That Book You Haven’t Read


Book you haven't read


While giving my bookshelves some much needed weeding through, I came across many novels that I could not part with yet also don’t see myself sitting down to read any time soon. So what’s a reader to do? Checking in with a book-buddy eases the guilt and the commiserating with those who understand can help us to make sense of it all. As Jennifer Smeth (Bookaliciousmama) and I belong to the same book-loving community, we decided to throw it out there and find out who else would own up to this affliction. As expected, we found ourselves in great company.

Coincidentally, the day after I discussed the possibility of co-authoring a post about this topic, author Kelly Corrigan (Glitter and Glue: A Memoir) put this on her Facebook page- “Today I follow my own advice: when you love a book, talk about it. I just put down Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and I honestly cannot recall a more thrilling reading experience. He is astonishingly innovative, a genius with language but more than that, I pined for these characters. I loved them like a mother. I wanted for them, as they did for themselves, peace and safety. The book came out in 2002 so I am way behind but if you haven’t read it, you have something truly special to look forward to.”

How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read  by Pierre Bayard ( I own this yet haven’t read it) offers a witty look at this topic lamented amongst bibliophiles and nervous dinner party guests everywhere. Proving that there is, indeed, a book for every occasion.



In Sunday’s NYTimes Book Review, Amy Bloom (Lucky Us) graces the “By the Book” column and is asked, “What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?” Bloom responds, “I’m a grown woman, I can come up with plenty of things that I’ve done and said or didn’t say or failed to do that remain with me as sources of embarrassment. The list of books I haven’t read is pretty long but not embarrassing: most of Thackeray, most of Faulkner (except “As I Lay Dying“), Updike’s Rabbit novels, like books of Norman Mailer, everything by Mary McCarthy (except “The Group“), and finally- creeping up on embarrassing- most of the terrific fiction published in the last five years, during which I was writing much more than I was reading.” Maybe our Facebook post was making the rounds!

Here’s a glimpse of what we found, while most people admitted to also having never read Atonement (Robin’s pick) or Middlesex (Jennifer’s pick), we also had some who hadn’t grabbed that classic novel off their shelf , like Pride And Prejudice or The Great Gatsby. The Red Tent and Time Traveler’s Wife-yes those made the list as well as To Kill A Mockingbird and Me Before You. One person admitted to loving an author’s short story collection so much that she’s fearful to dive into her novels. Sound silly? Not to us.

Between you, me and the bookends, there’s something freeing in admitting that yes, you’ve had a book sitting on your shelf (or on your ereader), you know it will be good but you just haven’t  picked it up yet.

So fess up! What’s that one book for you?

8 thoughts on “That Book You Haven’t Read

  1. triciatierney says:

    Yes – Moby Dick for me too. I brought that and Sontag’s The Volcano Lover, Midnight’s Children and a Boyle T. Coraghessan title when I worked ‘out in the field’ with the UN and had little access to books. Ugh! What was I thinking? Couldn’t crack any of them – life was bleak enough without those reads. One day I’ll try Moby again… maybe. Now of course, I’m spoiled for choice.

  2. Julia Reffner says:

    Ooh, love the idea behind this book. Moby Dick…don’t think I’ll ever make it through. AS Byatt’s Possession has been sitting on my shelf for YEARS…as has A Tree Grows in Brooklyn…

  3. Mary Kay Feather says:

    I belong to a book club based on this dilemma. We meet annually to give brief synopses of six books which have been on our shelves for twenty years or more and whether it was worth the wait and the shelf space.. This was how I discovered Sylvia Townsend Warner’s wonderful Lolly Willowes and G. V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr. Kudos to NYRB for re-releasing some similar titles.

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