Since this weekend, I’ve been reading some of the tributes to children’s book author Norma Fox Mazer, who passed away this weekend. And with my sadness that a woman who was by many accounts a wonderful person and writer is with us no longer, there is another emotion: guilt. Because I haven’t read a single one of Norma Fox Mazer’s thirty-three books. Not the Newbery Honor book, not the National Book Award Nominee, not the Edgar award winner.
And that got me thinking about book guilt. There are a whole slew of books I feel guilty that I haven’t read. I’m in book publishing, I pay attention to the books that are getting a lot of praise, I love young adult novels, and I love sci-fi, including dystopias; I haven’t read The Hunger Games, a dystopian sci-fi YA novel that was one of The Books of 2008. How about seminal American literature? I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve seen the play, sure, but I haven’t read the novel. I love Shakespeare and spent quite a bit of time and brainpower studying his writings in college, but have I read his best-loved history, Richard III? Nope. I haven’t even seen the play. How about authors of color whose work I’ve never read? Toni Morrison. James Baldwin. Laurence Yep. Khaled Hosseini. Yeah, there’s guilt there.
And yet my hold list at the library rarely includes books I feel guilty about not reading. It includes what I’m most excited about, and guilt rarely causes excitement. Is this okay? Yep. I read a lot. I read what I love. I do miss out on some books I would love, but I don’t think it’s humanly possible to read every single love-worthy book on the planet. (Among other things, I miss out on everything that isn’t available in English.)
And you? What books do you feel guilty about not having read?