Some people have Bucket Lists with life goals and similarly big-deal stuff on them. I’m… still sorting out the whole life goals thing, but I do know my Book Bucket List (priorities. I have them).
Now, don’t go gettin’ too excited. This isn’t a terribly sophisticated list. It’s a list of books that I personally want to read before I shuffle off this mortal coil (hopefully a long long time from now), not a list of books that are Objectively The Best Books In Literature. And as it turns out, Best Books Lists get contested all the time, and have nothing to do with being objective, so… whatever. My reading list, my rules. I mean, some of those Important Books are on here, but some of these are just books that I want to read. Be forewarned: this list is going to be dork-tacular. Here be dragons (for real-ish*, sometimes).
*in so far as there really are dragons mentioned in some of the fictional books listed. My own personal theory is that dragons weren’t ever actually real, but that people thought they were because they needed to find a way to explain dinosaur bones that they found in ancient/medieval times and stuff. Yeah, I want dragon myths to be an early form of paleontology. You can already tell that this list will be a Serious Discourse on Literature, what-what (that bit with the capitalization should be in a really bad, overblown, stuffy British accent. I don’t know why. Don’t question. *sigh.* Re-read it if you must).
The List Itself:
1) Read Dune (I know, I know. You’ll never trust me to review a Sci-Fi novel again until I’ve read this. Gentle reader, bear with me. I’m gonna get there).
2) Finish all of Shakespeare’s Plays (Just finished Pericles. Which was… weird. If I were ever going to make a vaudeville-esque adaptation of it, I would call it Pericles: Pirates & Prostitutes. And yeah… both those things actually do feature heavily in that play. Anyway, now that I’m done with Pericles, I only have two more left!!!! Whooooo!!! But don’t worry Billy, I’ll never really be done with you. I’m a re-reader).
4) Read Moby Dick (And I’m not just talking listen-to-it-on-tape read it. That’s cheating. I mean actually read the beast. It’s my white whale, you might say.)
5) MORE EE CUMMINGS (for lo—v.e i him (hispoetryimean— )**.
**yes, I’m an uber dork.
6) All Kafka
7) Finish the Song of Ice and Fire series (I’ve finished Dance With Dragons. So this is more of a going-forward-for-the-rest-of-GRRM’s/my-lifetime kind of goal. This is going to be a long, emotional roller-coaster ride of a reading experience. Sometimes this series makes me want to command GRRM to therapy/throw things. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO THEON?! I LOVE HIM!!!—and now some readers are giving me the side-eye. I know. “Theon?,” you’re thinking to yourself, “THEON?! What’s wrong with you?” Gentle reader, I can’t fully explain myself. My love for various fictional characters is as ineffable as any love—except, you know, weirder, because it’s for fictional characters.*** Gosh darn it, GRRM!).
***Although, clearly also not THAT weird. As we’ve mentioned previously, there are all those ridiculous Darcy books, after all.
8) Read something by Chuck Palanick (before it’s made into a movie)
9) Read all of Nobokov (Well everything in English, anyway. I’m not counting his translation work.)
10) Anna Karenina (And you were an English major? Yes, yes I was. Don’t judge. It’s on the list isn’t it? I’m trying to correct any classical deficiencies that I have… in my own, lop-sided sort of way)
11) Read the August Wilson Century Cycle (I’ve read Gem of The Ocean so far. Now to conquer the others).
12) Ulysses (I don’t have to understand it, I just want to see if I can get through it).
13) The Wasteland (see above).
14) Read everything on the AP English Literature list (no, seriously, except for the Dickens. Dickens, ugh. I dunno, I’ve wanted to ever since I was in AP Lit in high school. One day… one day.)
15) Everything by Angela Carter (she’s crazy, but I love her so).
16) Every work of fiction based around Joan of Arc (I’m not really interested in history. Just people’s interpretations of what the story could be. Also, my girl Joan was a female soldier in pre-GI Jane/Alana-y times -yeah, I went there. The girls who read stuff in middle school know what I’m talking about- AND I find zealots fascinating).
17) Other Jean Rhys work (I’ve already read Wide Sargasso Sea)
18) Read Shakespeare’s long poems (if I’m feeling sassy. I’ve read parts of The Rape of Lucrece, but not even all of that. Weirdly, I’m sort of … meh on the idea of reading all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I feel like I’ve read all the important/best ones in various re-mixes for different English classes. I’ve read the one about My mistress’s eyes about a hundred times. Maybe one day, if I’m bored, I’ll read all of the sonnets, but…. I’d have to be pretty bored.)
19) Never read another William Blake poem ever ever ever (I can’t even. No. No. No. No. No. Nope. Nopers. Never. Perhaps the best way to explain my feelings about Blake is THIS. More specifically, 1:25)
20) Read all 10 books of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (this is one of the tasks on the list that’s actually more a test of will than anything else. Bring it, Britomart!)
21) Read all comics drawn by Jim Lee (because he’s the best. I’m not usually an X-Men fan- pipe down, Tom– but forJim, anything).
