There are no books I must read before I die

We’ve been massively sorting out the house (and the garden, thanks to my in-laws) this weekend. It’s about time, I suppose, considering that we moved in a month and a half ago and once the baby’s here (nine weeks to the due date now), it will probably be a while before we care about where those picture frames should hang.

Also, we’re hoping for a mass invasion this Saturday with friends coming over for the event we have dubbed The JK BabyBash. No doubt, I’ll tell you more about that later as much excitement surrounds it and I’ll be getting well into it once this stupid cold is gone.

So, um, yes. My mind is wandering. Fever does that. I was saying that we were tidying the house. Well, that’s meant I’ve found all the bags of stuff we’ve been planning to take to the charity shop or the library for…literally years. Including these:

I recently wrote in a guest post that will appear on Tasha Goddard’s blog WAHM-BAM later this week for her Book Week that Laurence has a penchant for hoarding books while I’m very much a read ’em and donate ’em kinda gal. If it’s good, it’s worth sharing, I say. These, however, are his books.

I have an ongoing battle in my mind over what I should read and what I do. It’s probably a hang up from my days as an English Literature undergrad.

By the time I was on to my Masters, I was rather comfortable with my new philosophy that although “experts” will expound on what you must read before you die, life really is too short to be reading things that you downright don’t enjoy.

It’s like my in-laws insisting on watching every one of the Coen Brothers’ films, knowing full-well that they probably won’t enjoy them because they never do (except True Grit. This is the one Coen Brothers’ film they like).

I’m a hedonist when it comes to reading. Irvine Welsh is a genius, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to read his work and certainly not to re-read it. I forced my way through Ecstasy past rape, bestiality, necrophilia and beyond and felt more than a little sick, which is likely what you’re meant to experience. I also gave Porno a go but soon trailed off, wondering why I was bothering to do this to myself. It’s sadistic.

Laurence agrees he likely won’t read them again so off they go to the library today to some other reader who’ll get more out of it than I.

That said, I have begun reading Crime and Punishment again, having used to describe it as a punishment in itself for those who struggled through it. Yes, this Lit graduate is a smidge Philistine.

One of my housemates in my second year at university forced her way through it so I gave it a quick go. But I had too much on my mind at the time and a reading list that was already daunting so after a few chapters, I put it aside with: “Ah well.”

But since Mama – and more suggested that I should make the most of reading in response to my post about things I should do before the baby comes, I looked through our shelves and thought, I’ll give you another go.

So far, I don’t understand what was blocking me with this book. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m curious to know whether there’s anything you wouldn’t read. Or whether you think that we should at least attempt to read everything touted as “valuable” that’s out there?

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  • I LOVE crime and punishment. It’s just a detective/whodunnit story, but a very brilliant one. Maybe you should let go of what you think it might be, and just read it as though it had just been written and released. Relax with it. It’s just a crime story!

    • That’s exactly what I’m doing. Letting go of preconceived notions. I think it was just a time when I was so overwhelmed with my degree reading list that I couldn’t be bothered with heavy books outside of it for pleasure. But I take your recommendation. I think Crime and Punishment is probably like Marmite to most – loved or hated.

  • “although “experts” will expound on what you must read before you die, life really is too short to be reading things that you downright don’t enjoy.” <—- hmmm. Very good point there!
    I battle with a lot of 'what should I read now' and 'I can't believe I haven't read that yet'
    I am yet to read the classics! & so many well recommended stuff out there, but least I can say that what I do read so far, I'm enjoying. I think I need to be less hard on myself though…

    • Tanya, I know you’ve read loads so for you to say there’s a lot you can’t believe you haven’t read is just you accepting your human limitations! Actually, I can see you enjoying Irvine Welsh. Hit up your library and let me know.

  • [Argggh! Had typed long reply and computer crashed. Will sum up as I can remember it!]

    Chris and I are both book hoarders, though we’ll lend books out to people.

    It’s a long time since I read books I thought I ‘should’ read. As you say, life’s too short not to enjoy what you’re reading. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy plenty of the ones people think you should read. I don’t like books that only make you think – I need to feel, too. But I do enjoy beautifully written books, as long as they have something else (plot, character) within.

    I haven’t got past the first chapter of any Irvine Welsh book. Or Iain Banks book.

    I don’t think I’ve read Crime and Punishment, so would like to hear how you like it. I love Anna Karenina and Doctor Zhivago and have read them many times – read War and Peace a couple of times, though skipped most of the ‘War’.

    • Iain Banks. Argh. Another that I’ve struggled with in the past and left. Life really is too short. I agree, there are lots of books than are recommended and can be enjoyed. I always say this about Midnight’s Children because I know a lot of people try it and give up but it so is worth it.

  • Catch 22 is my big ditch book. I just didn’t get it and do not understand why it is supposed to be so great.

    I would have ditched The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo had I not been warned that it has a really tough begining. I also knew so many people that loved it that I kept going. And I’m so glad I did stick with it. By chapter 5 I was hooked and now that is one of my favourite series that I recommend to everyone.

    More recently I have ditched I Am Number Four. It is very shallow and I can’t get past the author naming the greatest elder after himself. I think this is one occasion when I will stick to just watching the film which I have been told is fab.

    • Oops, took me a while to reply to your comment! I’ve not read Catch 22 but oddly feel I ‘should’, despite what I’ve said in this post! I also never got around to The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. My father-in-law lent that to me and I kept it so long that I had to just return it. It’ll be quite something if the film is better than the book for I am Number Four, considering that it’s usually the other way around.

  • I really liked Ecstacy. Back when I was 25, and doing ecstacy. I can’t imagine reading those books again now (though I do still have that, and trainspotting on my bookshelf). Funny how tastes change with time.

    • I think we definitely do need different books at different times in our lives and it’s ok to go with the flow of that rather than fight it. Ecstasy is a brilliant book and as I said, Welsh is a genius. I just can’t really stomach that stuff at the moment!

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