A Reading List (of sorts)

January 31, 2012

I’m being hassled, folks. I’m being hustled and harangued.

As anyone with decent taste in television will know, last year saw the broadcast of the HBO series A Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of the first book in George R. R. Martin’s unfinished heptalogy, A Song of Ice and Fire. Like many others, I watched it and fell for it in a big way. It made for fantastic television. Once the first season concluded, sales of Martin’s books predictably shot up as the popularity of the show brought him a shitload of new readers and amongst these new readers were a few friends of mine who had been as hooked as I was on the HBO series. They then went on to tear through the original book and the four other books that Martin has thus far completed of his unfinished heptalogy, whereas as I resolutely did not. I had been content to settle for the story told as a high-end television production and to enthuse about the episodes each week with my equally devoted companions but it seems they opted to join that group of fans of the books, thereafter to know beforehand the content of the upcoming seasons and to say things like “oh, just wait to see what happens, you’ll shit!” to people who were only watching the TV show. And they’ve been urging me to join them. Now, I’m a funny fella when it comes to reading fantasy. I have read and enjoyed a lot of fantasy themed comic books but the last big fantasy novel I read burned me badly with its utter shiteness and I’m generally prejudiced against books with painted dragons, barbarians or buxom princesses on their covers (in flagrant violation of the old dictum regarding the judging of book covers). To add to that, I’m also hostile to the idea of a series of books being longer than a trilogy and, as I’ve emphasized twice now, A Song of Ice and Fire is a heptalogy, seven books, and it is currently unfinished. Frankly, I simply can’t be arsed with that.

At any rate, as I keep explaining to people urging me to read Martin’s books, I have a longstanding reading backlog that I intend to get through first before I could possibly entertain embarking on an unnecessarily long series of fantasy novels. Therefore I have carefully constructed a list in my head that I felt compelled to share here, largely because blog entries made up of lists are an easy thing to do. Here, in intended order, is my reading list –

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (my copy is borrowed and therefore should soon be returned)

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (the next book I want to buy)

Oh, what’s this? Friends are giving me books as birthday and Christmas presents. This is a surprise. I should really read these because they’re bound to ask me if I enjoyed them. Better get them on the reading list.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (high time I read that anyway)

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The Atlantic Ocean by Andrew O’Hagan (collection of essays, can be dipped in and out of)

Now for those books sitting on my bookshelf, some of which are gifts from Christmas 2009, like –

Native Son by Richard Wright

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The Best American Essays of 2010 edited by Christopher Hitchens

Ah yes, Hitchens. I’m a big fan and was sorry to see him succumb to cancer last year. I consoled myself that he’s still going to feature in my life because I have yet to read a lot of his books and should get my hands on copies of –

Hitch 22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

Now, back to that bookshelf that I really need to work my way through. What happened to those two books on South Africa that I was supposed to finish years ago in order to impress my wife and in-laws? Here they are –

Country Of My Skull by Antjie Krog

Shades of Difference by Padraig O’Malley

Of course, they’re non-fiction and I’ve been trying to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading (not always successfully). What were some other non-fiction titles I had intended to get my hands on? That’s right –

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch

The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman

Oh, and I was setting myself the goal of reading at least one classic novel each year. Last year’s was Lolita, and this year’s choice is –

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

After I’m done with them I can move on to the last few on the list.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Dubliners by James Joyce

Once all of those are out the way then, and only then, will I entertain the possibility of sitting down with Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The damn thing might actually be finished by then, which would go some way to persuading me it’s worth reading.



  1. I’m updating this for my own benefit. So far, I have managed to read (of the above, aforementioned books) –

    February – The Corrections, The Atlantic Ocean
    March – Old Man’s War, Slaughterhouse-Five
    April – I started A Short History of Nearly Everything but have grown a bit cold with it, read all of The Walking Dead comic book instead.

  2. I abandoned Gravity’s Rainbow after managing to get through the first section only in May. Read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell instead.

  3. Let’s see, I managed Infinite Jest, though I was at it for some time.
    The classic novel for last year was Jane Austen’s Emma and I’m about to finish Snow Crash now.

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