Full disclosure: though I’m writing fiction I’ve been more of a non-fiction reader most of my life. It’s only in the past ten years or so that the balance has shifted. As someone who tends to go narrow and deep, I’m surprised and embarrassed to realize my fiction exposure has been wide and shallow:

Much as I loved “Rebecca” I’ve not made time to read the rest of du Maurier’s work.

I’ve only read one each of the “Outlander” and “Lymond Chronicles” series. I enjoyed them but didn’t LURVE LURVE LURVE them enough to continue.

Ditto Margaret George and Philippa Gregory, two other histfic heavyweights. I can’t even tell you which ones I’ve read.

My track record in other genres is no better:

I’ve never read “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings”. I tried the former in both high school and college and found the language too dense to get into. As such I figured LOTR was above my pay grade. I enjoyed the movies though (yes, I am a prole). Maybe I should take another run at these.

Many of the classics of science fiction have slipped under my radar: I’ve never read Heinlein or Asimov, save “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” because I wanted to know what inspired “Blade Runner”.

None of McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series. I couldn’t finish the first because I found it cliché; friends in the know said it’s better if you encounter it at age twelve rather than thirty-two.

No Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle, for no good reason at all.

No Jane Austen. I know, revoke my girl card.

Very little Stephen King because “Pet Sematary” kept me awake for two weeks as a kid. According to one and all he’s a master of suspense, I want thrills, not terror so intense I can’t turn out the lights.

Stack of books; Bagwell's The Darling Strumpet, Sharratt's Daughters of the Witching Hill, Dwyer's Ghost Hunter's Guide to Portland and the Oregon Coast, Smiten's Ghost Stories of Oregon, Hieber's The Eterna Files, Gortner's Marlene, and Higganbotham's Hanging Mary
Top of my fiction “to read” pile (with some non-fic mixed in, natch). Note they are all recent releases: no classics.

I try to catch up with the old but the new is so tempting!

What haven’t you read that you feel like you ought? What classics did you finally get around to only to find they didn’t live up to the hype?

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Allison Thurman

Allison Thurman has always made stuff: out of fabric, metal, beads, even exaggerated fencing moves. Of late she makes stories out of weird history, with fragments of pop culture, unsolved mysteries, and science fiction mixed in for texture.

She lives in a galaxy far, far away (well, the DC metro area) with too many books and swords.

4 thoughts on “unread”

  1. How about a classic that did live up to the hype? I made my first attempt to read Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” in my late teens and retried every two or three years after that with no success … simply could not get into it. Fast forward to my early thirties and suddenly I couldn’t put it down and I’ve re-read it several times since then and loved it every time. Obviously I’d finally reached the right stage of life or experience or maturity or number of brain cells or something … ;p

    Perhaps someday I’ll be able to bring myself to read “Lord of the Flies” again to find out if it actually is a classic. Originally read it when I was twelve and was so mortally insulted that the author thought kids my age were so monumentally stupid/ignorant that I still haven’t got over it (and have had no desire to read anything else by the man either)

    1. Still haven’t read Le Guin yet either. Gads, another addition to the “to read” pile!

      Re: the Silmarillion – interesting that you enjoyed it most of Tolkien’s works because almost everyone else tells me it reads like an encyclopedia rather than a story!

      1. Well I did read most of a 25-volume encyclopedia as a youngster … ;p

        I didn’t find Silmarillion encyclopedia-like at all. One does have to pay a lot of attention because of the multitude of characters, locations, and generations (although since a big chunk of the history is that of the immortal elves there really aren’t all that many generations). But I’d say that while LotR is an epic quest, Silmarillion is an epic history. There’s a ton of background to LotR that isn’t in that trilogy … Silmarillion is that background and puts LotR into historical context. Or, to put it another way, LotR is what happened, Silmarillion is why it happened. For instance, watching the movies did you wonder why it was possible for Gandalf to come back and why he was adamant that Saruman be left imprisoned and alive? Silmarillion contains the answer. Sauron seems to be the ultimate baddie in LotR but he was actuallly originally apprentice to someone MUCH nastier. Also how Elrond and Aragorn are connected (they’re blood relatives) and whose mother-in-law Galadriel is. Y”know, useful stuff. 😉

        Re Le Guin: if it’s any comfort, LHoD is the only thing of hers I have read (aside from the occasional short story in anthologies); I know the Earthsea books are supposed to be her other thing that everybody has read but the blurbs on the books never enticed me.

  2. P.S. I actually enjoyed Tolken’s “The Silmarillion” a lot more than “Lord of the Rings” (the events of LotR take up a smidge over a page and a half in my paperback copy); I dream of someday getting my hands on one of the old hardcover editions with the big foldout map that can be consulted while reading without having to flip between pages.

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