The Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge

Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) reading

Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) reading

 One of my seniors, Emma Taylor, informs me that, upon graduating, she plans to take up the “Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.” This involves reading the 339 books that have made an appearance on the Gilmore Girls, a show that my wife watches on Netflix. Apparently the teenager Rory Gilmore is an avid reader, a model that I’m glad is out there.

Of course, I had to check the list out. You can find it here.

On the whole, there are a lot of good books although I’d make a number of substitutions. Dubliners is obviously a better selection than Finnegan’s Wake, and why read a biography about Pushkin in place of Pushkin’s poetry?

I can report that I’ve read 158 out of the 339 books on the list if I’m allowed to count those collections where I’ve read at at least some of the poems or short stories (such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese or Eudora Welty’s Collected Works). There are some offbeat books that, amazingly, I’ve read (like The Scarecrow of Oz), some books that I’ve read that I wish I hadn’t (The Godfather), and some books that I have no desire to read (Churchill biographies). There’s a lot of Stephen King but not his best work. Still, any list that spurs people to read is a worthwhile list.

In today’s post I’ve decided to play “Humiliation.” This is a game invented by David Lodge in (I think) his comic campus novel Small World. Members of Lodge’s English department play a game in which they cite works that they feel they should have read but haven’t. One gets more points—in other words, one is more humiliated—by the number of other contestants who have in fact read the work.

One junior professor, very competitive, reveals that he hasn’t read Hamlet. He wins the game but his revelation is remembered at tenure time and he is turned down.

Here are the works from the Gilmore Girls reading list that I feel humiliated for not having read. Or more accurately, they are works that feel like holes in my life list:

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
The Divine Comedy by Dante (although I’ve read Inferno, which is listed separately)
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
Night by Elie Wiesel
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Daisy Miller by Henry James
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

And then there’s the work that I’ve vowed to read during next year’s sabbatical, just as I read Anna Karenina on my last one:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how many works you’ve read from the list. And please share other reading lists that you would recommend.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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