on not being tied to the canonPosted: July 16, 2014
One of the downsides of the online world in general and social media in particular is the proliferation of must-read lists of books. (Similar lists, of course, exist for movies, music, and television programs.) There is a place for identifying a literary canon, and I really enjoyed the Western Literary Canon lecture series from The Great Courses. Still, I think the must-read list thing is over done.
At the end of Why I Read, Wendy Lesser lists “A Hundred Books to Read for Pleasure.” She makes the point that “This is not a literary canon, and there will be no final exam— for any of us.” In a similar vein Janet Potter writes about “28 Books You Should Read If You Want To.” A few of her suggestions:
You should read the book that you see someone on the train reading and trying to hide that they’re laughing.
You should read the book that you see someone on the train reading and trying to hide that they’re crying.
You should read books about historical events you don’t know anything about.
You should read books about things you already know a little about.
You should read prize-winners, bestsellers, beach reads, book club picks, and classics, when you want to.
I like her approach. You might want to check out the whole piece.