Then there are the books I should have read but didn’t, or did with so little regard for what was in them. I read them—or not as the case often was—for assignment, for a grade, because somebody said that I should. I didn’t read them for pleasure, not usually. Nor for what they said about the world and about human nature. Not for the mysteries they exposed about life.
That’s not to say I didn’t read. I loved reading and have teachers and good parents to thank that my passion for books became strong and long lasting. But given the choice what I chose to read back then did not ask too much of the reader, not with language, tone or content. They had more to do with nightmares, international espionage, occasionally a dragon, certainly a cowboy or two, than with complex multi-layered works that wrestled with universal dilemmas. Not that both can’t deliver a rousing good story, I just tended to stick to the formulaic ones that fell within certain central themes and avoided the more thought-provoking taxonomies of the human condition (nor did I ever talk like that).
George Bernard Shaw—a playwright I never read but probably should’ve—once said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a shame to waste it on children.” I’ve found myself thinking about that a lot as I turn the page on another year, with the next chapter a few pages back just sitting there looming alongside my future membership card to the AARP. I think about where the time went and those books I should have read and I wonder how in the world did so many words slip past me. Words once belonging to such a long, storied list of authors I’d fail just mentioning a handful.
There is another famous saying though (un-attributable, but backed up by science nonetheless): You’re only as old as you feel, and with that sentiment in mind I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to re-visit what should have served as my formative discover-myself-in-literature years. For the next year, starting with January, once a month I plan to read a work from one of the greatest writers ever known—or not if you believe in those identity theories—the Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare.
(Oddly enough, Shaw himself, apparently, would have thought such a commitment ludicrous, at least in terms of following down that path in pursuit of a serious observation into social problems, as he disapproved of Shakespeare as a thinker and philosopher and to show it coined the term bardolatry.)
That said, it might be too late for Shaw to change his tune, but it’s not too late for me. Besides, with Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour having given up the ghost, I need something to fill their esteemed place.
Here’s my list of books and the month I’ll be reading them. If you’re interested in tagging along and sharing your own thoughts, I’d love the company.
- January Hamlet
- February Romeo and Juliet, of course
- March Much Ado About Nothing
- April Macbeth
- May Henry V
- June The Sonnets
- July A Midsummer’s Night Dream
- August Othello
- September King Lear
- October The Tempest
- November Julius Caesar
- December The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night