Quality reading in the remaining lifetime

Category: Literature

A shocking realization I’ve been having. Reading is one of my biggest and long-lasting hobbies (that’s not the shock). It also represents my preferred art form. Painting, theatre, music, dance, graphic design, cinema, etc, I explore and appreciate notably less. Priorities.

I’ve recently began to read Bleak House. It already promises to be another Charles Dickens ultra rewarding mega-journey. This is the sort of literature I prefer. Ultra rewarding. Why dedicate time to anything less?

And that means classics - older works that have proven themselves. I’m increasingly less inclined for works post even 1950. Why bother with the mounds of new literature that might become immortal when I have access to even greater mounds I know to be immortal?

Alas, there remains limited time. For the benefit of the doubt, I’ll grant myself another 30 years before energy depletes for this sort of reading. The books I refer to consume two to three months of my time at my pace. Moby Dick consumed about four, although I read a few others simultaneously. The 1500 pp War and Piece, however, required merely two months.

Again, for the benefit of the doubt, I’ll assume no more than 4 quality epics per year, between other priorities and reading. That equates to a maximum of 120 books over the 30-year span, a shockingly small quantity considering the range of works and authors I wish to undertake.

I’ve effectively sold myself on reading as many of the remaining works as plausible by Dickens and Dostoevsky. A number of classic moral philosophers will consume an impressive length of time. James Joyce’s Ulysses will likely demand forever. French works of Proust, Hugo, and some unread ones of Dumas await. German epics of Thomas Mann and Johann von Goethe (Faust) are on this list, as are several of Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Conrad. The British Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte published myriads of classics, a few of which I wouldn’t object to explore. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind I must read one of these years. I’ve never read 1001 nights, but intend to. And then some works of Latin American talent I still have yet to tap into, including El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Marquez (three prior attempts), a few works of Mario Vargas Llosa, Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo - a short classic I cannot seem to finish after two attempts, and some by Borges.

Granted, plenty of shorter classics exist of tremendous value. Yet, they rarely impart as long-lasting of an impression upon me. Strangely enough, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, the fairly simple-language 20th-century classic I read years ago, perpetually lingers in my mind, despite numerous attempts to evict.

Questions, comments? Connect.