I was listening to an episode of The Readers recently (I'm about a month behind) and Simon and Thomas were discussing which books they've put off reading but really want to, that they'd regret not having read if they were to suddenly die. Simon was saying he hasn't read all of Daphne DuMaurier's books (his favorite author) because he's been saving some of them to savor, instead of blowing through all of them fast. I was out walking, and I was thinking, "Yes! I do that too!" Particularly, when I first discovered David Sedaris and Bill Bryson and Anne Tyler, I whipped through all of their available books so fast that in retrospect, I find it hard to tell one from another. They just mush together into one lovely but frustrating 2000-page block. I have learned my lesson and I don't do that anymore. Which means the opportunities for me to have not read books by beloved authors is even greater. I worried that when I got home and checked out my GoodReads' To Read list, I'd be horrified at what I'd find.
But instead... not so much. I went through the whole list. I reordered my To Reads. It's crazy how many books at the top of my To Read list have been there for several years (part of my hatred of being told what to read, even by myself.) It's true that I haven't read many of Anne Tyler's books since that binge back in the late 1990s (although I do own most of them.) But I'm not feeling that compulsion. I kind of feel like I've read enough of her books to get it. I don't really need the rest, even though I'd probably enjoy them. As for classics that I've been dying to read and haven't yet, I didn't find much of them either. I have several Dickens novels on my list, but I'd be okay if I never tackled those. The one that is truly embarrassing is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This was a college graduation present from my advisor. In my defense, it went missing for several years (got boxed into a box of things that otherwise weren't necessary and basically went into storage. I looked for it for many years. It turned up a few years ago when I was finally going through those old boxes and purging some stuff. Then, it got loaned to my best friend for a while after her book club read Never Let Me Go, which she loaned to me and I also haven't read yet. She recently returned Remains, so I can tackle it this year.) Also in college I was supposed to read the Juvenilia of Jane Austen for my Jane Austen seminar, but due to my professor's pregnancy, we got a little behind and skipped it (but I've hung onto it.) I'd read it, but it's also got Charlotte Bronte's juvenilia, which I'm less interested in. I'm not sure if I should just read half the book, suck it up and read the whole thing, or continue to look at it on my shelf. Those books are probably the ones that I've hung onto the longest.
But I was very pleasantly surprised! Sure, I'd love to finish reading all of Geraldine Brooks's books, and of course most of the hundreds of books I own (or have on my wish list), I do want to read. But I was expecting this task to make me feel bad and guilty and worried, and it did the opposite! I have read everything that I wanted to read before I die, and now everything else is just gravy! What are the odds of that?