It’s said that John Milton read every book ever written during his life. I toss that factoid out to my students for the shock value alone, although I can’t really attest to the validity of that statement. I mean, I know there weren’t as many books back then, but it’s not like the Library of Congress had a comprehensive list or anything.
I’m thinking about Milton today because I’m currently reading two books I’ve never even looked at before: The Aeneid and Dante’s Inferno. No, this is not my idea of fun reading; I’ll be subbing for a friend later this semester while she’s out on maternity leave, and these two texts are part of the required curriculum. Somehow, though, these two classics never made it onto my reading list. The English Police are going to come take my degree away when word gets out that I skipped two major Western classics. Now I’m teaching myself and hoping the students don’t ask a lot of difficult questions. (And trust me, the rest of the texts I’ll be teaching will be from inside my comfort zone.)
While some folks will scorn me for skipping these texts (without any remorse until this moment), the fact of the matter is that there’s no way one person can read every single text ever written.
I’ve been acutely aware of this since I joined RWA and started hanging out with writers. Picture it: One minute you’re conversing nicely with the stranger you just met over a cup of coffee— the next, you realize you’re talking to a best-selling, multi-published author. You’re embarrassed enough that you didn’t recognize her name or face, but, even worse you can’t name a single book she’s written, much less say you’ve read one and speak intelligently about it.
There are so many books published every year, there’s no way I could read them all even if I tried. And if I tried, I’d never get anything else done and I’d probably go blind (like Milton did).
So many books; so little time. When I think of all the books I could be reading, it really irritates me that I’m wasting valuable reading time on stuff as boring as the Aeneid and Inferno*.
Take a look at your To Be Read pile. How high is it? Are there any books by new (to you) authors in there? Is there a book that every one of your friends has read that you haven’t yet (or possibly have zero interest in reading)?
How do you narrow down your book choices from everything out there to the books on your To Be Read pile?
PC— off to purchase Cliff’s Notes.
*If those are two of your all-time favorite books, I apologize. Different strokes, ya know. I’m sure you’re a very interesting person otherwise.
DON’T FORGET: You have until Amazing Child’s bedtime (8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central) to put in your request for the Pass It On copy of Kill the Competition. I’ll announce the winner later tonight and put the book in the mail tomorrow.