This week at school, I saw my friend Monika, who's reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I assumed that she was re-reading it, but she said she had never read it and always meant to. I remember reading it in high school and thinking it was deeply profound, and then I re-read it in college, and continued to think it was deeply profound. But I was worried about how much of it I had missed, especially the darkness (I had the same experience reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, which I thought was a hoot in high school, and when I re-read it my Senior year of college, I was horrified to realize that when I read it the first time, I had completely missed the fact that the main character was going through a breakdown).
When I said that I'd like to re-read the book, Monika and I talked about reading it at the same time. I said, "I've got to get on some kind of reading program." I'm amazed by how much I'm not reading anymore. Even though I'm reading a lot more online, I'm not reading as many books as I used to do.
I could offer excuses, like the fact that my academic job was converted into a 4o-hours-a-week-in-the-office job. But I used to spend gobs of time in high school, and I managed to read a lot (I doubt I would have survived high school without books).
So, in the interest of reading more in 2009, I've decided to make a list of books I will be reading this year. And since I have a journey coming up over Christmas, I'm giving myself a 3 week head start. I'll report back to this blog as I finish each book. We'll see how I do. I've kept the list fairly short. In my youth, I could have finished this list in a month (in a week if I was really bored). But I want to be successful, not just have one more thing that I meant to do, but I didn't do, so that I can beat myself up. I can read them in whatever order I like.
In addition, I'll read one volume of poetry each month. I don't have to understand the volume as a whole or each individual poem (or any of the poems), but I have to read all the poems in the volume.
I started thinking about the books that meant something to me in high school, so my list starts with 3 to revisit:
1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
3. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
When I looked up A Canticle for Leibowitz on Amazon, I discovered #4. I'm always a sucker for a good tale about the apocalypse--what could be better than a book of short stories? I can dip in and out:
4. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams
There are 3 books by some of my favorite female authors that have come out recently:
5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
6. Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
7. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
I added a novel that I've always meant to read, but haven't:
8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (maybe my friend Elizabeth--who used to read this book several times a year--will read this at the same time as me and offer encouragement).
I wanted something to make me think about my brain in a different way:
9. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor
And of course, no list would be complete without some theology:
10. Any book by Thomas Merton (I've never read a whole book of his before)
11. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
12. Tell it Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers by Eugene Peterson
And some Sociology about Religion (plus, I love this generational stuff!):
13. After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of Religion
And another book of essays by a modern master:
14. Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry
And the last novel, which seems to wrap together many things: my love of theology, my love of poetry, my fascination with cloistered life of all kinds, my Victorian/Modern British Lit background . . .
15. Exiles by Ron Hansen
I am a bit bothered by how many of these books are authored by males. Hmmm. But it will balance out with my poetry book selections, most of which I anticipate will be female-authored.
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