This morning I checked in on a friend's private blog and found she'd posted a list of books, reportedly circulated by the NEA, of their Top 100 Books . . . of all time? of readers' choice? of modern culture? Not sure about that part. I searched the NEA site to try and find the answer, plus #99 and #100 on the list, since my friend had inherited a truncated one from another blogger. I didn't find what I was looking for, but spotted several other similar Top 100 Books lists from other groups as I was Googling about. There's a healthy overlap among these, as might be expected. I'll share a few links with you, in case you like to peruse lists like I do.
Us and Them
An illustrated guide—page one—page two—page three—page four
NY Times Notable Books of the Year
Entertainment Weekly's "The New Classics"
100 Best Children's Books
And so it goes on for 22,100,000 results.
So I had lists and 100s and books on my brain first thing today, and I was immediately primed and ready to obsess over reading—you know, get busy absorbing and check all those neglected books offa those lists. But I had a workday laid out before me that wouldn't allow for the leisure of sitting down with any book, good or bad, so I decided to strap on my iPod and let my ears do the page-turning for me while I painted. I looked over the NEA list and sort of did an eeny-meeny-miney-mo; the first title for which I could quickly find a free audio recording would be my listen du jour. Whaddya know? I came up with Dumas' The Three Musketeers, thanks to Librivox, my old haunt. So much for random selection. But okay, I thought, at least that will provide me with some light entertainment.
Trouble was, it took a while to download the TWENTY-FOUR PLUS HOURS of recorded readings (ack, what an investment!), so while I waited for the main event I thought I'd give a new podcast a try. Last week I subscribed to the New Yorker: Fiction podcast, and was eager to see what it was like. Oddly enough, I was surprised that the very first episode I listened to was A List of Books, featuring a terrific short story by Bernard Malamud called A Summer’s Reading, about a young man who, in order to make a good impression, claims he is spending his summer reading through a list of 100 books recommended by the library. Perfect! That's what I call happy synchronicity.
I took it as my sign to forge ahead with a serious reading/listening plan. Today while working I enjoyed several amazing short stories (thanks to the New Yorker), all I could handle of The Three Musketeers, several chapters from The Book of Mormon, and an episode of This American Life.
I highly recommend reading . . . and iPods . . . as work and mental health helpers.
What are you reading with your eyes or ears right now?