A Book I’ve Always Wanted to Read

But something got in the way

By Jeff Salter

This week’s topic has triggered various types of responses, some of which focused on books we believe we were “expected” to read or “pressured” to read… but (for whatever reason have not… yet). I think that’s the approach I took in my comments to the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Foxes.

But now that I study the actual topic more closely, it nudges us (instead) to reveal a title we’ve WANTED to read, but something has gotten in the way. As I’ve mulled over that issue, I’ve struggled to arrive at a title that has eluded me, unless it was out-of-print… or so expensive that I simply could not acquire it.

I remember a rather frenzied search for Vol. 1 of the 17-volume Penny Parker series by Mildred Wirt… which had been omitted (possibly for copyright reasons) from the digital collection I purchased at a bargain price. When I began searching for that first title, most of the copies available (in decent condition) were $40 on up… which I was not willing to pay. Especially since I’d acquired those other 16 (digital) titles for a grand total of $1.06.

A few decades further back, I was trying to acquire all the titles in the Miss Minerva series. I was able to locate the first four, but never did come up with an affordable copy of the other remaining eight titles. [Actually, one of those other titles is a cookbook, so I doubt I’d want that one anyhow.]

There are other books that I’ve heard about, or seen reviews for, which have attracted my attention, but most of them were simply too pricey for me to acquire. One of these was a collectors’ compilation of the “best” of the Sgt. Rock comic books. Variously, that’s either out of print, or so expensive that I refuse to buy it.

Other notes

But the topic as I had initially scanned it suggested a totally different approach, namely: what are the books that you wish you had read (so you could say you read them), but you just couldn’t gin up the interest?

For that I have a few choice words.

First, I should explain that I majored in English (i.e., “literature”) in college, so obviously I have an appreciation for writing and reading. But – as we’ve already discussed a bit this week at 4F1H – some of the literary “classics” are quite UN-friendly to casual readers. Add that to the fact that too many students in junior high and high school were compelled to gnaw on stories, poems, novels that were completely indigestible (to them). Many were to me, as well.

In college, I had the misfortune to take a class with the head of the English Department at that university. He was an ardent fan of Herman Melville and made us wade through several titles, including Billy Budd. But the highlight of that semester – for him – was to have us slog through Moby Dick. Ugh. Talk about BORING. Folks, I honestly don’t know how I even passed that course, because I’ll admit here and now: I did NOT read all 700 pages of that opus. I struggled to get through a few chapters and finally gave up. Bought the Cliff’s Notes and never looked back.

For a different class, I had another professor who was passionate about HER favorite author: Henry James. Folks, I slogged through every word of the novel, The Ambassadors, and the novella Daisy Miller. And, yes, I even read The Beast in the Jungle, but when it came time to discuss (in class) that Beast / Jungle novella, I made the supreme mistake of stating exactly how I felt about it. Yes, folks, stupid Jeff just blurted out – to the professor who lived and breathed Henry James – that I thought Beast / Jungle was little more than a tedious, over-baked soap opera. You could have heard a pin drop. Professor So-and-so did not (at that moment) chastise me for having an opinion, as I recall, though she certainly expressed her profound disagreement with my assessment. [Frankly, I think it un-nerved her to hear a dissenting voice from a student.] Throughout the remainder of that semester, however, she reserved an icy glare for me (when she deigned to look my direction at all). And my course grade likely went from an “A” to a “B” solely because I’d verbalized what I’m sure most every student in that class equally felt.

What lesson did I learn from my blunt disclosure? Professors who have done their doctoral work on particular authors do NOT – repeat NOT – wish to have snot-nosed kids (though I was a 25-year-old Air Force veteran at the time) reveal their true feelings about the entertainment value of the titles produced by their revered author.

But I’m sure y’all already knew that.

Summary:

To answer this part of the topic, I’ll reveal a title that I feel I “should have” read – indeed, other English majors express considerable shock that I have not yet done so – but just never got any traction toward actually starting it. Pride and Prejudice. There, I admitted it. I had to do a LOT of research on this title because it figured prominently in my own novel, “The Duchess of Earl,” but I have yet to read it. To me, it sounds like a yawn-fest.

Uh, Professor So-and-so, is this gonna wreck my grade?

Question:

Which title do you believe you SHOULD HAVE READ, but didn’t?

Which title do you WISH YOU HAD, but haven’t yet?

[JLS # 507]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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13 Responses to A Book I’ve Always Wanted to Read

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Know what? I refuse to read any work by Jane Austen. Yup. What little I tried to read of Pride & Prejudice for a grade in a high school English class, had me more than frustrated. Not only was I bored to tears, but I also couldn’t understand it. At all. It was when I discovered I had a bit of dyslexia. I worked with the teacher on this and was allowed to use Cliff Notes. Same for Wuthering Heights. This is as close as I can come to answering your first question. Anything I should have read but didn’t would be something for coursework.

