Sunday, February 20, 2011

"But...weren't you an English major?"

I've actually heard those words, generally in reference to some novel or poetry collection I've admitted to not having read.  Those who ask the question clearly imply that there must have been some massive book list requirement for all English majors, and that if I've not read something like War and Peace (which, by the way, I haven't), then I don't really belong in the club.

I do have a degree in English.  I am also the daughter of a college English professor.  My love of books and reading and writing is undeniably ingrained in my heart and soul, possibly even engineered into my genetic makeup.

The truth is that while I've probably read countless books in most every genre, there are so many classics which I have to confess I have not read.

I can definitely say that I've read nearly every novel published by a Bronte sister (thank you, Dr. Heineman and my beloved Victorian Lit class!)... much as I've loved every movie adaptation of Jane Austen's works, I have to admit I've not yet gotten around to reading many of her novels.

I've read Homer, Shakespeare, Twain, Poe, Swift, Kafka and so many more, for both assignment and pleasure.

But... I've never read Anna Karenina
Or the aforementioned War and Peace
Or even The Count of Monte Christo or Les Miserables.
Even (brace yourself!) Oliver Twist.

I am currently reading a book for review which is loosely based on a less well-known work of a very well-known author.  When I realized that the referenced book is one I have not read, I had a fleeting moment of shame, as if I should have somehow known that one day, it would be important to read that obscure title, and what kind of English major do I think I am, anyway?

Because aren't people who have English degrees, by virtue of their very existence, expected to have read pretty much all of the classics?  To know each and every Important Author and their particular contributions?

But then again, maybe not...

Realistically, even the most dedicated of readers cannot possibly read everything.

And while I know I can't realistically read it all, I am thrilled that there will always, always be a book to be read, something new (even if it's only new to me).

I've already got a huge list of books in my TBR pile, some literally piled on a bookshelf and some sitting in my Nook, waiting.

But I've also got Project Gutenberg bookmarked, because so many of these wonderful gifts of classic literature are there, free for the downloading now that their copyrights have expired.  Many of these are available directly through Amazon for the Kindle and through Barnes and Noble for the Nook.

I don't believe I ever did see that monumental list of required classics for English majors, and regardless of those silly, fleeting moments of guilt over not reading what I "should have" read by now, I am so glad that there will always be a way to read those I missed, and that there is still plenty of time to catch up.

The only hard part is choosing what to read next, isn't it? :)

I'm thinking that I'll start with everything Austen, and maybe, one day, I will work my way toward War and Peace...

Maybe.  :)

Are there any classics that you've always wished you'd read?
Are there any that you plan to read soon?  Or re-read?


Did you know that you can help Project Gutenberg?
Volunteer to proofread one page a day!
I just registered -- maybe you want to give it a try, too?
See the link on the Project Gutenberg site, or go straight to the Distributed Proofreaders website, here.   :)

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