Books I own that I will probably never read

I own a lot of books. It is dismaying, however, that I own so many that I have little to no interest in reading. I haven’t given them away yet, because I am suffering under this delusion that I will wake up one day with nothing I want to read and gamely pluck Beowulf or The Tale of Genji off the shelf. I doubt this will ever happen. I doubt I will ever be in a mood to read Don Quixote. So, these books are going to probably stay, unloved and unread, on my shelves for another decade or two.

To name a few of the neglected:

  • Beowulf. Should read it; Guion even has the sexy Seamus Heaney translation with the creepy/awesome cover. But… ugh… man. It sounds like zero fun times.
  • The Gulag Archipelago, Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn. Talk about zero fun times!
  • The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu. I really should read this: It is the first true novel ever written and it was by a Japanese woman. Why haven’t I read this?
  • Vanity Fair, William Thackeray. Also looks long and boring.
  • Don Quixote, Miguel des Cervantes. Did anyone actually enjoy this novel?
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi. Someone told me the title is a lot more interesting than the book itself. Sounds plausible. I can’t bring myself to toss it.
  • The Longest Journey, E.M. Forster. Is this one of your bad novels, Forster? Is it? No one ever talks about it, so I’m guessing that it is.
  • Germinal, Emile Zola. Never read Zola; don’t even know what this is about; looks and sounds dry.
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy. I got over my Hardy phase when I was in high school.
  • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell. I watched the great BBC adaptation of this with Emily, but that novel looks so dauntingly long. And I already know how it ends.

Have you read any of these? Are they worth changing my opinions about?

14 thoughts on “Books I own that I will probably never read

  1. Having both read and seen North and South, I recommend sticking with the miniseries. It is one of the few instances where the film adaptation was better. More concise is, in this case a good thing.

  2. I haven’t read any of these, but I love your assessments and think I’d be in the same boat if I owned any of ’em!

  3. I’m with Jillian – Vanity Fair is fantastic. Yes, its long. And somewhat tragic. But the characters are gripping.

    And Reese Witherspoon doesn’t quite capture Becky’s sociopathic nature.

  4. The book on my shelf that I might never read (that I was supposed to have read for a class) is Moby Dick. It makes me sad, because I love the idea of reading Moby Dick. It’s my favorite professor’s favorite book. But I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

  5. I would definitely register a vote for Reading Lolita and Mayor of Casterbridge. Then again, I think my affection for Hardy diminished after Jude the Obscure destroyed my soul two years ago…

  6. I agree with Jillian about Vanity Fair. I’ve read it more than once over the years and it is a great literary feat of observation on human frailty and goodness. Give a try during the summer. It is a good lazy read.

  7. I highly recommend Don Quixote. Yes it’s long, but that’s because it’s actually two novels published several years apart but now packaged as one. I started it out of sheer literary duty – it was, after all, voted as the greatest novel of all time by the Nobel Institute – but expected it to be grindingly dull. To a great degree this depends on the translation, so I urge you to try the Penguin Classics edition translated by John Rutherford. His modern language not only makes it eminently readable, but fully brings out the novel’s the sparking humour and wit. It’s a crackingly good read, frequently hilarious, sometimes deeply moving, and – in the second “book” – goes to a whole new level of cleverness as metafiction.
    *Suggestion*: skip the prologue, read chapters 1-6 (just 34 pages) and judge whether it’s worth continuing at least to the famous “tilting at windmills” scene. If yes, then at the windmills scene you can decide whether to go all the way to the end of Part 1 (i.e. the first publication, total of 454 pages). At that point, you can put it aside, or go back and read Rutherford’s brief introduction and Cervantes’ brief prologue, and then decide whether to start Part 2.
    You can read my book review here:

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