The Ten Year Catch-Up

Morrison 2017
The Bluest Eye
A Mercy
* Jazz

Vonnegut 201x
Cat’s Cradle
* Breakfast of Champions
* Mother Night
* Slaughterhouse Five
* Player Piano
* The Sirens of Titan
* Palm Sunday
* Deadeye Dick

Dickens 2012
Austen 2013
Murakami 2014
Woolf 2015
Hemingway 2016

What is “The Ten Year Catch-Up”?
I wrote about this in a post when the whole thing started, but basically I realized a couple years ago that I had some major gaps in my literary knowledge.  How it was that I got through high school and college (with an English degree, no less) without really getting into Dickens, Austen, Hemingway, Faulkner, Woolf… these people who are the quote-unquote canon, or even just the major writers who’ve influenced so much that I love like Vonnegut and Murakami and Philip K. Dick – how can I be a good reader without reading them?
Well, I set out to find out.  Thus the ‘challenge’ was born.

How does it work?
I pick an author who somehow has slipped under my radar for the most part and who has some sort of anniversary type thing (ex: Dickens’ 200th birthday, 100 yrs since Woolf’s first novel) that year.  If I’ve read a book by the author, they’re still eligible – but two or more disqualifies (so no Nabokov).  I then figure out the five or six books of theirs that represent ideally a breadth of their work: different forms, different critical reception, etc.  A harmonious collection must also be part of the thing where possible (e.g. the Coralie Bickford-Smith Penguin Clothbounds, the Chip Kidd paperback Murakamis, and so on).

Will it really be ten years / who comes next?
I don’t know.  I’m honestly a little surprised (pleasantly) to be in year five already, working on my sixth author (Vonnegut is unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim) – and there are more than 6 more authors who I’ve missed.  Toni Morrison, Evelyn Waugh, Faulkner, Proust, Knausgård… who knows.  We’ll see how this goes.

Can we join?
I would love nothing more!  Check out the lists above to see what I’m reading in the current year (I’ll try to keep it in a roughly accurate order) and then let’s start a discussion page or an email chain or guest reviews or whatever you’d like – because the canon is there for us, to build or tear down as we see fit.  You know?


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  4. Great idea. Like yo9u, I’ve read tho9usands of books, but notwithstanding that I also have great lacunae in my reading history. Not sure that I have time to adopt your catch-up strategy, as I’m in my mid-70’s. Hmm. Shall mull over this one.

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