"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

TAG: Top 5 Unread Authors

Yesterday I was cleaning my room, and I realized something crazy: I've reached book saturation.

Temporarily, of course. It's not like I actually own all the books I'd like to own (I think that'd be impossible). But my bookshelves are overflowing, and I don't want to mar my beautiful organization-by-color any more by building unsightly piles of books all over the place.

There are two solutions:

a) Audiobooks. They don't take up space! And are also brilliant for the long bus rides I take to and from my new internship in the city. I'm currently listening to The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty. Before that, I listened to A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. They take a bit longer to finish than normal books, but that's outweighed by the pleasure of being read to and the convenience of multitasking - I listen when I'm riding public transit, cooking, knitting, or anything where I need to use my hands but not think too hard.

b) Actually read the books that are already on my shelves. Because most of them have been languishing there for years, falling further and further down my to-read list.

So, in the spirit of reading the books I've been meaning to read for ages, here's a tag I got from kayleyreads's excellent book channel YouTube. A list of the first five authors that came to mind top five authors I haven't read. In no particular order:

1. China Miéville.
I heard him speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival two years ago when his book Railsea came out. He was entertaining and interesting and honest about the somewhat trivial inspiration (wanting to rewrite Moby Dick with moles instead of whales)  for what sounded like a rich and not at all trivial book. More importantly, perhaps, his fans in the audience asked very intelligent questions - a good sign, right? As far as I can tell, Miéville write something in the realm of sci-fi/dystopia/speculative fiction, and I'm on the hunt for authors who do that sort of thing without letting style and sophistication slide (see the rant about clunky YA fiction in my previous post).

2. Muriel Barbery
Several people have highly recommended Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog to me. It's actually apparently the favorite book of one of my friends. So I have a sort of obligation to read it, right? But really, it's not an obligation, because it sounds like a lovely book. Moreover, I recently found out she's written another book with a food theme - the way to my heart. And the two books have complementary covers! I love that. The main thing that's been keeping me from reading Barbery is that I want to read the original French versions, so I just have to track those down. And sadly, the French versions don't have the charming matchy covers. Le sigh.

3. Jorge Luis Borges
Obviously a classic author. I was in a theater class where we used short excerpts from his writing, and I loved the philosphical/magical tone. My interest was only further piqued when I was researching David Mitchell for my dissertation and found out Borges was an influence. On top of that, I haven't really read any South American authors, so that's a gap I'd like to fill. I read a piece of Roberto Bolano's gigantic novel, 2666, but Borges somehow seems a lot more approachable than Bolano, so I'm putting off finishing 2666 and thinking about tackling Borges instead.

4. Rainbow Rowell
EVERYBODY on the internet seems to be talking about Rainbow Rowell. Unsuprising, since she published two extremely popular YA novels last year and now has a new book, which I think it for adults. I've been graciously lent Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and can't wait to read them and see what all the fuss is about. But I believe I'll start with Eleanor & Park, because I've been warned that it's a bit sad. That way, I can cheer myself up afterwards with Fangirl!

5. The Brontës (collectively)
Well, there's the gorgeous covers, of course. One of the best things about reading the classics is getting to choose from the many beautiful editions. But appealing covers aside, I really need to read these ladies. I love old-fashioned writing. I love great sweeping stories. I saw the Jane Eyre movie. There's really no reason not to have read at least one Brontë book by now. Plus, as a literature student (I know I'm not a student anymore, but old habits die hard), I want to read the old stuff that so many people refer to and riff off of, and I feel like these books have a relatively large influence over modern literature as well as certain feminist discussions. So this is one of those obvious, can't believe you've never read so-and-so situations. I'd better get on that.

Acutally, only two of those authors currently reside on my bookshelf. So I seem to have chosen a third solution to my problem:

c) Continue to ignore the books I actually own and, instead, dream about books I want to buy but won't, because my shelves are too full.


  1. What a great post! It lends itself perfectly to long discussion - both about the authors you haven't read, and how much easier it is to pick up a book if one has already read something by the author, and about various books/authors I've been meaning to read and haven't (the original Melville, more of Jane Austen, classics from Homer to Herodotus and the modern but elusive Margaret Mahy). I know at least one of the authors you have on your shelf, is the other Borges? I can lend you Barbery cherie ;)

    1. You're such a smarty pants - it is Borges! Call me and let's chat about books soon :) And speaking of Barbery, when are we starting out French book club??