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27 April 2008 @ 08:21 pm
Book Meme  
Jonathan (abstractmonkeys) and I were just discussing today whether A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking or The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien was more often begun and discarded without finishing the read. I had heard someone once say the former was a very common bought-and-then-not-read book. So it was perfect timing when I saw this meme from Karyn (gwywnnydd).

According to LibraryThing users, The Silmarillion wins! (So not surprised.)

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged A very favourite I've even read more than once.
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead But if i'd read it after I started discarding books I didn't like it, I would've discarded it.
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon But if i'd read it after I started discarding books I didn't like it, I would've discarded it.
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values although I'm still reading Case (chitah)'s copy at work, so I might still finish it :>
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Which of the ones that I have not read should I read ASAP?

Some of these, like Don Quixote, I have not read but have seen as a play adaptation at Seattle's Book-It Review Theatre.
Bertabertaberta on April 28th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I'm amazed to see The Time Traveler's Wife up there.

I couldn't finish it, but I thought it was just because the approaching tragic ending happened to hinge on a personal squick-hangup-phobia-whatever of mine. I figured that other people would finish the book without a problem.

I'm somewhat comforted to know that I'm in solid company on that one.
King Ratgkr on April 28th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the only one you haven't read of those that I would say is really worth a read, of the ones I've read.

I'm amused that Neil Gaiman appears so often on the list.
Kburgunder on April 28th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
I was too, although I can understand why American Gods is on there because I really didn't like it. It was one of the very last books I finished before I made my X-pages rule (I always forget what X is, and make it up according to the heinousness or boringness of a book in the first 20-100 pages).
King Ratgkr on April 28th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
I'm amused because Gaiman gets talked up so much by the geek crowd but I've never been impressed. He's not bad. But he's not engrossing either, in my omniscient opinion.
King Ratgkr on April 28th, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
Actually, Freakonomics is well worth a read too, but I know your attention span for things economic.
Cantakerous troubadoursonder on April 28th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
I have read the silmarillion about 30 times.
Kburgunder on April 28th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
If you're not serious, I am amused.

If you are serious, I must ask: What about it compels you?

(I mean, I'm willing to admit, maybe I'm missing out, who knows)

I tried. I really did. It's been a lot of years, so other than an overwhelming sense of hell no, I can't actually remember what it was that drove me away. How old were you when you first read it?
Cantakerous troubadoursonder on April 28th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
I'm completely serious.

I'm a literature graduate and I happen to LOVE the silmarillion, not the least for the way that Tolkien blended nordic and christian cosmology, but the pervasive themes of his most beloved culture (skandinavian) throughout.

the thing is, the silmarillion in not a cohesive book. It is a pastiche of notes and short stories that J.R.R.'s son richard put together to give the publis come kind of closure as far as backstory went. Tolkein was a prolific historian of his own fiction, and the silmarillion is the ultimate codex of everything that happened before the trilogy.

Even the hobbit, as a novel, was an afterthought.

For most people, the silmarillion is too 'dense' and it's prose is too thick. They get lost without frames of reference. For example a comment made by a character in the trilogy would have an entire chapter of the silmarillion behind it.

i'm not kidding when I say I have read it AT LEAST 30 times. I have studied it both for pleasure, and academically, and have cited it in comparative literature papers as an excellent and unimpeachable model for real world cosmological philosophy in modern science fiction.

I would be more than happy to prattle on to you about it any time.
Kburgunder on April 28th, 2008 05:53 am (UTC)
Ha, that's awesome. I love having my presumptions about people turned on their ear. Seattle is so good for that. The scary white guy with the neck tattoos who offers his seat to a little old man. The crass Loki-embodiment who loves The Silmarillion and, apparently, writes comparative literature papers ;>

Heh. Thank you :)
Cantakerous troubadoursonder on April 28th, 2008 04:04 pm (UTC)
Wow, you really DON'T know me. As far as being an embodiment of Loki, I take that as a compliment, but madam, I am FAR from crass.

I'm a warrior poet, but I'm hardly crass.
vaxhacker on April 28th, 2008 06:42 am (UTC)
Wait, it was Christopher Tolkien, wasn't it? But I agree, The Silmarillion is awesome, although I can't claim 30 readings.
Cantakerous troubadoursonder on April 28th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah it was christopher. I was sleepy.
Cantakerous troubadoursonder on April 28th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
Oh, and I first read it when I was about 11, I think.

But bear in mind I started college at 15, and my second favorite book is the divine comedy :)
Laurendj_stitch on April 28th, 2008 05:56 am (UTC)
I so almost called it quits with Schuyler right at the very beginning when he told me he loved The Simarillion.
nplusmnplusm on April 28th, 2008 07:25 am (UTC)
I often use the fact that I completed the Silmarillion as a proof of my manhood!

Person A: I once fought off 13 wolves with my bare hands while my leg was caught in a bear trap!
Jake: Oh yeah, well I completed the Silmarillion!
Person A: Really? Dude!
Varnvarn_ix on April 28th, 2008 07:30 am (UTC)
I set out to read the Silmarillion after I read and re-read the LotR, and after some Rolemaster campaigns set in the Second Era. I didn't get to read it all, cause I skipped forward to the history of Numenor. When I did read it all through, it was a translation, which was unusually approachable. (The second time I found a translation better than the original, the first time it was the Hitchhiker's Guide.)

As for the Brief History, I have a background in physics, so the concept of imaginary time feels quite natural... :)
nplusmnplusm on April 28th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
Oy, Gravity's Rainbow...what a slog, I gave up about 2/3rds through...and called it good.
nplusmnplusm on April 28th, 2008 10:21 am (UTC)
This excerpt from wikipedia says it all.

The plot of the novel is complex, containing over 400 characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another.
Khirilkhiril on April 28th, 2008 11:42 am (UTC)
Of the books you haven't read (or attempted to read), I would recommend The Count of Monte Cristo, the Three Musketeers and Watership Down.

Admittedly, it's been a while since I read any of them, but I enjoyed them all.

I also enjoyed the Iliad and the Odyssey, but they do take some work to get through in parts. The naming of the ships in the Iliad come to mind as a particularly dreary passage.

I read Gulliver's Travels in junior high and don't remember much about it, but I think it falls into the category of books that I should re-read now that I'm a little more capable of reading between the lines.

It is odd to me to see so much Gaiman up there. His books seem very finishable to me.