I am what some may consider the world’s worst-read English major.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had in which someone has said to me “What? You’ve never read [insert name of Great Book here]?”
For instance, I have never read Dante’s Inferno, Milton’s Paradise Lost, or anything by D.H. Lawrence. I once tried to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but regretted the attempt almost immediately.
I have a few excuses, mostly poor ones. One is that I didn’t major in English Literature. I did my undergrad in English Education, earning a B.S. degree (that’s Bachelor of Science, not the other kind of B.S.) from the FSU College of Education rather than a B.A. from the College of Arts and Sciences. Then I earned my masters degree in English with a specialization in rhetoric and composition, meaning that I read a lot of literary theory and criticism but not a lot of literature. So I never had to take as many literature courses as you might expect your typical English major to have under her belt.
But the main reason I haven’t read a lot of Great Books is that I am a voracious reader of fun books, especially YA novels. I spent nearly all my spare time in high school and college reading my way through the catalogs of S.E. Hinton, Paul Zindel, Christopher Pike, and Lloyd Alexander, to name a few. This was before Harry Potter made it cool to read books aimed at a younger audience, before YA crossover was really a “thing.” So I spent a lot of time skulking around the YA section at the library hoping no one would ask me what I was looking for.
That’s partly why I wanted to become a YA novelist, so I’d have an excuse to read YA openly – after all, I have to stay current in my genre! But I still feel a little weird in the YA section of the library, since no one there knows that I’m there in a purely (well, partially) professional capacity. Thank God for the Kindle, because now I can read as much YA as I want to and no one is the wiser (except for Amazon).
But I still feel bad that I haven’t read very many Great Books, and I’d like to intersperse more of them into my reading list, while still leaving room for fun books and keeping current in the YA genre. So a recurring topic of this blog will be updates on my efforts to do just that.
Feel free to suggest any books you think I should try, and I’ll add them to the list! That is, unless your suggestion is Ulysses. I’m not going there again.