Monday, October 08, 2007

So Yeah, I'm Doing A Meme, Make a Big Deal, Make a Really Big Deal, Make A Federal CASE Out of It

I came across this meme on the blogs of two of my friends, Brian, and Kate, and was drawn to it more than I usually am to surveys. I am not entirely clear on how this list gets compiled, to be honest. Most often marked 'unread'? Do libraries check this sort of thing on a regular basis? How is it, for example, that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (copyright 2004) and Anansi Boys (copyright 2005) are on the same list as Dickens, Dumas and Austen? I don't know what the number after most of the books signify, but since they go in descending order, I have to assume they indicate some kind of ranking, so how can Jonathan Strange... somehow be MORE unread in just a few years than oh, I don't know, The Aeneid? I have to assume the latter was quite a hit back in the day, so maybe this survey doesn't include Romans circa 600 B.C. I don't know what Library Thing is, but I question how randomly selected the survey population was. I think a bunch of Neil Gaiman haters stacked the it, for one thing.

Okay, whatever, I still thought it looked like fun, so I did it too. It made me feel like a bit of a neanderthal of course, which is probably the point, but I'm not losing any sleep over it. See below for instructions.

These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (as of [whenever this meme started going around]). As usual, bold what you have read, italicize what you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and Punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
The Silmarillion (104)
Life of Pi: a novel (94)
The Name of the Rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and Prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A Tale of Two Cities (80)
The Brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, And Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (79)
War and Peace (78)
Vanity Fair (74)
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The Kite Runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great Expectations (70)
American Gods (68)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (67)
Atlas Shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (65)
The Canterbury Tales (64)
The Historian: a novel (63)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (63)
Love in the Time of Cholera (62)
Brave New World (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's Pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59)
A Clockwork Orange (59)
Anansi Boys (58)
The Once and Future King (57)
The Grapes of Wrath (57)
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & Demons (56)
The Inferno (56)
The Satanic Verses (55)
Sense and Sensibility (55)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (54)
To the Lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's Travels (53)
Les Misérables (53)
The Corrections (53)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (52)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (52)
Dune (51)
The Prince (51)
The Sound and the Fury (51)
Angela's Ashes: a memoir (51)
The God of Small Things (51)
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A Confederacy of Dunces (50)
A Short History of Nearly Everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (49)
Beloved (49)
Slaughterhouse-Five (49)
The Scarlet Letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
The Mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx And Crake: a novel (47)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (47)
Cloud Atlas (47)
The Confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger Abbey (46)
The Catcher in the Rye (46)
On the Road (46)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (45)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values (45)
The Aeneid (45)
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's Rainbow (44)
The Hobbit (44)
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (44)
White Teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The Three Musketeers (44)

Okay, that's funny. Anna Karenina is the only book I started and didn't finish, and the reason was I was reading it as I traveled around the West of Ireland when I was 20, I left the book at one of my B&B's, and just never got around to picking up another copy before school started again. So even though I haven't yet finished it, the book is tied in my mind to train rides through some of the most beautiful places in the world, mountains, ocean views, green fields, sheep, rocks, constantly changing skies.

I am embarrassed that I have read no Tolstoy, Woolf, Joyce (my GOD, they're going to take away my Irish card), and only one Austen. My parents and sister love Austen, Emma in particular, I loved Pride and Prejudice when I read it, yet somehow I never got around to any of her others. So there's a little something to work on. I also never felt it necessary to cross out anything, not just because I don't know how to do that (and I don't), but because I honestly didn't feel the need. I can think of lots of books I never finished because I couldn't stand them, none of them seem to be on this list.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles was my commuting book when I first moved to Seattle right after college, was unsure I'd ever do theatre again and was working at a pottery owned by Scientologists. I would leave the house at 6am, when it was still dark out, take an hour long bus trip to arrive in one of the bleakest industrial parts of South Seattle, work for eight hours in a grungy warehouse where the air shimmered with silica dust because the Scientologist owners didn't want anyone wasting time cleaning the place because one could only become sick if one believed one could become sick, so if we all just thought positive thoughts we'd be fine -and forget about health insurance because that, like the medical and legal industries was all part of a plot to take over the world and control our minds- then at 3pm, as the sun was beginning to set (days are short in the winter in Seattle) I'd take the bus ride home. So, two hours a day of reading about the slow yet relentless destruction of a human being by society. I don't know why I didn't throw myself under a bus that winter. It was a great book, I looked forward to reading it each day, but DAMN. It is now completely tied in my head with grey weather, darkness, physical exhaustion and deep hopelessness.

I toyed with bolding Moby Dick, because I read it for a high school English class, but my teacher had us skip all the chapters where Melville rabbits on about the workings of the ship, so I decided that meant I hadn't REALLY read the book, but maybe it counts as a 'didn't finish'. AS a closeted, depressed gay boy I was sure I was making too much in my head of the scene where Ishmail wakes up in bed with Queequeg lovingly spooning him, so it's nice now to recognize that the homoeroticism wasn't completely my imagination. I'm told I really should give Billy Budd a try.

I probably didn't read every single Canterbury Tale (for junior high school English), just can't remember, but I bolded it anyway. Bite me.


Anonymous said...

The Time Traveller's Wife=awesome. You should read it.

And I believe it's the number of users of LibraryThing who have marked it as "unread". Whatever LibraryThing is. I assume its a website, but it sounds like a really lame comic-book monster.

Cooper said...

Cool meme! I am going to steal this from you. After a cursory glance I can I can tell you already that I have read every single Jane Austen listed, Emma being my favourite. I don't know what this says about me. I loved your accompanying musings.

Cooper said...

P.S. What do the numbers beside each title indicate?

Patrick said...

Yes, I decided later that the numbers must indicate how many members of the group said they hadn't read a particular book; that still doesn't tell me how they came up with the list of books in the first place. Some of the books might be considered part of the canon (such a controversial and debatable topic itself), but then there are others that seem pretty random. Angela's Ashes? The God of Small Things? Those books got rave reviews, but they're still relatively new titles, not canonical by any means. What got them on the list?

I guess I could go find the damn website to get an answer. Speculating is kind of fun though. Thus far this blog has been blissfully free of any actual research.

Cooper, your feeling about Austen mirrors that of my parents and sister, so clearly there is some good writing to be found there. I'm relieved that I at least had read most of the Dickens (not David Copperfield yet). It's actually nice to look at this list and mostly think "oh yeah, I've always meant to read that."

B- good to know about the Time Traveller's Wife. The title alone makes it sound like it would be right up your alley, and thus, probably mine. What am I going to do with Dr. Who is finished? Oh, yeah, watch Torchwood.

Patrick said...

Oh, and Cooper, feel free to steal away, I obviously did.

Anonymous said...

I've never looked at LibraryThing either, but I would guess, based on GoodReads (which I was obsessed with for about ten mintues and then never looked at again), that you can enter books in your library into the website, and then indicate whether or not you've read them. If that's the case, these would be a list of books owned but unfinished by users of the site.

This hypothesis sounded reasonable in my head, but seems odd to me as I type it. But I'm sticking with it.

And I really do think you'd like The Time Traveler's Wife - it's got science-fictiony elemements (the time traveling, obviously), but it's really a love-story. It's just great.