Staff Picks

We Have Come Not to Praise Books, But to Read Them

I have been working in bookstores and libraries for most of my professional career.

And I’ve recognized a distinct list of major authors whose work seems to somehow remain out of my reach due to my own magnified perceptions.

My relationship with their novels is a unique push/pull of the desire to read them based on personal interest and positive hearsay mashed up with the inability to commit the necessary time and effort worthy of consuming such pillars of literature.

The result of these colliding forces is that the books at the top of my “To Read” fiction list have been there for quite a while.

Perhaps now is the time.

The recent and unfortunate passing of Toni Morrison has helped me understand what I might be missing.

Hearing of the impact that her body of work has made on the literary world inspired me to try reading Beloved.

I, too, can participate in the lyrical language, powerful themes, and intricate imagery of these authors.

Or not.

The possibility exists that these authors may not speak to me as they do to others. And that’s okay, too.

In his travelogue Following the Equator, Mark Twain describes a classic as "a book that people praise and don't read."

Let's have less classics and more books in our rearview reading mirror.

cover of the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison


by Toni Morrison

Why it's on my list:

I've read that it is a gut-wrenching novel that examines the dark specter of slavery and personal loss, all of this told using poetic language.

cover of the novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove

by Larry McMurtry

Why it's on my list:

I've never heard anyone mention this novel without saying they loved it, and it is said to be a western pars excellence.

cover of the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Why it's on the list:

I'd like to know the book behind the compelling title. Also, Hurston's life story itself is quite fascinating.

cover of the novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck

Why it's on the list:

When it was released in 1939, this novel steeped in realism took the literary world by storm. This book is a snapshot of American history frozen in time.

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