22) All the comics drawn by Jae Lee (because he also draws beautiful things).
23) All of the Nightwing comics (because Mr. Grayson—the original Robin Hood? Yeah, that Mr. Grayson—is my favorite superhero. I know, you didn’t want to know that, because now you’re judging me for being a DC girl, but not a Batman girl. I dunno what to tell you, Grayson’s got all the emotional complexity of a non-super superhero, an orphan with surrogate daddy issues- especially when that surro-dad is Bruce Wayne, and you know, famously NOT warm-and-fuzzy- and PTShD *Post Traumatic Shorts Disorder*. And there’s a self-actualizing-ish side-kick thing that I can’t help but love. So there).
24) Read The First Books (I’ve read The Bible, Beowulf, The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, so I’m thinking like The Tale of Genji, The Ramayana, Njal’s Saga- it’s a real thing, I promise. It’s the first Icelandic epic, or at least, the earliest one we have- and Gilgamesh).
25) Read Michelangelo’s poetry (Yeah. Dude could paint, sculpt, AND word-smith. I’ve started reading some of his stuff, they are surprisingly funny and sometimes surprisingly heartbreaking)
26) Read PG Wodehouse (Authors I like recommend him highly, and I haven’t read any of his stuff yet. And by “Authors” I mean Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchet, and Douglas Adams. Also Stephen Fry. Apparently- aka, according to Wikipedia. He’s also a playwright and lyricist. Well… la-di-da, just a bunch of Renaissance people up in here).
27) Memorize the beginning of Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy (I just love that part about the little green pieces of paper, and how not even digital watches can keep people truly happy, and how one lady figured it all out and no one *cough*Jesus*cough* would even have to be nailed to a tree this time, but how… this book isn’t about that lady. Technically not a reading thing, but it’s definitely book-related. You will deal)
28) Read all the Terry Pratchett books (this is A LOT of books, boys and girls. This man does not take a break. He seems to be one of those authors that just actually loves to write. He writes an average of TWO BOOKS A YEAR. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Specializing in a mix of humor, sci-fi/fantasy, and anythingandeverythingelseyoucanthinkof, he tends to set his books in Discworld—a flat world supported by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle swimming through space—although he writes out of world sometimes too. Also, he’s a hysterical, insightful writer. He’s also one of those authors that I feel like is an awesome person—I’d like to adopt him as my Grandpa/Wise Mentor. Please be my Wise Mentor, Terry. Additionally, he’s been knighted, So… Please be my Wise Mentor, SIR Terry! And he MADE HIS OWN SWORD, and in 2007 publicly announced that he’s been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, which he calls an “embuggerance.” He’s still writing. He’s the best. If you haven’t read anything of his, GET ON IT! and hope that his awesome-person-ness will rub off on you).
29) More Nathaniel West (I’ve read Day of the Locusts and Miss Lonelyhearts, and I want to read everything else he’s got).
30) Read more of Richard Matheson (he’s the guy who wrote I Am Legend. If you’ve only seen the movie, let me just say that it was like… a Disneyfied version of the actual story Matheson wrote. My love of Will Smith is great, and pretty much unconditional at this point, but that movie was so much less than it could have been—than the book is. Matheson’s version is more visceral, more frightening, more complex, and just…. better. I’m not usually big on the scary books, but I want more where that came from).
31) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (okay, um… first of all, it spawned Blade Runner, so… I really have to read it. And also, I’m woefully under-read when it comes to Philip K. Dick, and despite the Dune-deficiency, I actually do like sci-fi, so clearly, I need to school myself with one of the masters. I figure this is as good a place to start as any).
32) The Star Wars novels. All of them. (yeah, you read that right. I hear it’s a spectrum of quality, and I’ve read a couple of them, so… yeah, they’re not always… capital L Literature or anything, and it’s also true that there are like a billion of them. But everybody needs some pure fun reading/sick-in-bed-and-not-actually-sick-enough-to-just-pass-out,-but-too-sick-to-do-anything-real-and-I’m-NOT-WATCHING-MAURY,-YOU-CAN’T-MAKE-ME reading. Some people fill that quota with bodice-rippers, or Chick Lit, or books of Sudoku puzzles. I’ve got Star Wars novels****).
****although I’m gonna go ahead and reserve the right to give up if ever I feel my brain turning to mush/leaking out of my ears.
33) Murakami (this one is actually a big deal/important. I’m working on 1Q84, which is really… long, so far—when I’m done I’ll post a review. But don’t hold your breath: it’s also a big honker of a book, and I’m clearly going to have to set aside designated time just for it. But even after I’m done with 1Q84, there are a whole lot more to read. I may not get through them all, but I want to at least do a responsible sampling)
34) Yusef Komunyakaa (he’s a contemporary poet. I read his book, Warhorses—not about horse puppets—and fell in love. So, I’m gonna just go ahead and read as much of his stuff as I can).
35) Louise Glück (She’s cool. You can tell by the umlaut. She’s another poet, also contemporary, and also awesome).
