I just graduated with a degree in English Literature and History. Essays, exams and juggling time commitments aside, what that really means is four years of proscribed reading lists – dedicating whole semesters to reading books only by American women; months to ploughing through a never-ending series of books about the sixteenth century. I loved (nearly) every minute of it and I unexpectedly discovered some real favourites during my four years of constant reading, but after four years of unopened books piling up in the corner of my room, it’s a relief to finally find myself free to read whatever, whoever I like. Well, until my MLitt starts.
Scrolling through Goodreads. Updating my Amazon wish-list. Browsing in Waterstone’s. Ever since graduation, I’ve been steadily adding to my (seemingly endless) reading list and speedily making my way through that tragically neglected mountain of books – if you can’t already tell by my newfound love of book reviews… At the risk of harping on about books I’ve recently read, I’ve decided to extol the merits of the humble reading list, and just why I love it so much.
I’ll happily confess that I’m an inveterate fan of lists, so perhaps my love of reading lists is highly predictable and characteristic, but for any reader, I firmly believe that its practicality just cannot be beaten. It’s an excellent way to keep track of all the masses of books I want to read: it ensures that I don’t forget enticing books I’ve spotted on the shelves in bookstores, or that friendly recommendations don’t go unrecorded. When you have as much books as I do, how else can you possibly keep count of all the books that you still have to read?
Every trip to a bookshop yields another ten new titles I’m just dying to read. There are so many books in the world, and so little time to read them all. But painstakingly crossing each book off – whether it’s on a makeshift Word document or a Goodreads reading challenge – shows the average voracious reader just how much they’re progressing with their literary goals, and the degree to which they’re making a dent in a presumably vast list of titles (if I’m anything to go by, at least). Although I’d never consider myself well-read, I’m getting there slowly but surely, and my reading list is an invaluable help.
Maintaining a mixture of genres and plots, setting and character keeps your reading list fresh and new. Whenever I go on holiday, I make sure to take an invigorating blend of contemporary and historical, accessible and literary. Or, right now, I’m relying heavily on a reading list themed by a very English ‘upstairs downstairs’ vibe, probably as a result of my renewed obsession with Downton Abbey: Jane Austen’s letters, a factual account of the middle class Victorian household and, of course, the final companion to the award-winning TV series (which ended this year, cry).
The idea of endless books stretching out before you will always be indescribably beguiling to any keen reader. Each book contains an exciting, tantalising promise; another world to be discovered. More than the idea of the list itself, it’s the books that populate the ubiquitous reading list that feature as the real cause for celebration. Above all, a reading list is a testament to just how thrilling it can be reading book after book and, in that, it amply fulfils its potential.