Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Categories of Wished-for Reading

Over at Of Books & Bicycles, Dorothy recently posted a list of all the categories of reading she wants to get into. She bemoaned the duality between reading one subject deeply or all subjects cursorily; many others, including myself, feel as if she has struck a nerve with this idea. Also, as Stefanie says, I offer up the reader’s lament, if only I were wealthy or someone would pay me to read all day! Thus, here is my own list of categories I want to read, if I ever become focused enough to stick to one theme:

Victorian Lit: all those unread novels by Dickens, Eliot, Gaskell, Collins, Hardy... I could go on, but you get the idea. No matter how many I've already read, there are always more to tempt me. And then there are all the biographies of the Victorians. Sigh. (This is a popular area, tempting Dorothy and Danielle as well) And along with these I would really like to read up into the Edwardian age.

Science Books: I do try to read a regular rotation of science books, though I never seem to get to them frequently enough. Joining the Science Book Challenge has given me a bit of a push, and I've discovered a few really good reads. But of course now that I see other people's reading I have a longer TBR than ever

Virago, Persephone, NYRB: these publishers can never go wrong. I love their books.

Random Classics: as Dorothy said, there are all those classics that you've somehow missed out on reading. For me, that would be largely the Russians, but also some of the French writers, and of course, random novels from elsewhere.

Poetry: I enjoy poetry and go on a bit of a reading rampage every April, but I'd like to be a little more systematic and read all year round, plus study some of the lit crit around some of the poets I don't know too much about

Letters and Diaries: Stefanie mentioned this category, and it reminded me that I used to read this kind of thing quite extensively. I haven't for a while...why? I love them! I have quite a number of collections of letters and a few literary diaries that are now calling to me from their dusty homes on the shelf.

Mid-century women's fiction: I have a strange fascination with little known women who were popular enough at one time but are largely forgotten or considered pretty much non-literary these days -- Elizabeth Goudge, Rumer Godden, and those types of writers.

Works in Translation: I could always use more time to fit more translated works in. There are just so very many I want to read, and I am always finding more. It would be nice to wallow in the literature of one country for a while and then move on to another, and another...

Ukrainian history and literature (esp. Canadian-Ukrainian works): this area should be self-evident. I want to read more about my family heritage, and explore how others write fiction about their experiences as immigrants or first/second generation Canadian Ukrainians.

Re-readings: I never feel like I have time to reread all the things I'd love to. There is always something new calling out to be read! I have spent most of my reading time lately reading contemporary fiction, but would love to revisit some childhood classics, and for some reason I am really itching to reread Woolf, and maybe Proust as well.

How about you? Are there whole whacks of literature that you'd love to dive into if your time was utterly unlimited and you could read to your heart's content? Have you already made a list like this that I have missed?


  1. I have quite a few classics I'd like to read - Moby Dick, The House of the Seven Gables, Jane Eyre - but it's slow going for me.

  2. Very nice list! I absolutely agree with you about reading women who were once popular but now are forgotten (I don't recognize the names you list!). There are women who fit this category from every time period, and there are so many of them! I particularly like reading examples from the 18th and 19th centuries.

  3. My own, enduring interest in the writing of women who were popular mid-20th century is because I think they wrote wonderful and absorbing books - I can't go for long without re-reading Goudge and Godden is a must at least every couple of years. I shall think about my own list while I fall asleep tonight!

  4. Nice list! I like your mid-century women's fiction category. I think I need to revise my list to one category: everything. :)

  5. Charley - I feel like I haven't really worked my way through a classic in a long time; I had big plans for Middlemarch this summer, but I haven't begun yet...

    Dorothy - you have so many great suggestions from earlier centuries, I am always getting ideas. The 2 I mention are British so perhaps are more available even now in Canada than in the US.

    Geranium Cat - I love G&G! Can't wait to see your list, too.

    Stefanie - "everything"! I think that's the perfect list... ;)

  6. All your categories sound good to me (though I must admit to having not read any Ukrainian lit!). I'm also especially interested in women writers of the 20th century--so many of their books are out of print and you wonder what good books we're missing! And there is always a Victorian Lit book out there to read, isn't there!!

  7. Danielle - somehow I think Ukrainian lit is a category of limited interest... ;)

    As for the women writers who are out of print - I am always discovering someone new by chance and wondering why they aren't known, because nearly all of them are so interesting!


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