1001 Books


So part of reading all 1001 Books involves obtaining those 1001 books. Which you can do one of three ways:

1. Be independantly wealthy enough to buy all 1001 of them, including the rare limited-edition versions of the things that are out of print, and to also have an enormous endless library with polished oak and mahogany shelves and maybe a couple velvet window seats or an enormous cushy armchair and one of those way fun wheelie ladders and a fireplace and Vivaldi softly playing in the background and you can go there whenever you want and the more I write about this the more it makes me want to gnash my teeth that I can’t have it so I’m going to stop now.

2. Stalk your library for them, thus putting yourself up against the several hundred high school students who also have to read some of the books in question, and making repeated visits to see if the person who has had out the sole copy of Cryptonomicon since last Thanksgiving has happened to possibly bring it back, and pestering the librarians to use Interlibrary loan to get the one copy of Tale Of A Tub that they even know is in the state from that one library in Buffalo, and then later on pay hefty library fines because there’s no way in hell you could possibly read Proust in only three weeks to you’ve had to keep renewing it periodically and then you forgot and now you owe the library twenty bucks.

or:

3. Paperback Swap.

I love Paperback Swap. A former roommate introduced me, when he moved in after the previous roommate had moved out — she was moving away to Australia, and was forced to leave some of her things behind for me to “keep what you want and sell what you don’t.” However — among the things she left behind were fifteen boxes of books, and stoop sales can only do so much.

Enter Paperback Swap. You post a list of books you want to get rid of, and if someone claims one, you mail it to them (you pay for postage, but it’s only a couple bucks) and then you get a point. And then — you can use that point to claim a book off someone else’s list, and they send it to you. I eagerly listed all fifteen boxes of books, and fairly quickly got it down to a much more manageable three shelves. Which means, I also had that many points to trade in for books.

Free books. Oooh.

After first indulging in a couple rare children’s book finds (“sweet, I haven’t read The Tyger Voyage since I was nine!”), I started patrolling it for books off the 1001 list, ordering them as I saw them, and now have a small stack of “to be read” on a side table in the living room.

It’s a nearly perfect system — I still have enough points to stock up when the stack starts running low, and as I read something, I have the option of just keeping it — like I’m probably going to do with the lovely Jacob’s Room — or re-listing it on Paperback Swap and sending it off to someone else (like I’m doing with Tale of Genji, now that I’ve finally finished).

I have always been a reader — I learned when I was about two and a half, mainly from Mom plunking me in front of Sesame Street a lot. So the goal of reading through the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list is actually fairly attainable, and I’m already about 10% of the way through. So you’d think this would be easy.

However.

I’ve not only always been a reader, I’ve always had very definite tastes in my reading. And one of the things that I have always turned up my nose at is silly romances.

…And “silly romances” is a good descriptor for about 60% of the books on the list.

Am struggling through The Tale Of Genji right now – okay, yeah, it’s a classic of the Japanese canon, and some say it’s the first-ever novel or the first novel that analyzes the mindset of the hero or whatever. I can respect that. But all that this “hero” ever seems to be doing is getting into doomed love affairs with delicate beauties and having angst about it, and I keep wondering why I would ever want to read about someone who’s so damn…idly wimpy. “Do something,” I want to tell this guy. “Start a farm, explore a palace, make a sword, build a boat, just do something instead of mooning around writing poetry for ladies of the court.”

But I’m continuing to slog through it, because…it’s part of the goal. At least it’s short.