Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Reading List for 2009

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.


marybid said...

Awesome list! Be sure to get the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Anna K--it's the best. :)


word verification: elbouse

Anonymous said...

After you've read Anna K, treat yourself to the 2 glorious film versions starring Greta Garbo in the 30s and Vivien Leigh a decade later. Both scripts quote heavily from the novel and will break your heart all over again. Alas, poor Levin and his storyline are left on the cutting room floor -- egalitarian ideals just aren't sexy on film.

Shefali Shah Choksi said...

AK is the only book I've read from your list. I think I might be feeling a bit guilty; I think it's time visit Anna again.