36) Jamaica Kincaid (Because, Girl)
37) Vonnegut (…because I haven’t read any. How did I survive the teenage years/get gallowshumorjaded without it? I dunno, but I’m here. Also, I did still read the obligatory teen-empathy lit, like Catcher in the Rye, so the phony-phobia still happened, no worries. But now when I have/make time, I plan on correcting my deficiency.)
38) All the Fables comics (I started, but there were so many, and I had so many other books to read, and now I’m behind. But I will catch up, because they are funny, smart, and wonderful. You mark my words).
39) Everything Edward Albee’s ever written (I’ve read Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The Goat: or Who Is Sylvia?, and Tiny Alice. I want more)
40) Read some of Shelley’s poetry (I’ve read the work of Mary W. Shelly, his unhappy wife, but I haven’t actually read any of his stuff. I’m not much for the Romantics, usually, but I think his stuff’s at least worth investigating, even if he didn’t think much of his wife’s work and demeaned it in his original introduction. Smooth move, Percy).
41) Read Superman: Red Son (Yes. It’s a Superman comic. It’s a what-if-Kal-El-had-landed-in-Soviet-Russia-instead-of-the-US? comic. And you’re saying to yourself, dearest reader, “But Borah, you’re a comic book nerd girl—and even a self-professed DC girl—how can it be you haven’t read Red Son?” And I say to you: I have no frickin’ idea. But clearly, my life is incomplete without it, and I’m planning to fix that).
42) The real question should NOT have been “Life, The Universe, and Everything” or, “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”, or, “How many roads must a man walk down?”, but rather “What will be the most over-used nerd in-joke?” Doesn’t mean we don’t still all appreciate it. I mean, I just used it. Had to. Forgive me? Marvin doesn’t, but we knew that was coming a lightyear away.
43) Read all the Anouilh I can get my grubby mitts on (I’ve read The Lark and his Antigone, but I know there’s more, and I think he’s fascinating, and he’s got a hang up about complacency-as-appeasement that I can’t help but be drawn into/FIERCE CHARACTERS. He’s also interesting for history reasons—Nazi times in France and whatnot).
44) Read more Primo Levi (I’ve read The Monkey Wrench, and loved it. I should probably read If This Is a Man—his account of his time as a prisoner in Auschwitz—but I might just read his fiction work first while I steel myself/grab some tissues).
45) Read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (Because I’ve read her sisters’ stuff—but I tend to forget Anne’s name. That would suck. To be the least-remembered of a band of writer sisters. And not just moderately famous sisters—Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights/can’t-get-through-both-high-school-and-college-without-being-forced-to-read-at-least-one-of-them-if-not-both famous sisters. Man, my sister and I used to have problems with much smaller stuff that that. Can’t even imagine).
46) Everything about Cleopatra (she’s another historical lady that I just think is a fascinating charismatic enigma. I like seeing different interpretations of her and her story. Who knows—I might even get crazy and read some biographies and stuff).
47) Read House of Leaves (For the structure of the beast more than anything. I love me some ee cummings. I imagine this would be sort of like reading an ee cummings novel).
48) Read Bradbury’s oeuvre (I started reading a bunch of his short stories in high school, and I quite loved them, but I haven’t read much more since. Time to go back to old favorites).
49) Read at least one big Steinbeck (because I have a confession. I’ve only ever read his short stories. And I love them dearly, I do, but I’ve just always been daunted by his huge books and chickened out. No more)
50) Do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). At least once. Here’s the link. Basically, you write a whole novel in the month of November, with various prompts, pep talks, and support features. I think it’s a great idea. And it mostly just sounds like a lot of fun. And I love to read, but obviously, I like to write, too—and I dunno. For me reading and writing is all part of a literary conversation. Reading is like listening or any other processing/ingesting of information. And writing is like speaking or any other form of expression—it’s giving your ideas in response. And I’m not setting out to write the great American novel. Or the great 21st century novel. Or any great (insert category here) novel. I just think it’s a cool, low-pressure, fun way to be part of an exuberantly literary community. And if nothing else, I’m going to read all of the pep talks—they’re great.
And, When I’m Done With The Bucket List (Yes, There’s More):
A) Find a place to put all these books (It should be enormous, absolutely stuffed with books, have ladders and all that, high ceilings, and sweeping staircases… yeah, I’m describing Belle’s library)
B) Read the 10 most boring classics in the English language (so I guess I’ll have to go back on my word about Mr. Blake’s poetry. And maybe Dickens. …. Ugh. I will only do this when I’m tired of life and can no longer stand to wear blue gingham.*****)
*****If you don’t get this joke then you should go and read the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde right now!******
******I realize that I used a lot of starred comments in this thing. I like parenthetical comments (you may have noticed), but there were already too many of them (a plethora of parentheticals, you might say. Oh God, someone stop me). I would have gone all Terry Pratchett and done footnotes, but that seemed like irresponsible web formatting. Happy reading!