Must-read books

January 28, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Do you read the books that people consider a ‘must read’?

I admit that I usually don’t. My contrary nature usually kicks in if people wave books at me and say, ‘You’ve got to read this! It’s fantastic!’ I’m more inclined to read a book if I see you’ve given it a good review than if you try and convince me it’s in my best interest to do so.

Then there are those books out there that everyone thinks are fabulous, but have they read them? My father, who was bookseller for many years, tells the story of a customer who used to buy Penguin books as soon as they came out, but he later confessed to my father that he never read any of them. He just liked the way they looked on his shelf. Maybe they made him feel like an intellectual.

Anatole France once said, ‘The books that everybody admires are those that nobody reads’. I agree with this assessment. The ones that get the highest praise are often purchased and not read. I was at a writers’ conference a while ago and someone was speaking about a book that a lot of people bought, but no one had ever read past the third chapter. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

While these books may be the ones considered wine by many, I think, like Mark Twain, I’d prefer it if my books are like water. As Twain put it, ‘My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water.’ I don’t think my books would ever be considered wine, but I’m fine with that.

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