I have literally just come away from a post by Caitie on the Pub Writes blog. She is hosting her very first ‘challenge’ for 2011. It is based on the fabulous 1001 Books you must read before you die; a flawed (in that no-one will ever agree on what should be included) but fabulous book to dip into and a) come out feeling a little smug or more likely b) come out feeling throughly ignorant. I did once go through it with a group of friends and found I had read just over sixty of the titles, which include everything from the very earliest works in English to the present day. That as it happens wasn’t too bad on the day, and I do at least feel that at this rate I am going to live a very long time in order to tick them all off one by one.
Seriously though, Caitie’s challenge is an interesting one. I rarely take these ideas up, because to be honest I do not need to give myself more reasons to stress. NaNoWriMo, A river of stones - inspirational and anxiety inducing in equal measure. I also rebel against the idea that the books on the list are only on there because one group of people believe them to be somehow superior. How often has the bulk of the Booker list been made up of books more like to give you a headache and an inferiority complex than that feeling of satisfaction, or sadness, you feel when you reach the final page of a great book?
However, I do believe that there is a world of books out there that I have barely tapped into. I buy many of those I read by hunting across Amazon searches; I am obsessed with the rows of cast-offs in charity shops (which always seem to include a copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides) and have to be dragged away from boxes at boot fairs. But if you think about it, it is as odd to be led by Amazon, or Oxfam or the contents of someone else’s garage as it is by a book such as 1001 Books etc. I am also desperately concerned at our County Council’s determination to slash library provision and this idea gives us the opportunity to head down to our local library and show our support for a service that will certainly never be returned to us once lost.
So, I thought I may give it a go. My friend Jo of slummysinglemummy fame has also set herself a literary challenge this year and I am sure she will motivate me. But I have already decided that I am not going to read these books for the sake of it. I hate ‘giving up’ on a book half way but as there are obviously thousands of wonders out there I am not going to spend my time on one that clearly isn’t for me, however brilliant it is.
So take a look at Caitie’s post and see what you think. She offers a link through to a basic list of the titles so you don’t have to stand in Waterstones jotting down the titles in your notebook (cough cough..) and she does give you four options, from reading 5 for a Diploma to 16 for a PhD so it is harder to ‘fail’ (thank goodness).
There is one thing you can be certain of however, there is no way that I am ever going to read the 1000 and first title on the list. That is a little too much like tempting fate…