Am I having A Literary Mid-Life Crisis?

August 21, 2010

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Note to my RSS and email subscribers: an unfinished version of this slipped out a few days ago, so this is going to appear to be a duplicate article. My apologies.

In recent months, I am often having urges to re-read books that I read long ago – or pick up a copy of a contemporary classic that I’ve missed along the way. So I’m taking a short break from my typical diet of mystery novels to indulge myself a bit. Here are some of the books I will be reading.

To Kill a Mockingbird – I don’t remember exactly when or why I first read Harper Lee’s classic, but Mockingbird is probably the first book I read that had a substantial impact on my life. The message of tolerance and to avoid judgment without the facts really hit home – and I hope has formed a foundation for my life. At some point, I know that I had two copies of the book, but I managed to lose them over the years. I have a tendency to lend books pretty freely, and it’s likely that the copies are in someone else’s collection now (hey, whoever has them – enjoy!). I recently bought a hardcover copy of the 50th anniversary edition and am reading it now for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Catcher in the Rye – I have never read J.D. Salinger’s classic.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the connection to the movie Field of Dreams (in the book, the angry 60’s author is Salinger) I probably wouldn’t have picked up a copy.  But now that I have a copy, I should really give it a read, especially with the passing of Salinger to that great rye field in the sky.

The Day of the Jackal – This book probably wouldn’t make most people’s list of classic, but it was one of my earliest introductions to suspense novels.  The protagonist in the novel takes the job of assassinating French leader Charles DeGaulle.  I originally read this in a Reader’s Digest condensed collection, and I wonder what I missed by reading the abridged edition.  I recently snagged a copy for six bucks at Barnes & Noble and it’s on my must-read list.

Fahrenheit 451 – Until recently, I really wasn’t very familiar with the subject of this book.  I picked up an audio version at the library and really liked it.  The main character in the story is a professional book burner – it now illegal to possess books.  His wife lives in a fantasy world surrounded by electronic screens that immerse a person in the lives of soap opera-like dramas.  Abandoning the learning opportunities of books in favor of the cheap thrills of reality TV?  That could NEVER happen …

The Thirteenth Trick – Another gem that I first read in a Reader’s Digest condensed volume.  The novel is based in England and features a paraplegic archer who trades barbs with a detective investigating the murders of several young women.  I’m betting that the abridgement left out a lot of the story.  This is by far the least famous book I’m going to mention in this article – but it’s a very entertaining read.

The Fountainhead – I have been reading this book since 1992 – at a glacial pace.  Time to jump back into the life and times of Howard Roark again.  When I finish, I can grab Atlas Shrugged.  I’ve been waiting to finish Fountainhead before starting Atlas.  These books explain Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism and are pretty heavy reading – but I hate to stop reading a book halfway through.  (I haven’t stopped, I’m just enjoying an intermission.)  Note – I’m not attempting to promote objectivisim, I’m simply trying to finish reading the books …

War and Peace – Maybe.  I probably won’t get to it in this cycle of reading (and probably won’t finish the Ayn Rand novels either), but I’ll put it on my to-do list.  I tend to like novels that teach me some history, and I suspect that I would learn an awful lot about Russian history by reading War and Peace.

I have most of these books, but will need to pick up copies of Fahrenheit 451 and War And Peace at some point.  I’m thinking of setting up reading cycles for my lifetime, with goals of reading certain books at age 35 (now), another set of books at age 40, etc.

If you are interested in buying any of these books, I have provided links below.  Yes, I’ll make a small commission if you buy one of the books (this does not increase the price you pay).

So, what are YOU reading these days?

To Kill a Mockingbird

Catcher in the Rye

The Day of the Jackal

Fahrenheit 451

The Thirteenth Trick

The Fountainhead / Atlas Shrugged
(Boxed set)

War and Peace

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