How well read are you? Does it matter?

March 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Recently on Facebook there was a link going around that listed 100 classic books. You could go in and tick which ones you’d read and see how high you scored.
I scored 23, and it could be said I cheated a little, as I ticked both Hamlet and The Complete Works of Shakespeare (which I have on my shelf) and also both The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Chronicles of Narnia. That’s a bit of doubling up.
I felt ashamed as I saw the numbers my friends got. Aren’t I, as an author, supposed to be well read?
Perhaps it was just the particular books that this list presented that made my score so low. After all, there was no science fiction at all! But even then, I must admit I try and avoid a lot of those books that everyone lists as ‘classics’ and ‘great’ books. I’ve tried a number of classic authors and haven’t been that impressed. The Three Musketeers didn’t do much for me and I found Dickens is a trifle wordy after reading David Copperfield. And I will never read Thomas Hardy again after enduring Tess of the D’ubervilles, although that was more for its subject matter than the style of writing.
Does my feelings for many classic authors mean anything? Maybe not. Maybe it means I’m simply modern, although other classic authors, like Jane Austen and the Brontes, I have enjoyed. Maybe it’s style-related. Maybe it means I’ll never write a classic. I do tend to like the more ‘bread and butter’ type of books than those compared with fine wines.
Maybe it means nothing at all. We’re all different, with different likes and dislikes, and when it comes to the subjective nature of books and how they’re written I don’t think we can pin down a definitive right or wrong, no matter how much we would like to.

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