What I Haven’t Read

Are there books on your bookshelf that you meant to read but just haven’t gotten around to? Don’t worry. You are not alone. I have a large number of books that I haven’t gotten to yet. There’s no way that I am going to pledge to read them this month, because I know that won’t happen. I am also not going to give up on the books because I will read them someday. However, I would like to tell you the stories behind some of the books.

I came up with the idea for this post after reading a post by Jinjer over at the Intrepid Arkansawyer, though I wouldn’t want you to blame her if this post doesn’t amuse you. Please check out her blog and consider becoming a follower. She had listed some books that she had on her to read list and I believe she has made a plan to read them. As you will see, my story is a little different.

Runaway Horses by Yukio Mishima

When I was in university, I took a Japanese history course. I was an English Literature major at the time, but I had a curiosity fascination with Japan that still exists to this day. Being a literature major, I opted to learn about some writers when given assignments on historical figures. I got to learn about Soseki, Mishima, Oe, Murakami, Yoshimoto, and others.

During the course, we watched the movie Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, which is a fictional account of the life of Yukio Mishima that incorporates some elements from his books. The final chapter is called Runaway Horses, which incorporates elements of that novel. It was the most intersting part of the movie for me, so when I saw this book in the university’s used book collection, I quickly scooped it up. The cost was 8 dollars and who could beat that for a Vintage International edition?

I have started reading the book several times. I have taken it to the east coast of Canada on a train journey, but didn’t get beyond page 20 or so. I have taken it to Japan, and didn’t even crack the spine. The bookmark, a late admittance slip for a student, which is still in the book indicates that I got to page 72. In addition to this, there is also a notice from the bus dated 2008, and a gas receipt for 2005. I am unsure why I was unable to finish the book. I don’t remember finding it difficult to read…..

To Have or To Be by Erich Fromm

I was given this book by a perceptive student. She sensed that I was going through a difficult time in my life and thought the book would help me a lot. Since I haven’t read it, I can’t say that the book helped me. However, the title has helped me a lot. I might be interpreting a lot from the title, but upon thinking about it, I started to put much more value on experiences. I have travelled more, I have enjoyed carousing nights out with friends more, and I have enjoyed my food more. I was never that materialistic, but I was probably too preoccupied with measuring my life progress with others. I was probably wondering why my life didn’t fit that traditional pattern.

As I think about it now, the title of the book might very well have been one component in the creation of this blog. It still affects me when I think about what I am saving my money for. I still want to see more of this world on two wheels.

I have cracked the book open a few times, but never managed to penetrate it. Maybe it is too dense for me. I like to think that I will read it when I am ready to read it. Sounds like a bit of a copout, but I think some books need to be read at a particular time in life. I see it as less about maturity and more about timing.

Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow

I spent my childhood seeing this book on the shelf in the family home. Over the years, people said that it was a good book. I also know that the book won the Pulitzer prize. When my mother moved house, I decided to take the book along with a couple of others that I had lived with but never read. I have always wanted to write fiction, and felt that I should read the book even though I never have.

I should also note that I was planning on reading all the Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, and Giller Prize winning novels at one point. While I might do this some time in the future, I suspect that I will have to start with some of the older novels. Looking at the Pulitzer list, I have managed to read four of the novels. I have only managed to read one of the Man Booker prize winners. My record for Giller Prize winners is only slightly better at two–though I really want to read this year’s winner.

The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham

Growing up I had a coffee mug to mark my birth sign; Aquarius. In fact, my whole family had them. On the back, they listed famous people like Farrah Fawcett, James Joyce, and Somerset Maugham as being Aquarians like myself. When I heard the name of one of his novels was called the Razor’s Edge, I was attracted to it. The title was so interesting to me.

In addition to not having read the book, I haven’t seen either movie adaptation of it either. This is surprising since I have seen almost every Bill Murray movie ever made. I expect that one day I will find it on a streaming service and watch it.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend about terrible book fonts. She, if I remember correctly, postulated that if she didn’t like the book font, would reject the book itself. I am certain that I disagree with her. I know I favour certain editions of books over others (Oxford World Classics, for example, are a favourite of mine), but I don’t give much thought to fonts. However, since I have only made it to page 27 as the 2006 bus ticket used as a bookmark seems to suggest, I might dislike the font and desity of text enough to see it as an obstacle to completion.

I definitely bought this book used. The book has lots of pink highlighter scrawl, but surprisingly few margin notes. I either didn’t check the book over when I purchased it or got such a good deal that I felt I could contend with the markings. With an original price take of 7 dollars, I probably only paid one or two for it.

What books are you holding onto that you haven’t read? What’s stopping you from reading them?

About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
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11 Responses to What I Haven’t Read

  1. frangipani says:

    I have on my shelf an unopened brand new copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide. I remember reading it long ago and wanted to get reacquainted, hence this new book. I haven’t been touching my new books for the same reason – the Internet beckons and holds my attention. Some day I should unplug and spend more time on my books.

  2. There are books on the shelves that I will never read, this comes from sharing space with my 35 y/o daughter. Fortunately there are many books (read that as hundreds) we kept that I have read and about 50 still to read. We have a joint addiction. However, some of the books I intended to read were discarded in the summer. A now cancelled move to Ontario meant a need to purge the shelves. I sometimes find myself looking wistfully at one of the bookshelves wondering what happened. One book we did retain that neither of us had managed to finish is X… (I forgot the whole title & could not find it after a very quick search) a ‘modern’ Science Fiction. Perhaps the fact I cannot put my fingers on it means we did discard it after all. I discovered that as I get older my tastes have grown -perhaps that is a result of the excellent choices and expanding genres.

    • Anthony says:

      Maybe the book will turn up. Discarding books is hard. Before Covid, the people I work with often brought books to work to be shared amongst each other. Every couple of weeks another pile of books would show up and get scavenged over by the staff.
      What is your favourite SF novel?

      • Took me some time to de die if I have a favourite. Two short stories fall into that category. Both most likely read in one of the Fantasy & Science Fiction collection my parents had. Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed by Ray Bradbury; I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

  3. Jinjer says:

    That was a fun look at the unread books on your shelf. Thanks for doing that and for the shout out.

    The Fromm book sounds interesting and I’m sure I’ll get around to Humbolt’s Gift eventually as I am actually working my way through the Pulitzer Prize List, as you mentioned, but with no deadline to finish.

  4. capejohn says:

    I always stop at those little roadside libraries I see. There is usually slim pickings, but every once in a while, I find a gem. I release all the books I read into one of those libraries.

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