Cleaning my bookshelves is not something I do often, but it's becoming apparent that our living room is cluttered with books that I want to read but probably never will. With that in mind, here is a list of the small (in proportion to my entire collection) number of books that I decided to get rid of. If any of them interest you, they can be found at Books for America on 22nd Street.
Aristophanes, Lysistrata/The Acharnians/The Clouds. When I was in college or a couple of years out, it would have made perfect sense to decide one day that I wanted to review the works of Aristophanes. Now it does not.
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Unconsoled. As this novel begins, a man strikes up a conversation with an elevator attendant that goes on for several pages. I have tried to read this at least twice, but I should probably try something else by the same author, such as Remains of the Day, in which the reader has a more immediate sense of where the story is going.
Amos Oz, Soumchi. This I have actually read, and I seem to recall a pleasant story about growing up in Jerusulem; unfortunately, I can't remember much else about it. I don't see the use of keeping books that I can't remember.
Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe. Much as I adore the title, I can no longer pretend to be interested in the content.
Umberto Eco, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Leona. This I bought when I saw that it combines text and pictures, which always interests me; but the story is about a man with amnesia, which does not.
Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant. I had been putting off reading the works of Terry Pratchett until I was in the mood for something whimsical, but the mood never came. I am deficient in whimsy.
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. The first of several unreadable volumes about the War of the Roses transposed onto another planet, or something like that. If you think all fantasy novels are trash, you can read this and affirm your prejudice.
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage. I am never going to read The Red Badge of Courage.
Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick/Mark, the Match Boy. The only reason I might want to read this book is to learn if it really contains the word "bootstraps."
Robert Richardson, Emerson: The Mind on Fire. This is a wonderful idea: An intellectual biography of Emerson that lists the books he read at each point in his life. Unfortunately, my strongest association with the works of Emerson is a feeling of nausea.
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White. I read mysteries very seldom; Victorian mysteries, never.
Vita Sackville-West, Heritage. I find Virginia Woolf's novels difficult to approach yet ultimately rewarding; this just seems difficult to approach.
Sir Thomas More, Utopia. If only we had one.
Isidore Haiblum, The Return. "He was hunted as a madman in a world gone insane. A dazzling novel of a nightmare future." The cover portrays the metallic head of a robot with a human eye, walking through what looks like the earth turned to ice. Deer, penguins and seagulls are also present.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. The foundling is adopted at birth; the hero grows up; the hero is called; the hero is tested; the hero triumphs; the hero is reconciled with his father. At least I think that's how it goes.
Saul Bellow, Herzog. I don't want to read this. I can't explain why.
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition. This was Gibson's first novel that takes place in contemporary reality instead of the future, on the theory that technology now develops fast enough for the real world to seem fictional. And yet, while the book was published only a few years ago, the plot device -- a viral video -- already seems like an old idea.
Nicholson Baker, Checkpoint. Unlike most of his books, which explore the world around us in exhilarating miniaturist detail, this is just a sophomoric account of assassination plot with uninteresting political commentary.
William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine. Essays including advice from Burroughs on how to become a writer, and I'm not sure I want to know.
Daniel Pinkwater, 5 Novels. These children's stories looked so intriguing, except that I could never bring myself to begin reading them. See Terry Pratchett.
George Meredith, The Egoist. I read enough of this book to enjoy sentences like the following: "He placed himself at a corner of the door-way for her to pass him into the house, and doated on her cheek, her ear, and the softly dusky nape of her neck, where this way and that the little lighter-coloured irreclaimable curls running truant from the comb and the knot -- curls, half-curls, root-curls, vine-ringlets, wedding-rings, fledgling feathers, tufts of down, blown wisps -- waved or fell, waved over or up or involutedly, or strayed, loose and downward, in the form of small silken paws, hardly any of them much thicker than a crayon shading, cunninger than long round locks of gold to trick the heart"; and it also contains the word "flibbertigibbet," but alas, I will never finish it.
Douglas Coupland, All Families are Psychotic. After reading the title, I feel like I've read the book.
Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark. This is about dragons, I think, but I can get my dragons elsewhere.
Daniel Pennac, Write to Kill. A book publisher decides to become a murderer. The British press liked it.
Anthony Trollope, The Warden. I truly would love to read something by Trollope. Someday, perhaps, I will read the six-volume Chronicles of Barsetshire using the time I would have spent watching another HBO serial.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion. Like the appendices in The Lord of the Rings, but not as colloquial.
Isaac Asimov, Foundation. Written during a classical period for American science fiction, it is probably good to read for historical reasons; but now, it seems more urgent for me to explore visions of the future that are more up-to-date.
Marjorie Garber, Vice Versa. These days, I have no interest in reading about bisexuality.
David Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance. Nor am I interested in reading about manhood; except, my only pressing question about 19th-century male homoeroticism is how they managed to find one another attractive in spite of those beards.
The Film Noir Reader (various editors). I bought this when I realized I was ignorant about this period in film history, and now it seems I still am. I also liked the cover.
George Eliot, Felix Holt, the Radical. It used to be that whenever I found a book I really liked, the next step was to read all of the author's other major and minor works. Now, just it seems more fun to read Middlemarch again.
Four Great Plays by Ibsen. Four great plays that I may never read, along with most of the works of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.
Émile Zola, Germinal. Of late, I have been interested in the history of social movements in the United States and Latin America, but not in France.
John Julius Norwich, A Short History of Byzantium. This book, which is not short, proceeds through several hundred pages of dynasties and wars that nobody remembers or cares about, while telling us almost nothing about how the people of Byzantium actually lived. I would suggest reading Byzantium by Cyril Mango instead.
Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada. I prefer the version with Meryl Streep.