seems these days everyone does lists of books they've read. I enjoy them, and
read them all -- but I still always detect of whiff of Protestant work ethic
boasting in them: I put myself through reading this, and now I am going to
inflict it on you.
instead is a genuinely Calvinist list: Books I have been intending to read for
ever so long, but confess that I haven't gotten around to. This is not a list
of books I didn't like, but rather of stuff that I have really meant to read,
but for some reason haven't.
Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time. My
all-time favorite book I haven't read. I have two copies of this. One has been
moving around with me since college. The other is on my nightstand right now.
But I just put on top of it a collection of essays by Albert Murray, another
author I have been meaning to read for some time. (I try not to read about war
just before bed -- too much work-like.)
by Faulkner. I've finished some of the short stories, but never one of the
novels. I know, as with John Coltrane, that the fault lies with me. But somehow
I don't care. Maybe Faulkner was overrated. I hope so because I'd sure hate to
miss out on something great.
3. The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. I really was going to read these,
someday, until Al Gore listed the first of these as his favorite book during
his 2000 presidential campaign. Even if it was true, he shouldn't have said so,
for political reasons. And I still suspect it wasn't true. This might have been
no. 1 on my list but when Al dragged it into the campaign I lost all desire to
pick it up.
worse, German literature. At least I tried to read some of the French. Most of
all, I loves me some Montaigne. But I honestly don't think I ever have
seriously tried to read Faust, or
Thomas Mann, except for Death in Venice.
I have never even pretended to read Hegel or Kant. In college I did read
Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, but they struck me as wankers.
Albert Murray, USAF (Ret). Yes, I
really do plan to remedy this soon. I've wanted to read him for years, and the
other day, as I was thinking about getting Stanley Crouch's new book on Charlie
Parker, I thought to myself: "Tom, before you do, you really ought to read Albert Murray, mainly because Crouch
is always invoking him." Unlike pretty much everything else on this list,
except maybe no. 9 Dante, I do expect this to happen in this lifetime, probably
6. Adam Ulam on Russia. I really
started wanting to read his stuff in the 1980s, but it never made it to the top
of the pile. By the time I was close, the Soviet Union had evaporated. And
lately, Russia just puts me off. Putin is a punk -- and not in a good way. Btw,
someone once told me that Ulam's older brother was key in helping
Israel build an atomic bomb.
official U.S. government document on national security
I realized a couple of years ago that these documents are for chumps. Dirty
little Pentagon secret: No one who runs the country reads them. Mid-level
bureaucrats write these for each other to cite.
8. Tennyson and other Victorian
poets. Somehow I never got around to them. In the great college course I took
on English poetry, the professor ended the second semester with the Romantics.
Lately I have realized I likely never will get to the Victorian poets, unless I
get hit over the head with a cricket bat. (On the other hand, I am a big fan of
Inferno. It barely makes this best
dissed list, because I've read parts, and I love Italy and if I wind up there
again for a month or two of work I might read it, finally.
Joyce's Ulysses. I don't know how I
evaded this. I actually was planning on reading it in about 1985 but a friend
said to wait until the Hugh Kenner edition came out. But since then I've gone
almost 30 years without picking it up. I may be the only English major ever to not
read it. Maybe confessing this will shame me into it. I actually suspect I will
like it when I do.