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Missing Out on Good Reads

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We’ve all seen the lists, we’ve all thought, “I should really read that someday,” but for all of us, there are still books on “The List” that we haven’t actually gotten around to reading. Even though we know they’re fabulous. Even though we know that we’ll like them. Or that we’ll learn from them. Or just that they’re supposed to be worthy. We just … haven’t gotten around to them yet.

What’s the best book that YOU haven’t read yet?

Every once in a while I make a mental assessment of what I should have read but have yet to read. The past few months have seen some changes in this regard, with Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Great Gatsby being annexed into my reading journal. Upon some searching and reflecting, and drawing ideas from the Guardian, I have come up with a list of books I’d liked to read. Again, it’s difficult to dine what “best fiction” is. To me the best novels must have beautiful writing or plot-driven story. The sight of these books never fails to put me to shame that I have yet to read them.

Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood. Times magazine has named this book one of the top 100 English-language novels since 1923.

Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun. The Norwegian author’s work has been on my list since I first heard about him.

Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Almost a decade in the making, Fitzgerald’s elegiac romance is a narrative of failure: of ambition unrealised, relationships dishonored, talent spent.

The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro. Another Booker Prize winner that I have yet to read. This masterful study of repression, regret and a dying class system is the only Inshiguro I haven’t read.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence. Coiled in eroticism, it’s the story of Constance Chatterley, the frustrated wife of a paralyzed war veteran and mine owner, finds herself drawn to the family’s gamekeeper.

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak. It is set against the backdrop of the Russian revolution, but it is the story of Yuri’s grand passion for Lara that has kept its place in readers’ hearts. Why have I passed this one by?

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson. Few contemporary writers are as critically acclaimed as Marilynne Robinson. I’ve received the most recommendation on her books from friends and colleagues.

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. This great epic novel is up for my next Read-along in June. Anyone interested?

Looking at this list explains why I haven’t gone to movies much because, until I have read the novels, I probably will defer watching the movies indefinitely. What about you? What have you meant to read?


66 Responses

  1. I have not read any of these books myself, but they do all sound very interesting 🙂

  2. Remains of the Day is a wonderful, wonderful book. I vote that you read that first.

  3. So many of those you mention sound very intriguing. I second the nomination of Remains of the Day because it’s a book I want to read and I’ve heard so much about it. Since you mention it, I’ll repeat my enthusiasm for Les Miserables, one of my all time favorite books, and I need to read it again. Others I haven’t read but not not on your list: A. Powell’s, A Dance to the Music of Time; Pale Fire by V. Nabokov; I, Claudius by Robert Graves. To name just a few.

  4. I third Remains of the Day; I loved it. I enjoyed Tender is the Night, Lady Chatterly, Dr. Zhivago, and Les Miserables. I wasn’t sorry I’d read The Blind Assassin. But I was sorry I tried to read Gilead. Maybe it was the wrong time to try it, or maybe my expectations were too high because I loved Housekeeping so much, but bleah!

    I’d never even heard of Growth of the Soil. Must check it out. I’ve never read Moby-Dick. It’s the last great unread novel for me.

  5. I tried Remains of the Day and couldn’t finish it. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover. and I read Les Miserables. But I haven’t read any of the rest.

    I’m going to consider the read-along for Hugo, because I read the book so long ago, it’d be worth the reread.

  6. Fine list. Of all those books, I’ve only read “Tender Is the Night” and “Lady Chatterley” – loved the first one, not so enthusiastic about the second.

    “To me the best novels must have beautiful writing or plot-driven story.” I would agree with that 100 percent!

  7. Matt – Have you read Hamsun’s ‘Hunger’ yet? I know you have ‘Growth of the Soil’ on your list, and as you know I do too, but I can’t help thinking that ‘Hunger’ is going to be hard to beat. It’s starvesational! Sorry that was bad :o)

  8. That is a great list of books! I meant to add Les Mis to my list and totally forgot!!

  9. I’ll totally read Les Mis with you. I read almost exclusively “good fiction” all the way through middle school and high school and most of college–I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing, right?

    But then I realized, despite a steady diet of classics, I hadn’t even made a dent in the pile of books you are “supposed to read.”

    So, I still enjoy the classics, and often, but I’ve relaxed a little about it too. There are a lot of great books being published now. It is frustrating to read a bad book, and realize, “I could have finished X instead” but still, I think you just have to relax and let go of the mental checklist. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do!

  10. I can vouch for The Blind Assassin. But you already knew it was great, right?

  11. Hi!
    Great list of books to read. I haven’t read any of them, but would like to some day! Thanks for stopping by my place. Have a great evening!


  12. Oh, I forgot Doctor Zhivago and The Blind Assassin, from your list. So many great books…

    Les Miserables is one of my favourites! I’m very tempted to join your June read-a-long but as I read it just last year, I think I’ll make way for books I haven’t read yet.

  13. I’ve not read any of these either, but I do have Blind Assassin in my pile; I’m also looking out for Lady Chatterley’s Lover and it seems my nearest bookstore doesn’t have it. I’ll have to try my luck at BookMooch or get it from online bookstore.

