Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Not To Read

Here's an interesting article from today's Daily Telegraph: a list of 25 books you don't have to read before you die. 

Now, mostly those lists of books to read and places to go and movies to see before you die are rubbish, aren't they? Read what you want, go where you want, and watch what you want. You're capable of developing your own likes and dislikes, and good for you. 

And who compiles these lists anyway? Is there a secret society that has set itself as the arbiter of culture and taste? If so, what are my chances of joining? (She asks as she types this in her pyjamas.) 


And while the list of 25 books you don't have to read is a fun twist on an old theme, it's just as pointless really. 

But, for the record, here are the ones that made the list that I don't agree with: 

Twilight. Yup, you heard me. I really didn't like Twilight, and I really didn't understand the fuss, but I'm glad I read it. Why? So I can have fun discussing it with the gazillion other people who read it. It's pop culture, not literature, but who cares? 

Catch 22. Are you kidding me? This book is one of my favourites. Ever. Fantastic book. 

To The Lighthouse. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan, but this is one of the rare books I studied at university that I enjoyed more because I studied it. Unlike anything by Joseph Conrad. 

Fifty Shades. I read a chapter. Couldn't even bring myself to get to the naughty bits. Had to see what the fuss was about. Still not sure I understand. And, for those who haven't seen it before, here is the best review of Fifty Shades of Grey ever, courtesy of Goodreads reviewer Katrina Passick Lumsden. It's probably not NSFW. But worth it, just for Bert's face. 

So, what books would you put on your personal list of books you don't have to read before you die? Apart from anything by Joseph Conrad. 

*Okay, so Conrad was a great writer and his books are classics. To me though, they will always be a classic example of what happens when you have to read them over and over again at school and university. Sweet mother of God, not Heart of Darkness again! 


  1. The only ones I've read are On the Road and The Metamorphosis, both of which I read on my own during college, and liked them both. Was assigned Tess, but of course didn't read it.

    Lists like these are just filler, or to provoke people. Instead of making you feel guilty for not having read some classic you could never get into, it kicks someone's favorite in the shin. I'm actually more tempted to read some of those books now than before.

    *As for Conrad, enjoyed him most after college, when I found Youth and Typhoon.

    1. I'm tempted to read them all as well!

      And maybe one day I'll get back to Conrad. Maybe...
      As soon as I've finished my current kick of absurdist stuff that I'm enjoying (but possibly not really getting) like At Swim Two Birds, and The Man Who Was Thursday.

  2. Classics can be enjoyable (like Fitzgerald and Hemingway) or not, like Conrad. I wasn't a fan of his either or of Hardy. I do my own selecting of classics, since I like certain time periods better than others. In school I would have preferred French literature to English lit.

    Lists are for people who need them to stimulate their choices. Not for all of us.

    1. I forgot to mention I loved Metamorphosis by Kafka, and On the Road by Kerouac.

    2. I haven't read On the Road, but I love The Metamorphosis as well!

      I also select all my classics, and they are a wide and varied bunch.

  3. The Metamorphosis is the only book on that list that I've read, and even that was forced (although I did like it). Most of the rest are on on my personal list, though. No Twilight, no 50 Shades, no Devil Wears Prada, nothing that has to be translated from Russian (Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are excellent writers,

    1. I started Crime an dPunishment, and gave up. And then felt guilty for giving up, just because it was a hard slog. But I've since realised there are at lot of great books out there, and a lot of classics I've never read that might be more accessible to me!

  4. I read Ulysses in College, and that was a tough read, although it did leave me with the feeling I had experienced one person's complete day. But I liked Crime and Punishment, and read it more than once. I also was gripped by Tess of the d'Ubervilles and by Memoirs of a Geisha. But then, I'm partial to historical novels and novels about other cultures.



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