

Emily Barton said...

Stef, you're right. I think Bob still ought to be blamed.

Susan, believe me, the list could've been way, way longer than it is. I like your idea of 3 different challenges (read three books from each might be good).

Dorr, yet again, I'm in good company.

Carrie, ooo, I like the idea of being held off by my books. Maybe that will truly make it all the better once we get together.

Litlove, your list was funny, too, and certainly gave me the impetous to post my own. I'm not sure about John Irving, except that, yes, I have heard his most recent efforts haven't been as good, except the newest one (but, you know, I can't read that till I've read the others, because, God forbid, I read him out of order).

ZoesMom said...

I think I have to give this meme a shot. Love your list!

I will accept blame for you not reading Cutting for Stone. I actually have that book in 3 formats (paperback lent to me, Nook version, and audiobook) and I still haven't even started it!

If I could recommend a John Irving to read next it would be The Fourth Hand.