". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Friday, May 7, 2010

A "Because I Need to Post" Post

Elephant's Child says going too long between posts can lead to spammers. And here it's been almost a week since I blogged! Where has the time gone?

Well, let's see. We had a Confirmation service, and a party, and I rehearsed and played for three school concerts while keeping all the usual stuff going. No wonder posting has suffered. But I don't want to encourage those nasty spammers! So this is what you call a spam-prevention post--the quickest, easiest thing I could come up with heading into a weekend that includes one offspring performing in The Pirates of Penzance and another participating in a weekend-consuming chess tournament.

Yesterday on Facebook I mentioned re-reading a few parts of Moby Dick in preparation for discussing my son and daughter's literature reading. (We are doing a survey of American literature and are up to Melville in the book.)

I never read Moby Dick until I was a graduate student in literature and was required to do so. But I was glad I did. It was a hard read, but a good one. And yesterday as I revisited a few chapters, I toyed with the idea of revisiting the whole book, wondering what my enhanced years might enable me to gain from a second round with old Crooked Jaw. I don't know if I'll do it or not. But when I mentioned on FB that I might, a few friends stepped in to try to save me from myself: "Don't do it!" they cried. "Life is too short to read a book just because you think you should!"

I assured them I would only read it because I wanted to, not because I should. But that got me to thinking about other books (I'm talking big, fat ones) I have tried to read because I thought I should but have given up on because I just wasn't enjoying the experience. A few that come to mind:

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings
War and Peace
Anna Karenina
Atlas Shrugged (Notice that this one is in my sidebar as "reading now"--I started it in January. I am no longer reading it.)

Then there are the books I started reading because I thought I "should" but kept on reading because I enjoyed them so much:

Catch-22
The Brothers Karamazov
The Grapes of Wrath
The Fountainhead (I wonder why this one so thorougly sucked me in but Atlas Shrugged leaves me cold?)

So how about you? What are the books you tried to read not because they were assigned but because they were recommended to you or because you just thought you should? And of those, which ones did you stick with because they were such great reads, and which ones made you wonder whether you even know how to read?

11 comments:

Rebekah said...

I started Moby Dick this past winter, expected to hate it, and loved it. LOVED IT. My husband is still a little worried I'll run away and become a whaler. Also liked without expecting to: Silas Marner, Native Son, The Silmarillion.

Started and quit Catch-22 (long time ago; maybe I should try again), Return of the Native, and Asimov's Foundation series.

And here's where I reveal how dumb I really am: I loved the non-French Revolution parts of Les Miserables and hated the French Revolution parts. :D And nobody reads those long ridiculous speeches at the end of the Rand books, right?

Glenda said...

The only one that comes to mind at the moment is Don Quixote. I remember finding it funny and enjoying it for the most part, but it seemed to take so long to read, and I've only made it about a fourth of the way through.

Oh wait. We (hubby and I and another couple at church) were going to do a book club beginning last fall. The other gal suggested Ivanhoe. I haven't made it past the first two pages. Although my 14 year old has read it.

The various Jane Eyre books are ones I kept reading because I enjoyed them.

Bibliophile said...

Well, I can't say I have ever read any book because I thought I should. That being said, I have started books because I thought they sounded good, and then gave up. A couple of those, Middlemarch and Don Quixote. I did read Moby Dick one summer during college while working evenings at a gas station. I enjoyed it a lot and did not think it was a particularly hard read.
War and Peace is on my list because I just got a good translation of it for my birthday. Recently, I finished reading The Art of French Cooking and enjoyed it greatly. The Joy of Cooking is also a good cookbook to read because he (the current editor) gives a lot of history about the dishes and so it gets really facinating. But then, I am one of those people that is reading the dictionary for fun and profit.

I would tell you what is on my "table" (actually a tower speaker in our living room) that I am reading right now, but then you would think I am really weird!
Ewe's husband

Katie said...

I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because I thought I should. It is now my favorite book; I read it every year. I read Catcher in the Rye and Wuthering Heights for the same reason, and enjoyed them also.

I have tried to read 1984 multiple times and I can't ever get past the first 10 pages. I tried Catch-22, but I don't know if I couldn't get through it, or if it was the timing. It was May of my senior year in high school, so I had a lot going on. For some reason, as hard as I try, I can't read Austen. It's not even that I think I should. I WANT to. There's just something about her writing that trips me up.

