Saturday, 8 August 2009

There was one of those nice fat padded envelopes

in the letter box yesterday. The sort of envelope that says "book". As it was not the sort of envelope that books usually come in I was puzzled. It was addressed to me. It definitely came from my other 'home' island because it said Royal Mail. I had not ordered any books from the UK. That is a rare occurrence. It costs the earth to send things there or from there to here.
I had forgotten that Jane over on How Publishing Really Works had decided that one of my blog posts was worthy of a copy of Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science". I also thought that the publisher would decide it was too expensive to send abroad and take up my suggestion that it could be donated to a library instead.
I will donate this one to our library after I have read it. It looks good - what little I have seen of it. My father has snaffled it to read first. It is entirely my fault. I showed him the book. It is just his "sort of thing". He was hooked by the first page. He still reads widely.
I therefore also passed on a list of books that Donna over on Musings of a Penniless Writer had on her blog yesterday. There are one hundred books on that list. Apparently it does the rounds of the internet with the claim that people will only have read six of them. Hmm. Enid Blyton makes it to the list. Patrick White does not. I can at least be thankful for that.
I do not like those sort of lists - the sort that say "these are the books you 'must' read". When I left school for my further education the Australian poet Judith Wright actually advised me against doing any more English. "You will be told what to read and that is not necessarily a good thing. In your case it would almost certainly be a bad thing. You need to get out and read and read and write and write." Thankyou Judith. It is still some of the best advice I have ever had - advice that I ever took any notice of that is. It suited my agenda of course. I still do not like to be told I 'must' do anything which should be optional.
As for the books on Donna's list. My father looked at them. He did his degree in English - and Latin. He has forgotten most of the Latin. Because he did his degree in Australia he was required to read Patrick White, after all Mr White won a Nobel Prize for Literature. He must be a good writer - or is he? I know Judith disliked him intensely. My father thought his writing was a bore. I have never managed to get past the first few pages of Voss, The Tree of Man or the The Solid Mandala - but at least I can name them.
My father's reaction to the books on the list was therefore interesting. He had heard of most of them. He dislikes Jane Austen. He likes some of Charles Dickens and Hardy. He likes much of Shakespeare but wonders how modern youth reacts to it. He has read Du Maurier, Collins and Golding, Joyce and Doyle. He was required to read Neville Shute. As a former teacher he is familiar with Blyton, Dahl and EB White (although he wondered why TH White was not there).
His overall reaction was, "Why would anyone compose a list like this? Are these supposed to be 'good books' that everyone should read?"
I have read - or sometimes 'skip-read/browsed' through a lot of the books on the list. (More than six out of the first ten Donna.) There are many other books that I have read which have been more enjoyable than most of these. I love The Little Prince but I am not going to bother with War and Peace. Life is too short to read a book just because it has been tagged 'great literature' that you 'must' read. There are other books - like Tom's Midnight Garden and Bilgewater - that have given me far more.


Rachel Fenton said...

Here here! Most of what I have read has been accomplished because those were the cheapest books in the second hand store, or were easily available on my grandparents' bookcases!

catdownunder said...

That's a relief Rachel. I was beginning to believe I was the only person alive who had not read all those 'must reads'! I must dig out the Cultural Literacy book and see what is on that list - if I can find it I might blog it.

Rachel Fenton said...

I don't worry about those lists at all. Most people just allude to having read more than they actually have (except Donna - who is very well read :). I just get on with reading what most interests me now, when I have the time (which is little). I can't read too much when I'm writing as it has a tendency to colour my thoughts, unless I want to be inspired by something.
I love seeing a book sized jiffy bag in the mail box though! Spend a daft amount of time guessing what's inside rather than opening the thing!