About three years ago I made a list of books I really wanted to read. It was a long list, featuring literally hundreds of titles. At the time the task ahead of me seemed daunting… there were so many books! Some were books I had never read, others were books I felt had crossed off my list a little too early (think of all those books you were forced to read in high school because they figured that, if they didn’t cram them down your throat then, chances were that you’d never pick them up on your own)… a few were books I remembered fondly. As you can imagine, I wound up loving some books and being sorely disappointed by others (rereading old favorites can be wonderful, but at the same time there’s no denying that revisiting childhood friends may wind up shattering some of your fondest memories).
I am done with that list now, at least with that initial version. The good news is that there are still plenty of books out there that I’m itching to read, that the list kept expanding itself (I added other books by an author I fell in love here, a friend recommended a new title there), but at the same time as I made my way through it I became increasingly aware that my list was, almost by definition, one that was limited by my own knowledge, by the connections I have been able to make up to this point… and I wondered about those books that should have been in there, but weren’t, about the books I’ll never read and that I might have loved if only I’d known about them.
Of course, in addition to those books I long for but am unaware of, I also wound up taking a few chances, adding books that I knew of, but wasn’t sure I was going to like. Some of these chances paid off, others didn’t. In a couple of instances I was tempted to break my self-imposed ‘no desertions past the first chapter’ rule. I also tackled a few best-sellers that were not really up my alley in an attempt to see what all the fuss was about. That didn’t turn out too good.
The one thing I wound up getting out of the whole experience was a better understanding of who I am and what I like as a reader. Oh, in a way I have always known, but it was an instinctive knowledge, now it seems to be more narrow, more defined.
As for where my reading will take me in the future, I’m back out in the wilderness now. I don’t have a grand plan any more, I only know what my next four or five books are likely to be… plus there are a few books I’m still trying to hunt down and a few classics that should probably have made the list but didn’t. There is one in particular that I haven’t quite dared to tackle, one I still find a little too daunting but that keeps calling me. The problem is that, as was the case back in high school, I don’t think I’m ready for it… in fact I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready. That book? It’s The Mahabharata.