    Happy reading!

  14. I forgot to put in Dr Zhivago.. which is also on my mind’s list.. will have to add to my actual list. I finally got a copy of Gone with the Wind today and have started a few pages.. it’s rather absorbing so I have high hopes we’ll all breeze through it. 🙂

  15. Excellent list of books there Matt! I’m not even sure where to start on the books that I know that I must read, but what comes to mind first is Anna Karenina and something by Charles Dickens.

  16. Having recently read Bodily Harm, I’ve had enough Atwood for awhile. That was a sluggish read and I hope Blind Assassin works out better for you.

    Les Mis is one of my all-time favorites and one I’ve been meaning to reread. I read it back in ’95 so I just might join you for the read-along. Hunchback of Notre Dame was great too.

  17. I’ve always felt bad about not having read The Old Man and the Sea. Also Slaughterhouse Five.

  18. I haven’t read any of those, but they all sound interesting.

  19. The Blind Assassin appears to be on many lists as well. Atwood is such a marvelous writer I think she’s probably on the ‘must read’ for so many. I have ‘Tender is the night’ sitting and waiting patiently for the last five or so years and I really want to read it! Somehow, I think I will like this so much more than The Great Gatsby.

  20. I found Blind Assasin to be very average. I think it is one of those books which divides people. I’d be interested to hear what you think about it though.

    I haven’t read any of the others, although most of them are buried in my TBR pile!

  21. I always tell myself I’ll get around to reading “Les Miserables” and that single Margaret Atwood book (and now I don’t remember its name…) hiding among my books. And I honestly hope I’ll reach them. Though “Les Miserables” will forever lure me just because it sounds so cool…

  22. I just ordered The Blind Assassin and am expecting it any day. I put it on my 1% Well Read list. My only other note here is that I liked Housekeeping better than Gilead. 🙂

  23. It may sound weird as I haven’t read it, but I feel like there are many way better Atwood books for you to read other than the Blind Assassin. The one thing I CAN say about growing up in Canada is that I read a lot of Atwood. I think Cat’s Eye, Oryx and Crake, or The Handmaid’s Tale are probably better works (and I remember when The Blind Assassin won the Booker prize, there was a lot of rumblings about how this book was probably not the one to win Atwood the award, but that the committee had felt bad about not awarding her the Booker in years previous. All this to say, that based on what I’ve heard, if you’re going to read one Atwood, there are better ones to choose!

    I agree with essentially everything else on your list, though! I actually have a copy of Dr. Zhivago that I bought on a whim the last time I was at the used bookstore, but have (of course!) not read yet… is it just me or do Russian authors seem to lend themselves to Winter reading? Just me then….

  24. The Remains of the Day and Gilead are both excellent! I hope you’ll get to them soon.

  25. Ahh, I was wondering why Ishiguro sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place him. While putting books away I noticed I have The Remains of the Day.

    I kind of second Steph. As bad as Atwood’s Bodily Harm was, Handmaid’s Tale was good. Horrific, but really good and well-written.

  26. I’ve had the Blind Assassin for years and have yet to read it. I never made it through Lady Chatterly.

    I have been thinking of reading Gilead, but I have read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and was not a fan. Still waiting to get over that I guess.

  27. I want to do a read along too, but not Les Mis…something humorous, perhaps. Any suggestions Matt?

  28. The Social Frog:
    These are the ones off the top of my head. I would like to read these authors, especially Marilynne Robinson.

  29. bloglily:
    So I heard about The Remains of the Day. The book remains unread on my shelf for a long time! 🙂

  30. Greg S:
    A Dance to the Music of Time will be a gargantuan project. The spine of each volume constitute a picture. I read I, Claudius when I was an undergraduate. I don’t remember much of it but I’ve written notes in my old journal.

  31. Jeanne:
    After a couple ARCs that aren’t very promising, and that I have to slow down on Gone with the Wind, it’s a nice change of air to read a book that is highly recommended by so many of you. I just rummaged through my bookcase and located my copy of The Remains of the Day. 🙂

  32. Beth F:
    Like Gone with the Wind, I haven’t watched the film or seen the musical. So the Les Miserables experience will be purely literary! I’m planning to read it in June, when school is less demanding.

    The remains of the Day is up next for me.

  33. JLS Hall:
    Bloggers have pointed out that Tender is the Night is less impressive than The Great Gatsby, although it’s a good read.

    I have ventured through Sartre, Camus, Kundera, and Nabakov. While I don’t question the literary flairs, I find plot-driven novels more to my liking.

  34. Robert Burdock:
    I haven’t read any Hamsun and that really churns my stomach. Hunger, Mystery, and Growth of the Soil are all on my list—on my bookcase! I put the latter up there because that’s what have stirred up much attention. Now that you have spoken up, I might have to put Hunger to the top. 🙂

  35. Lisa:
    Would you like to read along Les Miserables with me in June? 🙂

  36. Meg89:
    Great point! When it comes to picking books to read, I tend to look for books that are either plot-driven or are graced with beautiful writing. Toni Morrison is a prime example, even though she is difficult. Sometimes I’m in the mood to venture out of my comfort zone and read books that are more experimental. They might be books that I would enjoy a great deal but they are conducive my being a well rounded reader.

