An Overview of my 1001 Journey So Far
I first learned about the 1001 list through Librarything. On that website, there’s a large group dedicated to following the list, and, in October of 2010, I first decided to give it a try myself.
I had read only 16 books on the list before I started. 10 of these had been read for various classes in high school, including AP English, which accounted for 6 of those 10. Of the others, one was recommended by a friend, and I read one simply because I owned a copy of it. 3 weren’t actually “books” in the technical sense; A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay, and The Pit and the Pendulum and The Purloined Letter are both short stories by Poe. Needless to say, I didn’t feel that my total was very impressive at all.
For reasons I can’t remember, I chose to begin my journey by reading Walden. I started reading it on the 5th. I was excited and ready to get going, and then… Well, it was Walden. If you’ve ever read it in its entirety, you understand what I mean. In the beginning, Thoreau discusses deep philosophical ideas, then he talks about how he moved to Walden Pond and the story becomes loaded with descriptions of anything and everything, from the size and depth of the pond to the various recipes he tried before perfecting the art of breadmaking. And more. It took me more than a month to finish it.
Even so, I wasn’t at all disillusioned by this experience. On my thread, I spoke about taking your time and having patience. I added, “this is a book I never would have tried to finish if it hadn’t been for the 1001 list. I would have given up after the first 20 pages, probably, and I’m glad I didn’t do that.” I gave it three stars, but after that I went for something much easier and more in my comfort zone: the remaining two Poe stories.
Then I tried a group read, which is kind of like a miniature book club within the LT group that picks a new book every month. It’s always fun to have someone to talk to about a book as you’re reading it, and I’ve done the group read a few more times since.
After that, I feel into what is now my usual pattern. I just pick out books that seem interesting to me, interspersed with ones that seem particularly important to read. I usually determine that a book is particularly important after I hear a lot of references to it in pop culture, daily conversation, etc. Come to think of it, that could be what happened with Walden. From time to time I also end up reading a book as part of a college lit class.
There are a few books that stand out because I put so much time and effort into reading them. One is Jorge Luis Borges’ Labyrinths. I thought that it would be an excellent idea to develop my Spanish skills by reading a book in Spanish. And why do that unless it was originally written in Spanish? A collection of short stories, I can take it a little bit at a time, I thought. But it was hard. Very hard. I started stalling and the time stretched on and on. In the end, I caved and read the last portion in English, which is when I realized that my lackluster Spanish skills weren’t the only difficulty. I said in my review that it’s a book that “forces you to think,” and that’s definitely true. It gave my brain a workout even when I was reading in my native language. But I got through it!
Another book that took a long time to read was Middlemarch. I read this one because another user recommended it to me. Of course, the main reason this one took so long was that it was almost 800 pages long, but it also took some time to get used to it. I compared it to reading Shakespeare for the first time, in that the more you read the easier it becomes to understand. It also took time to get used to the characters, and, just when you get used to one set, it switches to a whole new one! Anyway, I actually did end up enjoying it, giving it 3 1/2 stars. The whole thing was quite an experience.
Books like these actually increase my desire to keep following the list. For me, it’s all about the journey, and challenges are part of the ride. Sometimes, like with Middlemarch, it’s like hiking up a giant hill– it’s difficult and time consuming, but when you get to the top, you get an awesome view.
Tomorrow I’ll blog a bit about what I’ve read this summer, what I’m reading right now, and what I have planned for my first big milestone- #50!