Mind the Gap: The Well-Readheads on a Few Books They Haven’t Read

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Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

LH: So, my little snuggle bunny, today we’re going to discuss the gaps in our reading education by naming a few books we’ve always meant to read, but still haven’t got to…yet. Wanna start?

RJS: Ohhhhh honey, settle in because we’re going to be here for a while. My list is long and my road to hell is paved with so many good intentions. The books I find myself most often confessing to not having read are mostly classics, beginning with Hemingway’s novels. I’ve read a ton of the short stories (and mostly loved them), and I’m reading A Moveable Feast right now, but I was (somehow) never assigned the novels in school, and I’ve never been able to motivate myself to read them as an adult. Now you confess to something while I hang my head in readerly shame!

catch22_coverLH: Well, I think every other day I mention how I haven’t read Moby-Dick, so I’m not going to go there again. But I think it is alarming that I haven’t read Catch-22 yet. Wait, I just realized both of those titles have hyphens. Maybe I’m afraid of hyphens! I’ve never read The Sot-Weed Factor, either! Back to Catch-22 – have you read it?

RJS: I have, a couple times, and I love it. I’m genuinely sad that you haven’t gotten to enjoy its awesomeness yet. But OH MAN I am so with you on Moby-Dick. I am just never going to chase that white whale. And while we’re at it, let me say that I’ve never read James Joyce and don’t intend to. I think those ships have sailed for me. Also? I know I said after BEA that I was going to read The Bell Jar so I could get absolutely everything out of Belzhar, but, well….

LH: Have you started Belzhar?

RJS: No! But soon. I just can’t get myself to pick up The Bell Jar first. I feel like 13-year-old me would have been into it, but 31-year-old me isn’t. Do you ever feel like that? Like there’s a window or age-range in which a book is best read, and you’re past it?

LH: I felt that way about Siddhartha. I thought, “Oh, man, I think I would have been more into this when I was a teenager.” It didn’t do anything for me as an adult. Excuse me: “adult.” And just go for Belzhar. Surely writers have to expect some people will read their book without having read – or even know – the source material. Let’s see. I’ve never read Little Women. That surprises a lot of people. I wonder if I’d enjoy it now that I’m not a little woman.

oscarRJS: I’ve never read it, either! I *think* my mom maybe read an abridged version of it to me when I was a toddler, but I’m not certain. It’s another one I have no desire to read now–it just seems so EARNEST, which is not my thing. Speaking of earnest, I’ve never read Oscar Wilde, unless quotes on Tumblr count.

LH: I have read The Importance of Being Earnest, because I went through a whole ‘reading plays’ phase in high school, but I’ve never read anything else by him. I filled my witty writer quota with Algonquin Round Table members instead. Okay, here’s one: I’ve never read – wait for it – Virginia Woolf! Not a single one of her books. *hangs head in shame*

RJS: Me neeeeeeeither! I haven’t made any major decisions about her–not like my intentional avoidance of other authors–but I’ve never felt particularly drawn to the books. Come sit next to me and let’s start a club. How about War and Peace? I tried that one a few years ago and made it 100 pages before I bailed. My interesting in badge-of-honor, look-at-me-I-read-this-long-book reading projects is nonexistent at this point.

LH: No, no War & Peace for me, either. Definitely feel like I should have read it, but just…no. What are some recent books it seems like everyone has read that you haven’t? Did you read any of the Millenium trilogy?

RJS: I read the first two–I was a bookseller when they came out, and I felt like I should know what I was talking about–and then I skipped the last one. How about Divergent? I haven’t read it and don’t have any plans. I actually don’t even really know what it’s about, other than that it’s a dystopia. I feel like maybe I should get a cookie or something for managing that while living in the bookternet. Oh, and Game of Thrones! I haven’t read any of those.

LH: I have read the Divergent series, for the same reason you read the Larsson books: so someone in the store is able to talk about them. I’ve read the Game of Thrones books, too. Oh – how about the Outlander series? So many people recommend those books to me, but I have yet to read them. I kinda feel like I should before the show comes out. I know your mom is a fan – have you read them?

Outlander-blue-coverRJS: Man, my mom LOVES the Outlander books. Which, I understand a lot of people feel that way about them and have read them over and over. I tried, mainly so I could talk about them with my mom, but I jumped ship a few hundred pages into the first one. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I think I might be into the TV show. Funny how that works sometimes.

LH: Are there any books that make you say “WHAAAA?” when people mention they haven’t read them?

RJS: You know, not really anymore. There used to be some, but the longer I live in the booktnernet and the more I face the reality that there are just way, way more amazing books out there than any of us will be able to read in a lifetime, the less I’m surprised by someone’s not having read something I think is essential. You?

LH: I’m always surprised when people mention books it seems like everyone had to read in school, like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird, but not in a “OMGREADITNOW” way. Because…what’s the plural equivalent of ‘you do you’? ‘Everybody does themselves’? That sounds dirty.

RJS: Read what you read? I dunno. I’m partial to Ray Bradbury’s “Love what you love,” but that’s a little different. I hear you on being surprised when people haven’t read the books that seem ubiquitous, but even the list of “classics” is too long for anyone to read everything. When that knowledge isn’t filling me with existential dread, I find it really exciting. So. Many. Good. Books.

LH: And us with brains to sop them up. Until next time?

RJS: Mind the gap and read on.


So, readers, tell us about books it seems everyone has read except you!