What I Want to Read in 2017
I mean, barring all those books about fascism and totalitarian regimes that everyone is talking about at the moment. 1984 is a best seller again. What I’d ask is, who the fuck either hasn’t read it or doesn’t own a copy? In my experience it’s the first (often the last) “serious” book people read.
I wrote a post towards the end of last year that detailed some of the books I’d read that I’d found notable. I thought it would be worthwhile to outline near the start of this year what I want to read, as it might be fun to refer back to it and see how far I’ve reneged on my hopes and dreams. It won’t be a rubric, exactly. I’ve talked before about how important it is to read exactly what you want, and the pitfalls of setting yourself targets and making yourself read things you don’t really want to. So I reserve the right to drop this shit like it’s hot. But I’ll at least try and read most of the stuff I’m about to outline.
What I mainly read after that year-end post were collections of short stories. Short stories were largely what I found myself writing, because I found writing them enjoyable (editing, proofing them, and publishing them was hell on earth). It’s a form of literature that I am conversant in because of my education, a lot of which focussed on short stories because they are a good teaching tool, but I had since rarely chosen to read them for pleasure. In terms of short stories, this year, I’d like to read:
- Some more Hemingway.
- Some more Chekhov.
- Katharine Mansfield.
- More of Henry James novella’s and short stories, including The Turn of the Screw, which I still haven’t read.
- More Angela Carter (I read The Bloody Chamber at university and loved it. I have had Fireworks recommended to me by multiple people).
- More Ray Bradbury short stories (I loved The Martian Chronicles).
- Any of Will Self’s short story collections (probably The Quantity Theory of Insanity).
- Any of J.G. Ballard’s short stories, if I can get hold of them.
- Some Sylvia Plath (I read Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit back in GCSE English and it hit me pretty hard).
- The rest of the Kafka short stories I haven’t read yet.
That is not an exhaustive list, but is what comes to mind when I think about what kinds of short stories I might try and read this year to broaden my knowledge of the form.
I’ve also come across a post on Open Culture that reminded me of something I had been meaning to do for years, and that is to have a more serious look at the Five Foot Shelf. There are things on there I am probably never going to read, but one of the things that makes me saddest about my education is that I haven’t really covered the classics. My knowledge of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Homer and so on could not even be called a working knowledge. Seeing that post again occasioned my reading of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which I enjoyed despite autobiography not being something I tend to read, and also despite the fact that he was so industrious and good hearted that it made me feel a scoundrel the entire way through. So, I would ideally like to read a bit more non-fiction, whether that be autobiography, philosophy, or poetry, while trying to cover the classics a bit (I wrote a post on The Odyssey, I am about halfway through that, and hope to finish it this year).
In terms of novels, there’s a bunch I need to either finish, or have been meaning to read for ages. These include:
- Tropic of Capricorn (finish. Started it around the Trump inauguration. Stopped because I didn’t really wanna keep looking at America’s dark violent heart).
- Look to Windward (finish. Dunno why I stopped read it halfway through, I just did).
- Big Sur (I enjoy Kerouac despite his many deficiencies as both a writer and a person).
- Queer (much the same for Burroughs).
- The New York Trilogy (I read the first book and liked it. I wish I had the self-confidence to masturbate so shamelessly in public. Need to read the other two books to glean more insight into how he does it).
- The major Virginia Wool novels I haven’t read yet, The Waves and To the Lighthouse.
- Crime and Punishment (finish. I’m about halfway through).
Gonna stop because otherwise I’ll eventually write down every book I own. These are the things that immediately come to mind. I set myself another reading challenge, again setting the bar low at 20 books. That is the bare minimum I can read this year without feeling fucking awful about myself; I will do my utmost to read more.
Oh and just to remind you that my first collection of short stories just came out. You can get it here.