NPR logo 'The Shelf Of Constant Reproach': Best Books You Never Read


'The Shelf Of Constant Reproach': Best Books You Never Read

The Shelf Of Constant Reproach: Somehow, it's never quite the right time... hide caption

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by Lynn Neary

I'm on vacation this week. Of course, I took a pile of books with me to our cottage on a pristine lake. I have to read one of those books before the week is out. Another, I should read. I might be able to squeeze in a third, but the rest? Well, they're likely to land on what my colleague Luis Clemens calls his "Shelf Of Constant Reproach."

Surely some of you know what we're talking about: that shelf filled with books you meant to read or, more likely, fully intend to read some day. When Luis introduced that phrase at a meeting last week, we all admitted to some revered works of literature on our shelves. "Anything by Proust!" some of us shouted out. Then we wondered what titles our book-loving listeners might have on their shelves of shame?

So to get things going, I sheepishly offer this short list of the books I know I should have read...but haven't.

Get Lynn's list of guilt-inducing masterpieces, after the jump.

1. Moby Dick. I'm sure if I can ever get past that first chapter, which contains more information than I ever wanted to know about whaling, I will love this book. I know it has to be a great, exciting read (and funny, even). Why else would people look at me with such shocked expressions when I confess I've been unable to get through it? I fully believe I will read this one day. Really.

2. Anything by William Faulkner. I've successfully navigated the shoals of Ulysses, but I just can't get through Faulkner. I have a strong feeling that The Sound And The Fury may go from being a source of "constant" to "eternal" reproach.

3. Lolita. I'd seen the movie so many times I was convinced I'd read the novel. But then I started Reading Lolita in Tehran and realized I'd probably appreciate this "memoir in books" more if I actually read the Nabokov. I do have an excuse: at the time I started Lolita, my daughter was 12 years old. I may try again when she's passed safely through adolescence.

Okay. That's all I'm admitting to for the moment. I feel like I should list all the great books I have read to justify my existence, but I'll refrain.

Now it's your turn: what's on your Shelf Of Constant Reproach? Go ahead, confess. You're among friends.