As mentioned previously, twenty years ago I decided to set fifty goals (my “bucket list”) with the intent to accomplish each item over the course of my lifetime. I will not likely list all of my goals, but have accomplished almost all of them – at least those with a termination point.
One of the goals I set was to read a novel a week for the rest of my life – a never ending goal, but – so far, so good.
The rationale behind this goal was simple – although I received a very good education at good schools, I felt I needed a broader, more liberal education. I wanted to expand my worldview by looking through a variety of lenses provided by a range of authors, experience great literature just for the pleasure of a good story, increase my exposure to a new and different (to me) ideas, have some background to draw from when a quote or literary work is mentioned, and, finally, to discover my own values through a comparison/contrast of what others believe.
I also discovered an additional benefit of voracious reading: less time spent watching mindless TV shows.
The result (so far) is that I have been thrilled, stretched, baffled, shaped, enlightened, amused, angered, and even left wanting… but never bored. To me, each novel has been (and is) an adventure. Although I have not kept a written record of the novels I have read (about 1,000), I remember the ones that had a definite impact on me.
I have often been asked to list my favorite novels, and my list occasionally changes. However, here are my current favorites (I listed eleven just to annoy the compulsive and orderly – actually, #5 isn’t a novel, it’s a journal, but I really like it):
1. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
2. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
5. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr (unabridged version that includes the appendix: Twenty-Four Years After).
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I don’t normally enjoy movies inspired by books I have read, but this is a must read if you have ever watched Apocalypse Now. Also of interest: Conrad is considered one of the great English authors, yet English was his second language – learned in his twenties.
8. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.
9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
10. Silas Marner by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans Cross).
11. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
Rather than comment or summarize any of the above works, I instead encourage you to read them and enjoy your own adventures.