My semester is pretty well underway, and although I’m not to the busiest part of it yet (that’s when the papers come in to be graded), I’m beginning to feel the pressure of prepping for class and attending meetings and holding office hours and answering student emails. And it’s at this point when I become acutely aware of all the hundreds and hundreds of books out there that I want to read now. Even though deep down I know I would probably go insane or become thoroughly depressed if I didn’t have a job to keep me busy, I do often think it’s cruel to have to work all day, when all those books are waiting at home for me to read them. Here’s what I’m particularly longing to read these days:
- Books about walking. I wrote about this interest not too long ago, but I haven’t had a chance to actually pick up a book about the topic. These include Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Jeffrey Robinson’s book The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image and W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. And there are lots of others that wonderful blog readers suggested to me as well.
- Books for the Reading Across Borders challenge. I’ve read one in this category, Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter, but I’m eager to get to more, especially Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City and Mahfouz’s Palace Walk. I particularly like the Literary Saloon, a blog that focuses on world literature, and I’m both fascinated and overwhelmed by the number of books that blog discusses.
- Long 19C novels. I’ve listed Balzac, Anne Bronte, and Elizabeth Gaskell as authors I’d like to read this year, but I’d also love to read others, more Trollope, some Turgenev, maybe some Zola. Alas, I don’t think I can handle all this …
- Interesting, smart, literary nonfiction. I’m thinking here of things like Alberto Manguel’s A Reading Diary, and the short biography of Proust I’ve got, and Nicholas Basbane’s A Gentle Madness, and a biography by Richard Holmes, and Janet Malcolm’s book on Chekhov, and something by Jenny Diski, and Geoff Dyer’s book on D.H. Lawrence (I’m not sure what I think of D.H. Lawrence, but who can resist a book described as “the best book about not writing a book about D.H. Lawrence ever written”?), and The Oxford Book of Essays, and Lawrence Wescher’s Vermeer in Bosnia and Karen’s Armstrong’s A Short History of Myth. I could go on and on.
- Travel writing. I have Peter Matthieson’s The Snow Leopard and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia on my shelves and I’m on the lookout for some Jonathan Raban, Robert Byron, Robyn Davidson and others.
- Pre-20C poetry. I’m not sure when I’ll actually sit down to read some of this, but lately I’ve gotten a hankering to read people like Keats and Shelley (inspired by Richard Holmes, most likely) and Browning and Rosetti.
- Ancient stuff. Stefanie’s reading of Hesiod and Homer is so inspiring I want to try a little of it myself, although I’m not sure where I’d begin. But wouldn’t it be great to know more about classical literature?
This list doesn’t even touch on all the contemporary novels I want to read, and the mystery stories and the poetry and the essay collections. You can see, probably, why it’s so hard to accept that I can’t spend all my time reading, and why it’s hard for me to believe that if I could spend all my time reading, I’d probably go crazy and start longing for some work to do.