* The Bluest Eye
* A Mercy
* Cat’s Cradle
* Breakfast of Champions
* Mother Night
* Slaughterhouse Five
* Player Piano
* The Sirens of Titan
* Palm Sunday
* Deadeye Dick
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?