As an aspiring writer, there are a lot of books I "should" read, but haven't had the motivation to.

Cheryl said...

"And nobody reads those long ridiculous speeches at the end of the Rand books, right?"

Speeches, Rebekah? What speeches? ;-)

I read Silas Marner in high school. Don't remember much about it but I have this vague sense that I didn't like it much.

A few months ago I almost picked up Les Mis at the bookstore. Thought better of it. We'll see if the urge ever strikes me again.

I was just doing a little Mother's Day shopping today and ended up picking up Native Son. I have never read it but it looks like something that will suck me right in, and that's the sort of book I think I need right now.

Glenda, I have never read Don Quixote but remember loving the movie as a child. Maybe I should give that one a go! I could also use a fun read right now. I've been thinking about rereading Candide, one of my all-time favorites, for that very reason.

Bibliophile, I think I'm going to have to ask Ewe what that book on your table is. My curiosity is piqued!

And Katie, I have never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but lately it seems that I'm constantly bumping into it. I'm wondering--would it be a good book for my 14yo daughter? Maybe for the two of us to read together? She is a quite mature reader.

Oh, and Glenda, I loved Jane Eyre but couldn't stand Wuthering Heights. And Katie, I share your opinion of Austen. I read Pride and Prejudice and that was enough.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Let's see. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray for fun. Started the Silmarillion a few times out of interest in Tolkien and never got through it. Read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for fun but don't remember its suitability level. Have no desire to ever read Moby Dick. Read The Scarlet Letter for school and still wonder why it is a classic.

Katie said...

Well, obviously I don't know your daughter, but if she's a reader, she will likely identify with Francie, who is herself an avid reader. The language is not difficult. The story spans years of Francie's life, which can seem long, but it's worth it. I wouldn't call it historical fiction, exactly, but it takes place in the early 1900s and the time period shows through strongly. You'll see what I mean. You might want to read it first if you are concerned about her being exposed to different things, but still, I don't think it is inappropriate for a 14 year old girl. Read it now. :)

Gauntlets said...

The Neverending Story really is never ending, so I gave it up. And I also quit The Hobbit, because it made my eyes all crossy. And The Sound and the Fury, as reading it made me soundly furious. Hayuk, yuk, yuk. :P

Books I expected to hate but didn't: The Fountainhead (does this mean I'm evil?), East of Eden, Jane Eyre, and Les Miserables. Wow, I love Les Miserables so much ...

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is really, really good. However, (SPOILER ALERT) there's a scene toward the end where a man asks Francie to sleep with him. She refuses him and he goes away, but she then wishes she had gone ahead with it, and her mother commiserates. It's not graphic or anything, just very typically American. Maybe worth previewing.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Hmm...books I read because I thought I should but couldn't get through:

1. The Hobbit
2. Brothers Karamazov. I have tried 4 times...I'm the opposite of you, Cheryl. I LOVE Anna Karenina, its one of my books that I go back to to reconnect with the meaning of life.
3. Anything by Dickens

Books I read because I was supposed to but ended up loving

1. Anna Karenina
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. East of Eden

Cheryl said...

BTEG, my teenagers and I are doing The Scarlet Letter as a readaloud (it's taking us forever to get through it because of the ever-increasing difficulty of finding times that we can all sit down and read together). They figured out the Big Dark Secret early on. The interest now is in seeing what the main characters do about it. I read the book in high school and college and later had to teach it to high school students, and I find now that I am reading and teaching it through a Lutheran lens it makes so much more sense. And it's great because my kids and I can talk about how the reason Hester and Dimmesdale are so wretched is that they are somehow trying to make up for their sins rather than laying them at the foot of the Cross. That's something I couldn't have said to my public high school students 20 years ago!

Katie and Gauntlets, thanks for the additional thoughts on ATGIB!

Isn't it interesting to see the wide range of responses that a group of readers of similar background/education/reading ability can have to the same book? I wonder what kinds of things account for the difference? Why, Lora, do you love Austen when I merely tolerate her? Fascinating.

Bibliophile said...

If you would like to know what I am reading, Mrs. Round Unvarnish'd Table, head over to my blog tomorrow.
Ewe's husband