    But your second question is easy. My entire TBR list. I really WANT to read them all. They are queued and ready. And someday I will get to them all. Hopefully sooner rather than later. So. Many. Great. Authors. (You included!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Excellent point, Jenn, about my TBR list and my literal TBR PILE of books in my study. I acquired those titles because I WANTED to read them… yet many remain un-opened, because there are only so many hours in a day. So that would have been a good answer for me to state here: MY TBR PILE!
      As for your younger experiences with Austen and others — I’m so glad your teacher was perceptive enough to realize you weren’t just being “lazy” or “stubborn” or whatever they used to call students with various forms of dyslexia. Kudos to her for working with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I took the topic to mean what we meant to/ wanted to read but have not gotten around to. I touched on this sometime in a review a few months back. Personally, I can’t see how it could have meant what we were forced to read,but…
    I was luckier than many by the time I got to the schools I ended up in that many of the books that my siblings were forced to read in their schools, and I see are, (still or again,) required reading, I wasn’t pressured into many. However, since so many people had been forced to read so many that were common knowledge among other people, I read them on my own. I found them to be morally corrupt and pressed young minds away from family and religion.To open minds, to give them experiences, to get them to question the standards they are living in is fine, but to just tear down families/family ties, and all organized religion is detrimental. WHY throw “Ethan Frome”, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and others into these kids’ minds?
    However, the lighter note, I will be hitting ones which I have not gotten to, but had always wanted to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      About corrupting minds: I may have mentioned this anecdote in an earlier blog, but for one of my college freshman English classes, I had a professor who was ultra-liberal. This was a conservative Baptist Univ. and that prof delighted in embarrassing the young girls (some not yet 18, as I was still 17 myself) by making them stand and read passages from Gingsburg’s “Howl” and some of the other poets of that era (late sixties) who used a lot of vile language.
      Even then, I thought it was unnecessarily cruel of her to do that.
      As I look back on it, I find it literally sadistic.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have always wanted to read at least one book by Bernard Cornwell. It’s my understanding he’s a masterful storyteller, especially when describing battles and face-to-face combat. A couple of years ago, I bought a copy of “1356,” which is set during the Hundred Years War. It promises to be entertaining, maybe even thrilling. But in the last year or so, I’ve been focused on reading books (mostly nonfiction) on the Chautauqua Book Club list, leaving little time for Cornwell’s story. I’ve also learned that “1356” is the fourth novel in Cornwell’s Grail Quest series, making me wonder if I’ll be missing something in this book if I don’t read the preceding three.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Yes, it can be additionally daunting to want to read ONE of an author’s highly-regarded titles and find that it’s in the middle of a series.
      Tackling an entire series required a degree of commitment that I’m not sure I possess… so I’d want to read the very best book in that group for starters. On the other hand, I prefer to read a series in order! Good grief.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Books written in a series are a turn-off to me. I know I’m in the minority here, but that’s how I feel. Give me a good story that has a beginning and an end without the need to continue with another book.

    Jeff, you really should give Price and Prejudice a read. Don’t judge it by what others say. I’ve read it and all the other books by Jane Austen. They are far from boring. She has a way of drawing you into the period of time and the lives of her characters. Personally, I think I’ve been influenced by her writing more than by any other author outside of J.R.R. Tolkien, who made his characters believable no matter how different they were to us in reality.

    Regarding your comments on teachers forcing students to read certain books, I’m in agreement with you. I’ve mentioned before that in an advanced reading class in high school I was forced to read The Good Earth. I found it disgusting. And it turned me off on reading, along with the fact that I wasn’t encouraged at home to read books as a youth. When I look back on that book now, it still disgusts me. It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I started reading again and enjoyed it, making my own choices of what to read. I think young people should be given a variety of classics, along with the synopses of the stories, from which to make their own choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      as a parent, grandparent — and career librarian — I want to connect readers with material that INTERESTS them. I see that as basically the only way to help them become life-long readers (and learners).
      Since reader interest is extremely subjective, it takes a delicate touch to help youngsters locate material that interests them. Some teachers, I think, had the misguided notion that they had to CHALLENGE a student’s reading ability by forcing them to gnaw on complex, dare I say “boring”, material… just because it possessed a high rating among the literary elite for generations.
      I say, encourage the love of reading FIRST. Then, as the student is able, bring them up to higher levels of complexity and “challenge”.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I’ve never read any of the title you mentioned, and truthfully I don’t intend to now, including Pride and Prejudice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Someday, I’d like for someone to read “the beast in the jungle” and tell me if they agree with me… or with my professor from 1975.

      Like

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