A couple of months ago I was guest lecturing a friend's undergraduate short story class. The topic I was to cover was point of view. For the latter portion of the class, I opened the floor to any questions the students had for me, or for just general discussion. I had discussed most, if not all, of the points of view in which a short story can be written: first person, close third, third person omniscient, third person neutral, shifting point of view (which would be third person omniscient), and in rare cases, second person.
One of the students asked me what point of view I believed Melville's Moby Dick was written in. Novels many times shift point of view, and a novelist has a significant amount of leeway to shift points of view than he or she does in a short story. The novelist can take risks that the confines of a story don't allow. Anyway, my response to the student: I froze. And then I came clean.
"I have a confession to make. I've never read Moby Dick." This was met by some understanding and sympathetic laughs.
I began thinking after the class. If I wanted to teach writing on a college level, which is one of my goals, I should probably read all those classics, all those books that I should have read by now. I should probably read those books on my shelves that make it seem I am a well-rounded, classically-educated reader.
A few days later, I made a list of all the books I would like to read in 2010, with the realistic caveat that if I read 75% of the list, I would consider myself successful.

Herein is that list. Note: some are classics, some are books I have wanted to read for a long time or books I started years ago and never finished; some are neither and are deliberate fluff (Edgar Rice Burroughs), but it's good to sometimes give your reading brain a vacation. Also, this is not in the order in which I will read them:

1.      Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

2.      Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes

3.      Nicomachean Ethics – Aristotle

4.      The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus

5.      Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

6.      Middlemarch – George Eliot (unfinished)

7.      Wizard and Glass – Stephen King (on my to-read list for too long)

8.      The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time – Phyllis Rose: to be read in preparation for reading all seven books of Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past in 2011.

9.      The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (I began this over the weekend and am about halfway through.) - FINISHED

10.  Trailerpark – Russell Banks

11.  Dubliners – James Joyce (unfinished)

12.  Modern Man in Search of Himself – Carl Gustav Jung

13.  Flow – Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi - FINISHED

14.  Nosferatu – Jim Shepard - FINISHED

15.  To the Lighthouse, or Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

16.  The Stories of Richard Bausch – Richard Bausch. (unfinished)

17.  The Collected Stories of John Cheever – (unfinished)

18.  Samuel Beckett – Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape

19.  The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

20.  Either V. or Gravity’s Rainbow – Thomas Pynchon

21.  Image-Music-Text – Roland Barthes

22.  One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

23.  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars Series Books #2 – 4 (Gods of Mars, The Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars)

24.  Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

25.  The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

26.  As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner (unfinished: started at least half a dozen times. I love the first 50 pages. I haven't read past that. My hyperactive brain moves on to something shiny.)

27.  The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

28.  The Metamorphoses – Ovid

29.  A Personal Matter – Kenzaburo Oe

30.  Anna Karenina – Tolstoy

31. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios - Yann Martel (COMPLETED)

32.  Emma – Jane Austen

33.  Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (see hyperactive brain from As I Lay Dying- No. 26)

34.  Pierre Guiraud – Semiology

35.  Paradise Lost – John Milton

36.  Thus Spake Zarathustra – Nietzsche

37.  The Analects – Confucius

38.  Alice Munro – Selected Stories (unfinished)

39.  The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor (unfinished)

40.  Flaubert

41.  The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet – Reif Larsen (FINISHED)

42.  The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God & other Stories – Etgar Keret (COMPLETED)

As an addendum, I may add the works of Shakespeare to the 2011 list. As of now my reading list for 2011 consists of only the works of Shakespeare and Proust. 2011 is shaping up to be a very pretentious year.

Kelly Gamble
4/26/2010 03:42:51 pm

I did the same thing about a month ago.. I agree, if teaching is our goal, we should be well rounded readers and knowledgeable of the classics.

I didn't see Moby Dick on your list?

4/27/2010 11:47:26 am

I figured I already had enough of those epic classics on the list. If I add Moby Dick, I will probably read only five books before the year's over.

4/28/2010 05:21:17 am

I haven't read Moby Dick. And you're right--to be in our field we should "know" the classics. You've inspired me by your reading list. Middlemarch was painful to read--you've been warned! Haha.


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