52 Weeks in my Bookshelf

I am an über procrastinator and although I consider the ways of my procrastination to be on a somewhat more sophisticated level (I don’t watch Topmodel, the Voice or any other casting show), I’ve come to realise that browsing the web and watching TV shows online has to stop. My memory is deteriorating, the dioptres are increasing exponentially (or is it decreasing? in short – I can’t see) and I almost forgot everything I’ve ever learnt at uni. On yet another day of procrastination I decided to watch a TED Talk and stumbled across Ann Morgan’s Reading the World talk which reminded me that reading used to be my procrastination method of choice.

Growing up in a bibliophilic family I always loved books, so much so that I ended up studying comparative studies. Although I was rather good at it, the fact that I studied literature is also the reason for the decline of my reading habits. Reading became work and even though I still read books other than those for uni, I tended to read lighter books – dime novels even. I did not want to think when reading and eventually I prefered not to read that much at all. So, here I am re-claiming my true self – rediscovering my love for books and good literature. Just going through Ann Morgan‘s list of books was not an option for me (I am sure that it would be a mindblowing and life-changing experience to travel the world through books and I will try to read some of the books on her list in the near future) simply because I am lacking the shelf space and am also trying to save some money.

However, the opening statement of her talk stuck with me and I reflected upon the question what my bookshelf says about me. The university program I chose sure had an impact and my shelves, too, show a tendency to anglophone literature, nevertheless it is not just British or American books you will find but also a lot of German books (in German which is my mother tongue), quite a few Finnish books (a few in Finnish – my husband’s – but mostly in German, so that I could read them) and a rather eclectic mix of so-called world literature (European would be more adequate). The most drastic revelation of my reflection was that I had only read 2 thirds of the books I own. One reason, of course, is that they’re not all mine but still it was shocking how many of the books (some of them must read before you die or die ignorant books) have been untouched by me. Some of them were even part of my syllabus at uni but I reached a point during my studies where I only read the books I wanted to read or that were short enough and could be finished on the way to uni.

To remedy this, I decided to create a list of 52 books from my book collection and my aim is to read them all before the year 2017 is over. The main criterion was the length of the book. The majority of books are under 300 pages (sometimes significantly less) and only 10 or so are 300-700 pages. I am also cheating a bit by beginning my list this month (December 2016). So without further ado, here is my list (I will try but not necessary read the books in that order):

1) Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman
2) Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle
3) John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony
4) Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
5) Leena Lander’s Cast a Long Shadow
6) Henry James’s Washington Square
7/8/9) Ellis Peter’s The First Cadfael Omnibus
10) H.G. Wells’s Ann Veronica
11) Virgina Woolf’s Orlando
12)  Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus
13) Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship
14) Erica Fischer’s Aimeé and Jaguar
15) Theodor Fontane’s Jenseits des Tweeds (Beyond the Tweed – no English translation available)
16) Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms
17) Hermann Hesse’s Siddharta
18) Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
19) Selma Lagerlöff’s Stories and Legends (no English translation available)
20) Leena Lander’s The Home of the Dark Butterflies (no English translation available)
21) W. Somerset Maugham The Magician    
22) Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses
23) Harry Mulisch’s The Assault
24) Thomas Mann’s Theodor Storm Essay (no English translation available)
25) Ulrich Plenzdorf The New Sorrows of Young W.
26) Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac
27/28/29/30) Theodor Storm’s All Short Stories and Novellas in Complete Works (Some translated into English)
31) Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest
32) John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
33) Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther
34) Ian McEwan’s Atonement
35) Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children
36) Rütten & Loening’s Che The Dream of the Rebel (German Che Guevara Biography, no translation)
37) Perry’s The Heart of Emerson’s Journals
38) Elspeth Barker’s O Caledonia
39) Klaus Kordon’s The Time is Broken (Erich Kästner Biography, no translation)
40) Leo Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina
41) Siegfried Lenz’s The German Lesson
42) Nicholas Evan’s The Horse Whisperer
43) John Grisham’s The Firm
44) Kaari Utrio’s The Bronze Bird (not sure about translation)
45) Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn
46) Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer
47) Henry James’s The Bostonians
48) Penguin American Short Stories
49) Max Gallo’s Rosa Luxemburg (no English translation, only French and German)
50) Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
51) Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Black Arrow
52) Emily Dickinson’s Poems

Before anyone attacks me for not having already read some of the abovementioned works, I have to say that I started most of them and then stopped reading them for whatever reason, some are recent additions to my collection and regarding some of the big names, rest assured I read other works by Goethe, Stevenson, James, Steinbeck, Emerson, Twain etc etc I am considering writing a blog entry after each book in which I give you my “reading” of the respective piece of literature and maybe some ideas for further reading.

I stole the blog post picture here , no idea where they got it from.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pat says:

    Hi Debra, a few comments on your list, first up I find it difficult in my reading to only read must read books and would suggest mixing in some pleasure without gain books in order to keep up the momentum in those flagging moments. Secondly you don’t have anything from the 21st century.
    I wish you good luck on your reading year which will represent death to procrastination or at the very least a serious health jab

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Debra says:

      Hi Pat
      thanks for your reply. I didn’t actually realise that I don’t have anything from the 21st. Funny. Wait that’s not right, I think I have exactly 1. Rachel Joyce’s book. The must read referred to some of the books not all of the books but the general idea of it was to not buy anything new (although some were bought or given to me just recently). I am pretty sure that I will enjoy most if not all of them. I am a sucker for James and Steinbeck anyways, 1 or 2 are actually romance novels and some historical novels which I usually enjoy. One of the reasons for mostly having 1st half 20th and some 19th century novels is the fact that this is the period I specialised in at uni, so I automatically gathered a lot of those. Cheers Debra


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