  37. Joseph:
    The Blind Assassin is lined up now after The Remains of the Day. 🙂

  38. Sherrie:
    If would be nice if you read along with us some of these great books. 🙂

  39. tuesday:
    I am a bit ashamed that I haven’t read Doctor Zhivago being a comparative literature grad student. Another book that I remembered after I compiled the list is The Last temptations of Jesus Christ.

  40. Melody:
    I didn’t know about Lady Chatteley’s Lover until the (quite) controversial film came out. I need to read more D.H. Lawrence.

  41. claire:
    I also have mental list of books that I would like to read or at least want to acquire from the bookstores. Sometimes I don’t have time to write down all the titles, so some books stand out in my memory when I hit the bookstores.

    Okay…I’ll be cheering for you on GWTW. 🙂

  42. Staci:
    My teacher in high school used to say whther you’re in a reading block, you’ll find something that will engage you in Charles Dickens. Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities are my favorites.

    I’m teaching Anna Karenina starting the second half of March so I’ll be reading it all over again. A local (by invitation only) book group invited me to attend their meetings on the novel. They are taking it slowly but are enjoying the characterization.

  43. Mish:
    I agree that Margaret Atwood has a delay factor after I finished The Handmaid’s Tale. It took me a week to make of the book, and when I did, I felt creepy about the story. She’s talented but also eclectic.

    It would be nice if you read along Les Miserables with me. I’m very excited that many of you have shown interests in reading. 🙂

  44. Andrew Blackman:
    It puts me to shame that I’ve only read one Hemingway.

  45. Yvonne:
    So many books, so little time! 🙂

  46. Mae:
    Tender is the Night doesn’t seem to garner as much merit as Gatsby does, but seems to be a more romantic and sentimental read.

    Blind Assassin is all over the place. Publisher is still releasing new rubs of the book. She is featured in the Man Hong Kong Literary Festival which my friends have told me about.

  47. farmlanebooks:
    I heard mixed reviews from among my friends as well. It’s one of the books that really provoke a fierce discussion. I still want to read it and see for myself. Atwood is very magnetic.

  48. Biblibio:
    Speaking of books hiding in the back of my bookcase, I just found my copy of The Remains of the Day, which is now lined up for reading. Les Miserables is schedule for June read-along. Would you be interested? 🙂

  49. Priscilla:
    I’m also curious which one of Robinson I should read first: Gilead or Housekeeping? If one is better than the other and the one not as good is worth a reading, I should save the better one for last! 🙂

  50. Steph:
    All your selections seem very good. Blind Assassin has just got all the hype, I wonder why? I have always suspected the political reasons behind awards. The Nobel Prize in literature has been known to target at making sure awards are even among countries.

    I like to read Russian short stories in winter. Like Dostoevsky’s White Nights, The Christmas tree.

  51. The only one I have is Les Miserables. Depending on what’s going on in June I may join in your read along. I may be taking a modern literature class and not have time for it. We’ll see.

    Thanks for visiting me on BTT

  52. Rebecca:
    So many people have recommended The remains of the Day. I just started it today over brunch. 🙂

  53. Nicole:
    I have to admit that Marilynn Ropbinson does get a lot of noise at the bookstores. I’m very curious.

  54. chartroose:
    It seems to me that most of the chunkster are on the serious side. I have lined up The Tale of Genji for September as well. 🙂

  55. Robin of My Two Blessings:
    Yay that would be great if you can read Les Miserables together! 🙂

  56. I have Lots of books like this-“mean to read” books. A few that come to mind: My Antonia, anything by DH Lawrence but probably The Rainbow, The Go Between, and something by Edith Wharton….and maybe Anna Karenina, too.

  57. Danielle:
    I remember you mention The Rainbow, which I have on the shelf. You know this is a very broad question because almost all the books in my TBR pile (at least classics) fit into this category. Anna Karenina is due another perusal since it’s the next book on my class syllabus.

    I want to hear your thoughts on The Go-Between.

  58. I agree with Steph. I read The Blind Assassin and while it was good, The Handmaid’s Tale is much better.

  59. I’m in for Les Miserables. It’s been ages since I read it.

  60. Chris:
    Oh, does that mean I have less to look forward to? I read The Handmaid’s Tale.

  61. John:
    Good to have you on board! 🙂

  62. I’m not sure if i will ever read Ulysses, but I suspect I should first read A Portrait of the Artist… first – in readiness. Anna Karenina and War and Peace are another two books I have been intending to read fo ages.

    Les Mis certainly appears popular. I have read all but the final thirty pages, years ago tho.

    I like Atwood – I hope you are taken with The Blind Assasin.

  63. Sadly, the only book on your list that I’ve read is Les MIserables, which is long and rambling but beautifully written!

  64. Nico:
    I’ll have Atwood lined up. Ulysses has to wait. I have to overcome my fear of it. 🙂

  65. S. Krishna:
    I plan to read Les Miserables this summer in read-along.

  66. […] Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Thanks to Matt for the […]

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