I recall the urge to read every volume in the small, school library of my rural hometown. I know now how much I would have missed, if I had chosen such a course. I also know that if I had succeeded, fulfilled that urge, and read every volume in the single room library, I would have read more than I have (to date) finished. I have never thought that I was the smartest reader (nor the fastest, by far), but I did think that devotion and hard work would allow me to keep up with faster readers–to, ultimately, read as much as did the teachers I admired and the writers I wanted to emulate. Now, I am at an age from which I imagine that I can see some foolishness in all that dreaming. (I also know that, given some future years of living, one day I will look back at this, what I am writing and thinking now, with some shame and scorn.) I do not have time to read every book in the library. I am blessed to have read and pondered what I have … even at the snails pace I keep. So, it is time to prune.
Here’s a (for what’s left of my) lifetime reading list. Names are here and not titles. Furthermore, I’d like to study these, not just re-read them; therefore, the name includes works by and about the author. I’m just trying to stay focused. Names appear on this list because they have been important to me as a reader in one way or another, some by affection, some by opposition, some by bafflement. I have these names in a hierarchy also, but I’m not going to share that with you. I think it is still too long. Perhaps it is also too prideful–did I put some names on here because I want to seem smart? I think I should cut another ten names off the list–a thorough reading of a some of these would, in and of themselves, take a lifetime. (All links to Wikipedia.)
Augustine of Hippo
Sterling Allen Brown
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
William Carlos Williams
I don’t want to say that I will read these and only these authors. In fact, the one book that I read daily is not on the list. In fact, four of the last five books that I’ve recently read are not on the list. (But I expect that ratio to change.) Likewise this list is not permanent; I can change it when I want to. It’s here for my reference anyway.