You haven’t read that?

My friends are very well-read. They’re teachers and editors and writers themselves, so what are you reading? and what should I read next? are questions that come up often in our conversations. So it was a little bit of a surprise when one of my well-read friends admitted to never having read Charlotte’s Web. Immediately, we pounced on her.

Were you raised by wolves?

But, I’ve met your mother. She seems nice enough!

Maybe we can’t be friends with you anymore.

OK, OK, no one said that. Nobody even teased her about it. We had all assumed she’d read it already, but she was the one who judged herself and felt that she’d come up short. So she recently rectified that by reading Charlotte about a week ago, in addition to other kids’ classics like Dear Mr. Henshaw, and Mixed Up Files.

Then this weekend, my husband and I were watching a remake of Dorian Grey with Colin Firth (mmmm…. Colin Firth…) and I said something about not remembering one of the more racy scenes from the book. At which point, my husband said he didn’t know much about the plot of the story. And then I fell down. Because The Picture of Dorian Grey is one of my favorite books of all time, and I started wondering if I’d married the right guy.

Fortunately, a few minutes later I came off my high horse. Even great writers know we can’t read everything. I call myself a science fiction fan, and I’m yet to read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the GalaxyThere are other things to do, like eat, and shower, and stalk Colin Firth. And maybe it’s enough to have the gist. Otherwise we’d all be going blind from reading, and nothing else would ever get done, like, you know, a cure for cancer, or flying cars, or Colin Firth clones for all.

Besides, not having read everything is good news. It means you’ll never run out of things to read.


20 thoughts on “You haven’t read that?

  1. Tonya Rice says:

    My hubby reads mostly self-help and inspirational books, which were by far quite low on my to-read list when we met. I have had those numerous conversations with him about novels (and some children’s books!) which left the same question mark look on my face! In fact, as I read your response to The Picture of Dorian Gray, I chuckled out loud. Immediately, he asked, “What are you laughing at?”. Which made me giggle more; I’m ot the only one! Thankfully Caps for Sale is his fave, so when he told me that once, I realized he wasn’t in a cave for too long.

    Great post, Tracey. Thanks for the Monday laugh!!!

  2. Tracey says:

    I’m glad you had a good laugh! (Meanwhile, I just asked my husband if he had a favorite children’s book. He doesn’t. He gave me a look like: who thinks about these things? Tonya and I do. That’s who!)

  3. Becky says:

    I totally used to judge people by what they had & hadn’t read, but for years now I see an admission of “Um, you know…I’ve never read that” as an wonderful opportunity for sharing. I find that the books I’m the most passionate about are “The Time-Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, particularly the latter, which I believe everybody on the PLANET should read. I have given several people that book as a gift.

  4. Tracy Hahn-Burkett says:

    I have said some of those things. (Hmm, maybe I would have more friends if I examined my behavior…)

    Alas, I have never seen Dorian Grey. I’m now holding up a book as a shield.

    Okay, to be serious, I’ve adored reading my entire life, but came to creative writing rather late in it. (And focused on other areas academically and professionally earlier on.) As a result, I’ve actually missed quite a few classics, and I’m rather embarrassed at the list of writers I’ve never read. I feel like I could take a year off and do nothing but catch up–and perhaps I should. But when would that happen? It’s a quandary.

    But it’s true that I will never run out of great books to read.

  5. elizabeth says:

    Hi Tracey,
    Very amusing blog. I will come out of the closet now – I am dyslexic so reading was murder on my little brain. I had to struggle for years until I was diagnosed correctly and oddly enough I am a writer today. who struggles with grammar because that stuff never computed with me. So now I think I will go read a few children’s classics and see what I have been missing. I thank you for this blog. I never thought about going back. elizabeth

  6. Tracey says:

    Becky, I think that’s a great idea. Give the person a classic you think they should read. Someone once said, “when you finish a new book, go read an old one” which goes hand in hand with that.

  7. Tracey says:

    Tracy and Elizabeth, we can catch up together. I am forever going back and forth, trying to plug the holes, so to speak. Maybe I should get all the scrap pieces of paper I have everywhere and compile a list of all the books I haven’t gotten to yet. Maybe we should all do it!

  8. Catherine Stine says:

    Hahaha, Dorian Gray is a fave of mine too! As far as being shocked by writer colleagues who haven’t read certain classics, I have empathy. I didn’t read many until I did an MFA in creative writing!

  9. Karen says:

    …I’ve never read Dorian Gray. It’s now on my Goodreads “to read” list.

    What’s really interesting about the “I’ve never read” conversations I’ve been having is how you find common ground with people who were also never aware of certain books, and how you get passionate book reviews from people who have read them. The conversations are never NOT interesting, and I often come away with a bunch of new books to add to the list.

    Like James and the Giant Peach. I know, I know. It’s on the list now.

    (Sidenote: perhaps I need to start a blog to detail my adult reading of children’s classics I missed.)

  10. Tracey says:

    Karen, I read James and the Giant Peach to A&A last year. Now big A is a huge Roald Dahl fan. Last summer we read Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which I had never read. I think I’m going to read Charlotte to them next.

    Honestly, if I was to write out a list of all the books I haven’t read, I think the length of it would overwhelm me.

    Tonya, you’re right about using Goodreads, only I am TERRIBLE at updating my stuff on Goodreads. I have read far, far more books than I have on there.

    Catherine, lucky you to have an MFA! My MFA dream is reading in a cafe for the rest of my life.

    btw, am I friends with all of you on Goodreads? I hope so!

  11. Deborah Batterman says:

    The assumptions we make about the things we think people must have, or should, read is a funny thing, indeed. I recently came across a thread on another site re: ‘great books you know you’ll never read.’ Let’s hear it for empathy, yes, and keeping those recommendations coming. Makes me wonder, though, if I’ll ever get through my TBR pile.

  12. Britton Minor says:

    I’m reading “From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” to my kids right now–couldn’t contain my excitement when they thought the first few paragraphs were interesting enough to continue. “Phantom Tollbooth” won’t be far behind! As for my own sad list of forgotten treasures…well, they’re always there when I need to fantasize about reading them. Only wish kids in High School had books to read that reached out and grabbed them–piles they couldn’t wait to get to. So many kids are turned off by having to read books others have chosen for them. Perhaps there is a generation of writers in the works who will write new classics for the kids of the ever-more-modern generations. I do so mourn the loss of potentially passionate readers…

  13. Britton Minor says:

    And—–Thinking about the classics–I collected so many of them to read–the ones I had missed due to young motherhood. By the time thirty years had gone by and I was ready to delve into some of them, I realized that their print sizes (old, old paperbacks) had seemingly diminished…like the quality of my eyes. Out they went. And in they will come again as others mention books that have changed their lives-must reads. Sounds like I’d better hunt for a copy of Dorian Gray!

  14. Tracey says:

    Britton, you make a good point about kids being turned off by books they don’t want to read. Kids are smart enough to choose on their own, and should have some input into their own curriculum, but who ever asks them what they want? A shame.

  15. Nan says:

    You HAVEN’T READ The Hitchiker’s Guide???

    Current family fave author: Terry Pratchett. For one of the best modern fairytales, “The Wee Free Men”.

  16. Nan says:

    PS, one of the nicest things about having kids is having an excuse to re-read, aloud, all of the fairy tales. And get them on CD, read by amazing readers.

  17. Tracey says:

    I haven’t, Nan! For shame. I know. I’ll read it this year. I swear. And yes, you’re right about being able to re-read fairy tales to the kids, though I generally don’t need an excuse. I read them wherever. I don’t much care what people think of what I’m reading. 🙂

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