Books I’ll read when I retire

Now before I go any further, I’d like to point out that I am only 26 years old at the moment, and am not planning this as if it were next week or anything.

The thing is, there are some books that I look at, and think “I really want to read this”, but then I also think “but not now. I don’t have the time/energy/patience/wisdom to appreciate it.” Some of these books I have attempted to read before, only to find myself a few pages or chapters in and suddenly running out of steam to persevere. And I’m starting to admit to myself, finally, that I’m going to read these books one day, just not for a very long time. And maybe that’s a good thing.

So, here I give you some books which I would love to read, but at a much later point in my life, when my world slows down a little and I have more time and energy to devote to such reading endeavours as these.

War and PeaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

It’s not just the length of this epic Russian novel which deters me, although being the seventh longest novel (according to Wikipedia, so it must be true) certainly makes the task of defeating this book slightly more daunting. Truth be told, I started reading this a couple, actually maybe a few, years ago, and didn’t get very far. It was slow, about eleventy bazillion characters were introduced almost simultaneously, and…well…it just didn’t really grab me at the time. There is a part of me that wonders if I would enjoy more now, as I have grown immensely as both a reader and writer in the last few years. But after having tried once, the 587 000 words that make up this story become less motivating, especially when I consider that I could read 4 or 5 other decent sized books in that time. I will read this one day, I promise. But just not now.

The HistoriesThe Histories by Herodotus

As a history student, teacher and general nerd, I feel it is my duty to read this at some point. Written in Ancient Greek over 2400 years ago, it is considered by many to be the founding history book, the one that started this whole tradition of writing history down so that future generations can learn about it. Herodotus had travelled much, and so had a lot to put into this book, although many people consider some of his stories exaggerated and embellished in places (although we can still learn a lot from them). I guess, truth be told, when it comes to learning about ancient civilisations, there are not only writers from that time that are much easier to read, but there are numerous writers from our time who are much easier to read, as well. If I was a historian, if I had the time to dedicate to making this a full time job of sorts, then of course I’d hurry up and read this and every other important ancient history book immediately. But for now, I feel no rush. I’ll get around to it in my old age, I’m sure.

Don Quixote CervantesDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Again, this is a book that will outrage some people when I say I’m going to wait until retirement to read. But I just am. This Spanish book from the early 1600s is considered one of the earliest canonical novels, and often one of the greatest too. Fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, it follows the adventures of Alonso Quijano, a man who upon reading books filled with chivalry attempts to revive it on his travels. It is supposed to be clever, witty, full of intertextuality and other literary concepts way ahead of their time, and I’m sure it’s a work of genius. It is, like the first two books mentioned here, sitting on my shelf, staring at me, yearning for me to pick it up and read it. And I will do this. In about forty years. I think one of the big things here holding me back is that I feel like I need to be more well-read across the board before I attempt this one – I think being well-read, especially with pre-1600s literature, would help me appreciate this a whole lot more. One day, Cervantes, I will read this and love it, I promise you.

There are a lot more books that I could put in this list, so maybe one day I will write a part two to this blog post. But this will do for now.

What books do you really want to read, but you are leaving until later in life to attempt? Why is this the case?

41 thoughts on “Books I’ll read when I retire

  1. Wuthering Heights, White Fang, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court are the first three that come to mind. The stories sound great, but I just can’t read them yet. I was forced to read and write about so many old classics in school that when I start an obviously old book, all I can think about is how exhausting it’ll be to analyze it. Someday, I’ll be able to look at these books without thinking of them as homework, but I think it’ll be a while.

    • Yeah, it does take a while to get out of that mind frame and be able to read older, classic books purely for enjoyment. But you’ll get there one day. I find I can enjoy them now, even though I teach about them. 😛

      • Man, I can’t even imagine having to read one so I could teach about it. No thanks! Do you make students write about how they relate to a character/event from the book? I really hated that. I always just made something up haha

        I thought of another one I just have to post about… A Void. It’s a lipogrammatic novel by Georges Perec, written without the letter E. I’ve heard of a few other books written as lipograms, but I think this story sounds more interesting than the others. Plus, it was translated from French to English and even the translator kept it E-free. I tried reading it several years ago and it’s pretty tough to get through, but I’d love to read the whole thing someday.

