I enjoy checking out recommended reading lists to see what I should be reading. The problem is every list is rather subjective. It includes the books someone deems vital to be read as part of a well-rounded education, but are they relevant to you?
Recommended reading lists usually include many of the classics we were forced to read in school. That’s okay with me since I love the classics and want my reading to encompass as many tomes as possible in a variety of genres. Any self-imposed list I create is one with a variety of classics. I still think timeless books offer so many opportunities to learn about excellent writing. They also usually have stories and plots that have not been rivaled in centuries.
Reading lists make a great guideline to help you have a program that includes many authors and important works to consider. Reading lists can only be followed in regards to your available time to read and study. Though we would love to read it all, we must choose from the many suggested offerings since most of us don’t have unlimited time. Such a shame!
In order to truly study an author requires you to read most everything they have ever written. With some prolific authors that idea can be overwhelming. First you need to choose an author from those suggested. You can begin with a sampling of their work, say three or four volumes. If you enjoy them, it means another choice. Will you begin a more sophisticated study and read many more titles they write. If you feel your sampling has indicated you don’t enjoy them or wish to continue with their works, then you must once again choose a different author. Most lists offer several authors with their most important works, but I think life is too short to waste time reading what you do not love unless it is a part of a class or course of study.
When I look at lists I usually find I have read many of the recommended books, but it was so long ago, even from my school days that I may not even remember what the title was about now. I am of a firm belief that sometimes we read books at the wrong time of our lives and they are much less relevant then they would be at a different time for us. Often, where you are in life determines what you get out of a book. I regularly wish to revisit those books that left a lasting impression upon me. If they seemed important at the time and still hold a place in my heart, memory or soul, they should be reread.
So what would be the first three ‘must read books’ you would recommend to others?
Too many books and too little time. There are tons of books out there and so you naturally need to eliminate some books from your wish list. I have trouble doing that as I feel so ruthless taking a work off my proposed reading list. After all it was someone’s ‘child’. An author somewhere, gave birth to this piece of writing. He nurtured it and supported it until he felt it was grown enough to make it without him. And here I am saying no to yet another book. By necessity, we must or we would be overwhelmed with possibilities.
How do you decide which books must be taken off your reading list? Do you have a way of prioritizing your selections? Some folks rush to read any new book they can, maybe secretly hoping to make a personal discovery of the next great author. Others use the Best Seller lists as their guides to choose what critiques feel is important enough to read. There are people like myself who search out classics and particular genres like mystery and biographies of interesting, strong women. If someone is getting killed and who and why are a mystery I am ready to climb on board. Playing detective is part of the pleasure and learning all the ways humans can devise to eliminate a person is rather addictive.
The biographies are accumulated with a criteria that maybe I would only understand. First, I only collect those of women. I may read those about men, but rarely keep and collect them.The prerequisites include that this woman was a strong figure, had a notable or notorious life or was just such a unique person that I wish to know much more about who they really were and how they became that woman. I like to collect biographies of women who made their mark in one way or another. Sometimes, the books in that collection make me do a double take because of who they portray, but they belong on the shelves to my way of thinking. Of course, women like Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher have made the grade, but so have Cleopatra and May West. Each person’s choice of reading material certainly says a great deal about their reader.
I wonder if writers feel they should read everything they can within the genre they are trying to write in or think it is better to soak up the classics to get a feel for what the beat writing entails. I would think it would be much better to have a varied reading experience crossing as many genres and sub categories as possible.
Some of us will never have the time, health or money to experience all life has to offer. Few of us get to travel extensively or sneak in and out of other cultures just to investigate material or absorb what is there for the taking. And so we read and read and read and hope something good rubs off and makes our writing richer for the pages we have turned.
When you are yearning to read, what do you choose?