I've seen this meme in several different places in the last couple of days (but I think it originated over at Tales from the Reading Room): The Top Ten Books I Had to Have - But Still Haven't Read. My only problem will be keeping the list to only 10 hardcovers that I could not wait to get my hands on but failed to read - so far.
1. Beach Music by Pat Conroy - I bought this one the week it first hit the bookstores, way back in 1995 and it still sits on my shelf just as bright and shiny as the day I brought it home. Reading it was one of my stated goals for 2011 but I've grown a bit superstitious about this one, sort of holding it back so that I will always have a new Pat Conroy novel in my back pocket. I'm starting to doubt that I will read Beach Music until Pat gives me a new one to hang on to.So there you have the ten unread books that jump off the shelf at me every time I approach them looking for something else to read. They whine; they tear up; the scream as loud as they can - and I still ignore them. One of these days...
2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan - Does anyone remember what a smash hit this novel was when it first came out. It clearly marked Amy Tan as one of the decade's most talented newcomers and I had to get my hands on a copy. I did - that was 1989. It's a First Edition copy and its now worth several hundred dollars, I'm told, but I still haven't read it.
3. The Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie - I'm sure everyone remembers the tremendous controversy generated by Rushdie's supposed insult to Islam, the jihad declared against him, him going into hiding in the U.K., etc. I stumbled upon two first edition copies of the book and snapped them up, thinking they might become rather valuable. They did - at least for a while - and I traded one copy for a pristine first edition of The World According to Garp. Still haven't read the other copy that's been on my shelf since 1989.
4. This Body of Death by Elizabeth George - Much like my silliness with Pat Conroy books, described in number 1, it feels good to have an Elizabeth George in the bag for when I want to visit some of my favorite fictional characters. I do have reading this one as one of my 2011 goals but it has been on the shelf since May 2010 already.
5. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway - This is a beautiful collection of Hemingway's short stories I picked up, brand spanking new, in 1987. I love Hemingway and I'm learning to love short stories more every year - haven't read a one from this book.
6. The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard - Leonard is an excellent writer of westerns, both novels and short stories, and this is a collection of those short stories. I really enjoy seeing this book on my shelf; it is a quality publication and feels good in my hands. Have I read any of the stories since buying the book in 2004? Don't ask.
7. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott - I bought this one at a time I was particularly enthralled by stories about the British experience in India. This seemed like the perfect collection to give me a better feel for the period as it was experienced by both sides. As I recall (and my memory may be faulty) PBS or some network was also televising some of Scott's work. So I grabbed this collection - in 1976 - and I have still only read the first novel in the book, The Jewel in the Crown.
8. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut - Over the years, I have really tried to like Vonnegut's books. I really have. In fact, I bought this hardcover at full price (only $17.95, plus tax, but those were 1987 dollars). It is still brand new but I doubt I could get my money back on this one if I tried to sell it to the collector market. Maybe I'll even read it one year but Vonnegut has not been an acquired taste for me even all these years later.
9. The Collected Stories of Richard Yates - I love Yates's novels but have read only one or two of his short stories. I figured this nice collection would be a way to catch up on those, so I grabbed the book in May of 2001. And there it sits, still taunting me with its beautiful presence.
10. Careless Love: The Unmasking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick - This biography is almost 700 pages long, counting the footnotes, but it is the second volume (I think) in Guralnick's Presley bio. I bought it in 1999 thinking that I would hold off from reading it until I could find an equally nice copy of the first book, Last Train to Memphis. Still looking.