Okay, not quite. There’s a meme going around right now that claims the BBC said the average person has only read six books out of a list of a hundred classics. Doing a quick Google search seems to indicate the BBC said no such thing, but the list is out there regardless. And it’s fun to see how many I’ve knocked out.
The List is here, allowing you to click on the ones you’ve read (notice the site where I found this has nothing to do with the BBC). Of course I did it. I got 20, which seems high when considering the insulting six to begin with. But when you think about twenty out of a hundred it’s quite low and embarrassing. In my defense, however, there were some that I’ve cracked open, but didn’t completely read. Like The Lord of the Rings. I couldn’t get through that. Hobbit, yes. LOTR, no. Couldn’t do it. So I didn’t count that one. And I’ve read quite a few Sherlock stories, but not the complete works, so I didn’t count that one, either. Same thing with Shakespeare. You get it. Then there were some that I couldn’t remember if I’d read or had just seen the movie, so I left those off, too.
[I was actually quite surprised at the lack of a couple big names on the list. Twain, Poe, Hawthorne, to name a few. But I have no idea where this list came from, and it’s definitely not an all-encompassing ‘these are the only books that matter’ kind of thing. It’s just fun.]
I try to take at least a couple weeks out of the year to read the classics. I barrel through as many as I can in that time frame, many of which have been sitting unread on my personal bookshelves. (Shame on me for owning things that haven’t been read.) I normally make it through three to five of them before I hightail it back to contemporary reads.
Is this important, though? Is it absolutely necessary to force oneself to read books that you would’ve normally only touched in high school? (And some of those books I really have to force myself through. And some are really good.) I don’t know the answer. On one hand, it does seem a bit ridiculous to read old stories just because some academics have decided they’re ‘classic’. On the other, they are often important works of literature that give unique insight into the time period they were written. And really, the Times bestseller list pretty much tells most people what to read right now, and that’s not so different from teachers telling you what was good in the past. I mean, would most of us have read 50 Shades of Grey if it wasn’t so damn popular? I think not.
Take the quiz and post your results! Hopefully at least some of you have stomped my record.