Guest Bloggers on Recent Reads and “Great Book” Guilt

Here are a few guest voices for this Sunday evening’s post.

The first is a book recommendation from my friend Andrew, who wrote in about his recent favorite book:

I just finished Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It’s one of the most unique, thoughtful books I’ve read in a while and I’d highly recommend it. He just published a new book called Black Swan Green about a 13 year old boy growing up in exburban England in the 80’s. It’s also quite good, particularly if, like me, you were a suburban kid growing up in the mid-80’s.

The second is a post from my friend Tuvana about guilt over not reading The Great Books that we all think we should read:

Speaking of starting books, I was feeling virtuous for picking up the serious novel The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. I hesitated to start it, given that it had several elements that turned me off: stream of consciousness narrating, a time (’50s) and place (Poland? Germany?) that were not that interesting to me, and 588 pages. Plus the blurb said it was about a dwarf in an insane asylum with a tin drum (literally). But I opened it anyway, since it came highly recommended by a good friend. The first 38 pages went well and I congratulated myself for staying the course through the part about the 1890’s grandmother’s four skirts in a potato field in Poland.  But then two visitors came to the asylum and I had to force myself through that page. I feel defeated and intellectually lazy for putting this book back on the shelf. But how far should we push ourselves to read the Great Books? I live with a certain degree of guilt for not reading more serious fiction, and it usually gets the better of me after I have read a particularly unsatisfying piece of fluff (most recently a mystery by Peter Robinson – not recommended). Once in a while I actually make it through a Great Book, like Howard’s End two years ago.
Questions: Does anyone else have Great Book guilt?  And how can I get over my guilt?

Thank you, Andrew and Tuvana, for your contributions. I will return tomorrow with thoughts on Tom Perotta.