Filling in Reading Gaps

Filling in Reading Gaps.001
I read A LOT, across many genres and types of books. But while I’ve always been a big reader, I realized recently that I don’t feel like I’m actually very well-read. That is, there are so many books and authors that I feel like I “should” have read—books that serve as cultural signposts—that I’ve just missed out on somehow over the years. When I was younger, I didn’t really know much about more contemporary, modern fiction, or even that much about literary fiction period. I hardly knew any authors whose books weren’t “classics.”

 

And now I’m realizing that I’ve missed out. The more I read, the more I discover how little I’ve read. I’ve never picked up a book by David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Safran Foer; I know nothing about George Eliot and the only thing I really know about Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath is that they both committed suicide. Murakami? Pynchon? Sherlock? Douglas Adams? Donna Tartt? None of the above. I’ve hardly made a dent in the classics, let alone the modern classics.

 

So I decided to try to fill in the gaps. About two years ago, I posted on my Tumblr that I was going to start a fill in the gaps project, something that I had seen several book bloggers that I follow do—essentially, creating a list of about 100 books that they wanted to read over a 5 year time frame in order to fill in what they saw as gaps in their reading lives. So I decided to do one too—putting together a list of 120 books across a variety of genres, mostly randomly chosen from my shelves, and told myself I wanted to have read 75% of those (90 books) within 5 years.

Two years later, I’ve only managed to read 8 books from my list. And while I’ve discovered a few favorites (hello, Junot Diaz!), let’s just say the project has stalled it and I’m no longer happy with it.

 

My life is in the middle of some big transitions now—I just graduated from law school a few weeks ago, and I’m studying to take the bar exam this summer. I’ll be moving to a new state, and starting a new life with a new career. More importantly, I look at myself differently now. Tackling something as difficult as law school and making it to the other side has given me a new perspective on a lot of things. But as I start a new period in my life, I’m in need of a new project. I’m always itching to be checking something off on a to-do list, and now I’m making a new literary one.

 

So, I’m scrapping the old list and starting a new fill in the gaps project. And I’m hoping that writing about my project as I go will help keep me accountable to myself, and help me share some of the joys of discovering new favorites along the way. I’m also hoping this list will help keep me focused, so that I actually read some of the books on my shelves rather than just checking out every new book that looks remotely interesting from the library and then being bummed that I never got around to reading the books on my shelves—the ones I really want to read. Rather than just picking out 100 books that I want to read, I’ve decided to make it more of a list of reading-related goals—tackling some authors I’ve been afraid to try, genres that are outside of my reading comfort zone, etc.

 

Without further ado, here’s my list of reading goals:
  1. Read a book by Thomas Pynchon
  2. Read a book by Haruki Murakami
  3. Read my entire Penguin Drop Caps set
  4. Actually finish my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge
  5. Read the complete Sherlock Holmes stories
  6. Read War and Peace or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  7. Read the literary magazines I’ve been hoarding but not reading
  8. Read an entire series, start to finish
  9. Discover a new favorite author and read their whole backlist
  10. Read the A Song of Ice & Fire series
  11. Read 1 book that is guaranteed to scare the crap out of me
  12. Read the entire Tournament of Books shortlist one year, before the tournament starts
  13. Read the complete collected short stories of 1 author
  14. Read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy
  15. Finally read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, one of Alex’s favorite books that she’s been trying to get me to read for years
  16. Read 2 plays and then see them performed
  17. Read 5 books considered classics in the science fiction genre
  18. Read 1 book each from these classic mystery/noir writers: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John Le Carré, and James Cain
  19. Read 5 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  20. Read 5 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
  21. Read 3 classics set in the South
  22. Read a book of poetry
  23. Read a book by Vladimir Nabokov
  24. Read a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  25. Read a book by Donna Tartt
  26. Read the winners of the last 3 Tournament of Books competitions
  27. Read 5 National Book Award fiction winners
  28. Read 5 Booker Prize winners
  29. Read a book by Shirley Jackson
  30. Start a new epic fantasy series
  31. Read a book by Virginia Woolf
  32. Read a classic about race and identity
  33. Read the complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
  34. Read the unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo
  35. Read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy
  36. Read a book by Zadie Smith
  37. Read The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
  38. Read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  39. Read a book by Fyodor Doestoevsky
  40. Read 1 book by each Brontë sister
  41. Read 10 books from the Melville House Art of the Novella series
  42. Read a novel by David Foster Wallace
  43. Read a book that is over 1000 pages long
  44. Read books from five “classic” authors whose work I’ve never read before
  45. Read a book by Edith Wharton
  46. Read 3 books of essays
  47. Read 2 classic war novels
  48. Read 1 book each from the literary Jonathans: Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, and Jonathan Lethem
  49. Read 10 short story collections
  50. Read 5 books that my boyfriend has read, that he can’t believe I haven’t read: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, and The Stranger by Albert Camus
I’m going to keep this list updated on its own page on the blog, and do regular check-ins, even if it’s just to say I’ve been failing miserably at reaching any of my goals.

 

Happy reading!
J.Mart
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