        • Hahaha, to be honest with you what I do with each class depends on the students and their abilities. I perhaps focus more on the students seeing why the book is relevant in the modern world more than making them relate to it personally. Like, for example, I’m teaching Animal Farm, and trying to get those students to see how you can see similar political patterns in today’s world, despite this novel being nearly 70 years old. It just depends on the students, really.
          The entire novel doesn’t have the letter E? Geeze, that would be difficult. I can’t even imagine trying to write that. Would be fun for a page or two and then I’d get over it. 😛

          • It sounds like I could handle your way of teaching. I have no trouble comparing books to today’s world in general… I just hate the personal stuff. I’ve lied my way through so many essays and it was always so obvious. I’m really surprised I never had a teacher yell at me.

            There are people who review A Void without using the letter E, I can’t even imagine doing that, let alone writing a whole book!

            • I guess I try to teach to the levels and needs of my students as best I can. It’s impossible to do perfectly, but I know a lot of my students hate the subject I teach and a lot of it has to do with the way it’s taught, so I try to break through that, and to help them find some enjoyment in literature and language (because an alarming amount of them simply don’t read books at all).
              Hahaha, I think if I went through the effort of reading that book, I would probably write the review without the letter E. Haha, I just realised you couldn’t even write “A Void: Book Review” hahahaha.

              • You sound much cooler than most of the teachers I was stuck with. I think they all knew their students hated class but didn’t even try to make it better for us. I went to school in southern California though, and uh… most schools there aren’t known for being very good lol

                And now I reeeally want to read A Void so I can attempt an E-less review. I’d probably just cheat: “This is my rviw of A Void, I rally hop you lik it!”

    • I’d love to read White Fang as well.. I’ve read Call of the Wild and I thought it was amazing so.. 🙂 Haha I agree with you that school’s way of making you analyze books puts dread in you ^^

  2. For a long time I felt the same about War and Peace and then I thought, but actually reading is my great love and I would only be reading that because I felt I “had” to and I let it go, I have read a number of “classics” and enjoyed most of them but I have reached an age now where I feel quite free to accept that I can’t read everything before I die and so I will read what calls to me. I started Heart of Darkness last year and was bored out of my mind and so I got tough and ditched it, nothing dreadful happened to me so now I am positively cavalier in my attitude. Mind you I don’t have your background I think that makes a difference.

    • That is quite a healthy approach, I must admit. I don’t think you should ever read anything just because you feel you should. I mean there are numerous novels and books I feel I should read, but I’ll only read them if that sense of duty is coupled with a desire to read them as well. I’ve stopped myself from reading books just because they’ve won awards, as I’ve found that often the criteria behind those awards don’t match up with my personal criteria for what makes a good book, but for a long time I felt like I needed to read those books. But, as you say, we can’t read everything before we die – at best I can hope to read maybe 3000, 4000 more books in my life, which sounds like a lot but really isn’t, so I don’t have time to read stuff I really don’t want to read. If it’s not going to be enjoyable, and not going to enhance me as a reader and writer in some level, it’s probably not worth my time.
      Love your attitude!

  3. Your list contains the books I want to read, too, Matt. But I’d like to read them way down the line. I also feel like I have to read some of Rushdie’s stuff. I tried to read Midnight’s Children and that went bust.

    Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, something written by John Steinbeck, Age of Innocence, and Vanity Fair.

    • Yeah, Midnight’s Children is hard. I struggled through that one, although I liked it in the end. But it was a tough ride and I’m not in a rush(die) to read any Rushdie again for a while.
      Moby Dick is definitely on my list, now you mention it. John Steinbeck is someone I would like to read sooner but I keep putting it off and I don’t know why, I’ve only read one of his books and I loved it.

