Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reading Important Tomes: The Weighty Books List

Carole and I have taken on Weighty Books, and I think it's going to be fun.

We are members of a book club whose members chat about books online and meets for brunch a few times a year. Each club member chooses a book in turn. This group has helped me read more than a few books I wouldn't otherwise have read, and I've also chosen some good books myself for the club. (I've also chosen a few less-than-successful books, too, but I'm okay with that. You never know until you try, right?)

At a book club conference Carole and I attended in September, Carole had a great idea: read Weighty Books. These are books we always intended to read but, for some reason or another, didn't. At a certain point in life (namely, after college), there are fewer reasons or opportunities to read such books. Don Quixote? Crime and Punishment? Not always at the top of the must-read pile in our everyday world — and yet they are valuable reads.

Weighty books deserve time and attention, so how does a reader squeeze them in with so many other important, valuable or fun books on our shelves? Easy: by trying to bite off as much as we can chew.

Carole and I decided to choose two such books a year (along with, possibly, a related book or two). We made one very important rule: if it's not enjoyable, put it down. Maybe return to it another time, maybe not. No matter what any teacher might have said, not every book deserves to be read.

We chose the following traditional and modern classics for our Weighty Book List:
  • Anna Karenina 
  • Arabian Nights 
  • The Decameron 
  • Divine Comedy
  • Don Quixote 
  • The Human Stain 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past) 
  • Little Dorrit 
  • Midnight's Children 
  • Moll Flanders 
  • The Monk 
  • Norwegian Wood 
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Picture of Dorian Gray 
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker 
  • Portrait of a Lady 
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
  • Tobacco Road 
  • Woman in White 
  • A book by Alexandre Dumas (to be decided)

We had planned to start with Divine Comedy because it inspired so many books on our list (and we both read Dan Brown's related thriller this past summer).

However, a trip to the library introduced an unexpected surprise: The American Decameron by Mark Dunn, a favorite author. When Carole received two copies of Dunn's book for Christmas (one of which she generously shared with me), we re-arranged the list accordingly.

Next on the list: Tobacco Road and Anna Karenina. Probably in that order. Probably. I'll let you know.

Do you have a Weighty Book List, or a list of classic books you want to read? What is it? Let me know.

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