If books create a whole new world for readers to enjoy, then some books stand out as landmarks, familiar spots we can all relate to as a shared experience. Not to have read these giants of literature (if you are a person who reads) becomes a cause for surprise and even concern by others – akin to visiting Paris and not stopping off at the Eiffel Tower, or going to Egypt and not taking in at least one pyramid.
I read voraciously, and I’m also well-educated in English with a couple of GCSEs, an A-level, and both Bachelors and Masters degrees in the subject, but still, famous and much-loved books that I haven’t read litter my reading world like craters.
Perhaps my biggest omission (since there is always an element of romance in everything I write) is Jane Eyre. And I have tried, I promise. I’ve started the book several times, but I’ve never managed to get past the awful school scenes. The other great I managed to elude throughout my literary education was Dickens. I finally read Great Expectations about two years ago because, mostly, I thought I should. I did finish it, but frankly can’t recommend it since whatever has made it appeal to generations of readers passed me by entirely. Hardy, too – I love his poetry and short stories, but I’ve yet to battle to the end of one of his (dreary, I’m sorry, but there, I’ve said it!) novels.
I used to feel bad about these gaps, but they don’t bother me any more. That I’m reading is the main thing, what I’m reading is … well, it’s down to taste, isn’t it? Everyone’s reading world looks different, so if I don’t mind the craters scattered around mine, I bet they don’t bother anyone else, either.
Please, join me in confessing the greatest books you’ve never read. What do you pause and think you ought to read, before passing on to what you want to read?