Kate’s Calvino meme

Today I think I will do Kate’s delightful Calvino meme, taken from If on a winter’s night a traveler.

The Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages: I have lots of these; in fact, some of them are on my list of 13 classics I want to read in 2007. They include Don Quixote, Boswell’s Life of Johnson and William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience. I’ve also wanted to read the complete Montaigne (I’ve read bits and pieces from it) for ages, and The Bhagavad Gita.

The Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success: I don’t have a specific book to name here, but I have been looking for an essay anthology that’s as good as Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay and a book on religion and spirituality from a personal perspective that’s as good as Diana Eck’s Encountering God.

The Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment: Joe Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible and Bartholomae and Petrosky’s Ways of Reading, which I’m going to use in a class this spring.

The Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case: Anthologies. Any kind of anthologies — of essays, of 18C poetry, of Victorian prose, of contemporary short stories, whatever. I never know when I might want to consult one of these.

The Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer: Long books — really long books. I don’t like reading really long books when I’m busy as they seem to drag on forever even if they are good and I’m enjoying them. So the summer is the time for books like Don Quixote and Nicholas Basbanes A Gentle Madness, which I’ve got on my TBR shelves.

The Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves: The last two volumes of Proust. I have up through volume 4, but I still need The Captive and The Fugitive, which are in one volume, and Time Regained. Unfortunately, these aren’t available in America in the particuar translation I’ve been reading, the new Penguin one. So I’ll have to switch to another translation — which I won’t do — or order them from England. Disappointingly, the covers of these last two volumes will be different. They would have looked so nice on my shelves, all 6 volumes with matching spines. Sigh.

The Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified: Biographies of obscure people from earlier centuries that on one level I know would bore me from page 75 or so onward, but that I find intriguing in the moment anyway.

These are the questions from Calvino’s novel, but other bloggers have added more:

The Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered: I would find a reading guide such as Clifton Fadiman’s Lifetime Reading Plan and read through his choices — a task that would take forever and would become boring fairly soon but that still sounds appealing to me — if I had more than one life.

Books Read Long Ago That It’s Now Time To Reread: I don’t know if I’ll actually re-read these, but there are some I read in High School or earlier that I’m quite sure I didn’t do justice to, including George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Anyone else want to play?


Filed under Books, Memes

12 responses to “Kate’s Calvino meme

  1. Cam

    What a list! I haven’t read any of the books on your list, although did read parts of Life of Johnson in college. The Bhagavad Gita and Don Quixote are two books that I’ve always thought I’d read, but haven’t yet. I hope you post about Petrosky’s Ways of Reading.

    Your comment about Eck’s Encountering God (which I am not familiar with) has me thinking: is there something about religion & spirituality that makes it too difficult to write about well? I’ve read a lot of theology, but find that most works from a personal perspective are just too — I don’t know — maybe emotional is the right word?


  2. I’m planning on ordering the final volumes of Proust from the UK too. I am mad that I will have to do this. I hope Sonny Bono is being punished for changning the copyright laws like that. Grr. A Gentle Madness is a wonderful book. All those quirky book people! The scary part is recognizing yourself in some of them and thinking their behavior is perfectly normal 🙂


  3. Lately I’ve been thinking of re-reading Mill on the Floss as well! It was probably the first classic novel I ever read, when I was about 11 or 12. I still have images of certain scenes in my mind but specific details about the book escape me.

    Great answers I enjoyed reading them.


  4. Great answers. I agree about the anthologies. By the way, those extra questions were also in Calvino’s text, just in a different paragraph. There are other strange categories as well, like “Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written.” Not sure what that means!


  5. Edd


    What an absorbing, definitive, and engrossing list of authors and genres you read. Your list reminds me of when I was once the young reader. Many of the books and authors you name are in my Library but have not been read for some time and I’m ashamed to say have not been read at all. Now, at 61, I devote my time to pure pleasure reading. Have a wonderful year of reading…


  6. What a fun meme, I will have to do this sometime this week. You might give the Book Depository in the UK a try if yo have to order the books from there–they offer free shipping! 🙂 Too bad about the spines I am really weird about wanting my book sets to match (both covers and editions–if I started in hardcover–I have to stay with hardcover)…I sometimes think I should have been an accountant since I worry about such little details! Great answers, though!


  7. Brandon

    I should probably re-read “Fahrenheit 451.” I was in third grade when my teacher read it to the class, and while I still remember bits and pieces, I don’t remember the book in its entirety. Which isn’t surprising. And I’ll likely re-read “The Great Gatsby” in a few years, since I just don’t get why it’s considered the Great American Novel. I can’t help but feel that I missed something. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Or maybe it’s simply because I prefer British novels to American novels. How that for patriotism?


  8. Wonderful answers! If you’re having trouble getting the Proust, you know I’m happy to help. You know I’m very tempted by Don Quixote, but I am scared by the size of it….


  9. Cam — if you are interested in the subject, I do like Eck’s book a lot (obviously). What worries me about these books is that I want them to be sufficiently intellectual as well as personal (maybe that’s another way of stating your concern too?). I don’t want sappy books without depth of thought.

    Stefanie — so glad you liked the Basbanes book; I’m looking forward to it (although I’m also rather intimidated by it — it’s so big!)

    Thanks Imani. I got a free copy of Mill on the Floss which is another reason it’s on my mind to re-read 🙂

    Sylvia — thanks for the explanation. I wonder if that category means something like “books that are so formulaic they could practically write themselves”? That’s the only sense I could make of it.

    Thank you Edd; your pleasure reading sounds lovely 🙂

    Thanks for the recommendation Danielle. The way that books look on the shelves really matters!

    Brandon — I often prefer British novels too, so I’m right there with you. But you might like The Great Gatsby more the second time around.

    Litlove — thanks so much! I may be emailing you about Proust one of these days.


  10. Dark Orpheus

    I’ve also set myself a challenge to read the complete Montaigne this year. It’s daunting, but I like the bits of it I’ve read from time to time. A witty French guy with his head in the right place.

    I wanted to re-read the Bhagavad Gita last year, but the Stephen Mitchell translation this time round. Sadly, it did not happen.

    My first reading of the Bhagavad Gita was the Eknath Easwaran translation. I found it approachable, and not as intimidating as some of the other versions. But what is particularly of interest to me is how Easwaran tells the story of Gandhi’s reading of the Gita led him to translate the practice of karma yoga – the yoga of selfless action – into his daily life. An ordinary Indian man had the courage to practice the teachings of the Gita, and in the process became the Mahatma, the Great Soul. I was wowed by this little bit of history. The Gita is an incredible book. Hope you will read it one day.


  11. Thanks Dark Orpheus — yes, I definitely will read it and I’m looking forward to it. Your Montaigne challenge sounds great!


  12. LK

    This is a great list, and an interesting meme. I have been hunting for Wallace Stegner’s “On a Darkling Plain,” without success. Apparently, it is the one book of his that hasn’t been reissued. Yet…


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