I have enjoyed and benefited from the recent book discussions--books you secretly enjoyed, books you hated that everyone else liked, etc. I am wondering, can you think of any famous books out there that you haven't read that you plan to read one of these days--but that day never comes? Put more bluntly, what books are on your bucket list? War and Peace is on mine.
It seems incredible that anyone who has begun The World According to Garp could put it down! Having read Tolstoy's War and Peace, I do want to read Anna Karenina, Stendhal's The Red and the Black is ahead of that. Finishing Bleak House, rereading The Mayor of Casterbridge and Return of the Native are up there. Rereading classics read as a highschool student or graduate is very enlightening.
There is certainly a longer-than-it-should-be list of classics I've yet to read. As an English teacher, I should probably get to work reducing that list, but there's just so many books and so little time. Off the top of my head, things I really should read include A Passage To India by EM Forster, Ulysses by James Joyce, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There's also a handful of Dickens and Hemingway I've yet to get to, and really too many others to count.
My favorite novels ever include A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas, Pride & Prejudice by Austen, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers by Dumas, and Gulliver's Travels by Swift (even if it was a chore to read).
Least favorite book that gets a ton of praise is without a doubt On the Road by Kerouac. Seemingly never-ending drivel to me. I still get tempermental just thinking about the time I wasted reading that book. But one man's trash is another's treasure, I suppose.
Stepping away from the classics, a history teacher that I work with has recommened a couple of books that I would like to read soon - Guns, Germs, & Steel by Jared Diamond and The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell.
Moby Dick is at the top of my "I know I should read it, but..." list. Faulkner's Light in August is a close second, followed by Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. This is a self-imposed expectation, I know, but I do feel the pressure. There is just soooo much to read and so little time.
I have an English teacher friend who is pushing me to read Jane Austen, but I refuse to feel guilty about skipping her. It's taken me forty years to learn that I don't have to finish a book, so at this point I've read pretty much everything I really wanted to read, and it's quite a distinguished pile of works. I'm not going to worry too much about having missed something some "expert" thinks I should care about.
That said, I would like to improve my foreign language skills sufficiently to be able to read a few favorites in their original languages. Don Quixote comes to mind, as does The Divine Comedy. Since my Spanish is weak and my Italian is nonexistent, that should keep me busy in my retirement someday. Meanwhile, thank heavens for good translators.
I will confess to having never read War and Peace myself, and another book I cannot seem to pick up is Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I have never read the New Testament or the entire Koran, which were not included in early Jewish education, but I want to, someday.
As a side note, The World According to Garp is a book I have read and would like to read again. I am curious to see if its charm was confined to its era, or if it holds up. I loved it the first time I read it.
There are several books that I began but never finished: John Irving's The World According to Garp comes to mind. I never got around to reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon or Tender is the Night. I never met the challenge of reading Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, and there are still a couple of Mark Twain novels I haven't read.
I adore Pride and Prejudice but can never find the time to read the other Austen classics. I own a copy of each and always say I will read one per summer, but I get distracted by all the current fiction that is on my "fun" reading list. During the school year I have all I can do to keep up with my book club assignment and my grading!
I'm a history/social science type like you are so my list has classics from that area. For example, I really need to read all of Democracy in America. I was supposed to read it in college but didn't really absorb the whole thing. That's probably number one on my list. Literature-wise, I've always thought I should read Uncle Tom's Cabin for its historical value, but I can't make it very far in...
I love the way this question is stated. As an English teacher, I hate to admit that I still have quite a few classics that I have not read. So, my bucket list includes the following:
Moby Dick (I know, I know...such a disgrace!!!!)
I also have a few contemporary novels I want to read. My students keep pushing them on me. Just so hard to find time.
I've listened to Pride and Prejudice on tape, but have never had it in my hands. While I think you've still read it if you have listened to the book (provided it is unabridged and you don't allow the person who is reading to divert your attention from the text--sometimes voices are just distracting), there is something priceless about looking at the words, feeling the pages in your hands, and seeing a vocabulary word which you might not know (and might not pay attention to if it's read to you, not seen).
There are also many contemporary books on my list right now, but they may not qualify as "famous".