      • Which Steinbeck did you read? I’ve read The grapes of wrath by him for English class. Maybe I read one of his other ones as well.. I can’t remember now 😛 But yeah, I loved Grapes of wrath

        • Ummm I’ve read Of Mice and Men, which is tiny and really only a novella. I have The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden sitting on my shelves, and I have pondered reading them for some time now. I’ve heard great things about both books. I think Steinbeck has a very distinct style, but he’s definitely a powerful writer! 🙂

  4. Back when I was enthralled with ‘Quantum Leap’ there was an episode where Sam ‘jumped’ into an actor portraying one of the characters from ‘Man of La Mancha’, so I rushed out to buy Don Quixote. I only got a few pages into it and got bored. I might still pick it up again, but not for awhile.

    There are many ‘classics’ I haven’t read outside of school, I am ashamed to say. I suppose I might when I retire, which is not all that far off, but there are so many other things I want to do, too and time is running out! 🙂

    • Hahaha well that’s interesting to hear of your experiences with Don Quixote. I think the idea is better than the execution, by the sounds of things.
      I think that’s the biggest question a lot of people face – if they have to choose between books they feel they should read, and ones they want to, within limited time, the answer tends to seem kind of obvious doesn’t it? 😛

  5. I watched this documentary on child geniuses and there was this one section about how the children struggled to connect with their parents. One little 9 year old girl said, “I just can’t connect with my parents, I don’t know what to talk to them about, I mean they haven’t even read War and Peace!”
    I don’t know what I’d put on my retirement reading list; I think that when I’m in the Autumn of my life I’d like to read whatever takes my fancy at the time. Great post!

    • Oh wow, that’d be so awkward to be that parent of a child genius like that! I mean, what do you say to that as a parent? I suppose if my kid was like that, I would try to rise to the occasion, not to compete with them but to help push them as they grow old, to help extend them and show them the world of possibilities that lie before them. But it’s probably easier said than done.
      That is a good attitude to reading in retirement! 🙂

  6. Cool list. I read Herodotus ‘Histories’ as required readong for an Honours course in history, many years ago. ‘War and Peace”? Not on my list – a book of such scale that, by the time I’ve finished it, I’ll be retired…:-) Russian literary form doesn’t really appeal to me.

    I have stacks of books i want to read, but being a writer I have to ration my time – and focus what I DO read on things that are useful. I kind of miss recreational reading…

    • I was thinking actually that you would have read Histories, considering your background and the books you write. I often wish I had have spent more time studying history at university – it was only my minor, sadly, and so I only did a small handful of courses on it. But I loved what little exposure I did have, especially to the ancient world.
      I think I could agree with you on Russian literary form – they all seem to have an ability to prattle on a bit.
      That would be hard, having to read so much as research for what you write. I think that is actually what put me off going down the path of further research degrees at uni – I wanted to read for enjoyment again. But I imagine even if you have to read a lot, the books you do read are probably still very interesting?

      • Sometimes! 🙂 Actually, I have to say that Herodotus offers some pretty sharp lessons about the use of metaphor as a device for historical interpretation – the consensus is that a lot of what he said was allegorical in narrative detail, but the underlying meanings were precisely spot on, rendering what he was doing a device rather than igorance. I enjoyed it. Still have the Penguin translation kicking around in my personal library…somewhere… 🙂

        • Oooh, you’ve suddenly made me want to read Herodotus a bit sooner than retirement, now. I thought I had a copy of Histories somewhere (I think the Penguin one too), but I don’t know where it’s gone. I probably let someone borrow it at some point and have forgotten who – I must stop doing that.
          Thanks for your always knowledgeable comments! 🙂

    • Yes! I am terrible for that, with art and photography books. Though I am not very knowledgeable on art (especially compared to people who are, like yourself), I do find it interesting and have a growing amount of books on it. But they are all huge books aren’t they, so I can see what you mean!

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