Will I ever feel like I’ve read enough?

Written By Heather - January 21, 2013


So yes, I did finish reading Mansfield Park. And though I still wasn’t thrilled with the ending (it felt a bit slap-dash – kind of a rushed tying together of threads) I was more or less satisfied with the result. I don’t dislike Jane Austen. I think it’s just that I have to be in a certain mood for it. Maybe hers are books to be read in the summer, on warm and indolent days.

I have since moved on to Jane Eyre, and I’m really enjoying it. I read A Wide Sargasso Sea some time ago, which is basically a great big spoiler if you read it before the Bronte book. And I also got quite a kick out of the ‘texts from Jane Eyre,’ too. And that is also a great big spoiler if you haven’t read the book yet.

And yet, I’m still really enjoying the book. I know more or less about the situation in the attic, but I’m still looking forward to having it revealed.

Perhaps the Gothic mysteries are more my thing? More than Regency style (though it’s hard to know if that categorizes Austen accurately or not). This freedom to read – the idea that I am released from required academic reading – is still quite exciting. I pick what I want, and I read on my own terms. The irony is that I’m going back and reading the books I think I ought to have read during my English degree. It covered quite a lot of literature, but there are still books I think should have been included in my courses but weren’t because I didn’t take too many period courses. I know I did a course on Romantic literature, where we spent a lot of time on Shelley, Wolstonecraft, and Godwin. There were mandatory survey courses in the history of English lit, fiction and short stories, poetry, and theory. Two courses on Old English grammar and translation (as well as poetry). Literature of the Holocaust, the lit of scientific discovery, and literature of the Canadian west. Literature of the gendered body, and a course on Freud and psychoanalytic thought (which included novels).

And in grad school, there was quite a lot of work done on literary studies, which included comparative Canadian literature, narratives of exploration, graphic novels, adaptation theory, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and dystopian young adult fiction.

Lots and lots of topics. And yet I still feel like I’ve got this huge gap in my ‘literary’ education – which I’m now trying to backfill by hitting up the books I still think I should have read but haven’t.

It’s weird. I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I feel satisfied that I’ve read enough. I’m beginning to suspect not. After years and years of study, plus a childhood and adolescence spent either being walked back and forth to the public library or walking myself there. Plus the trips to secondhand bookstores, parents patiently waiting while I combed through library and church booksales, the books I brought home from garage sales and the ones I’m still bringing home now…after all of these years, I’m just now beginning to suspect that I will never feel that I’ve read enough.

Which is not a bad thing.

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  1. Fred says:

    Well there just so many books to read!

  2. Sorry to tell you, but no: the more you read the more you realize how much you haven’t read, and how much MORE you want to read. It’s a crazy cycle, but let’s face it–that’s why we’re readers. There are worse addictions to have.

  3. Joyce Plunkett says:

    You will NEVER feel that you’ve read all that you want to read. So that can be a distressing thing, or – as I take it – it can be a wonderful thing because I know that I can always find the “next book”. How exhilarating it is to know there’s an inexhaustible supply!

  4. kmkat says:

    … and that is a GOOD thing.

    So many books, so little time.

  5. LizAdams says:

    Yes,the more you read the more you realize you need to keep on!!

    I think Wide Sargasso Sea is lightyears better than Jane Eyre. In fact I wish Rhys hadn’t seen it as a prequel, because it’s now yoked to a much less powerful work. Oh well.

    Have you read Middlemarch yet? it’s a must.

  6. Carrie#K says:

    Just to answer the title: No. And thank heaven for that.

    As for the content – ah! I really need to read A Wide Sargasso Sea. I keep thinking I have it but no. I have John O’Hara’s Appointment in Samarra. (Which, shhh, I haven’t read yet either.)

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