Set your own lit-worthy goals for '05

Now that the Literate Kitten has committed to a serious Literary Goal for 2005, it’s time to nudge her two or three faithful readers – and maybe some unsuspecting passersby – into the same.

Read a book – and thumb your nose at the dumbing down of contemporary American society while achieving an authentic Worthwhile Goal. (Not that having French nails and cutting carbs are equivalent to moral decrepitude or anything, but Worthwhile Goals? We think not.) Why not take the highbrow and impress your friends and family next Thanksgiving with some off-the-cuff references to the emergence of Russian formalism or the theoretical problems of Wittgenstein’s Usage Theory? Eh? Imagine your cynical siblings shaking their collectives heads at their wacky empiricist sister or Dadaist brother – instead of making fun of your excessive interest in Kabbalah bracelets and collagen.

So, without further ado, here are some recommended readings for those with prose issues:

For those who have…

…never read a book straight through (willingly):

Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Richard Russo, “Empire Falls”
John Irving, “A Prayer for Owen Meany”
Ken Kesey, “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest”

…exclusively read Stephen King, John Grisham or Michael Crichton:

Jason Fforde, “The Eyre Affair”
Michael Chabon, “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay”
Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five”
Cormac McCarthy, “Blood Meridian”

…been seduced by romance novels:

Jane Austen, (with Jane, anything will do, but if you must have a title, try “Persuasion”)
Daphne DuMaurier, “Jamaica Inn”
Charlotte Bronte, “Villette” (unless you haven’t read “Jane Eyre”)
Alice Hoffman, “Seventh Heaven”

…been wanting to read something other than Harry Potter with your kids:

For girls: Maud Hart Lovelace, “Betsy-Tacy” book series, L.M. Montgomery, “Anne of Green Gables,” Anna Sewell, “Black Beauty”
For boys: Robert Lewis Stevenson, “Treasure Island,” Rudyard Kipling, “The Man Who Would Be King,” Jack London, “Call of the Wild”
Either/or: C.S. Lewis “Narnia Chronicles,” “Asops Fables,” Charles Lamb, “Tales from Shakespeare”

…been enshrouded by mysteries:

P.D. James, “Shroud for a Nightingale”
Dashiell Hammett, “The Glass Key”
James M. Cain, “The Postman Always Rings Twice”
G.K. Chesterton, “The Complete Father Brown”

…never read anything remotely adventurous or challenging but think that it is, like acting or hosting a game show, a snap:

William Faulkner, “The Sound and the Fury”
Feodor Dostoyevsky, “Notes from Underground”
James Joyce, “Ulysses”
Franz Kafka, “The Trial”

…never willingly read a short story:

Tobias Wolff (ed.), “The Vintage Book of American Short Stories”
Milton Crane (ed.), “Fifty Great Short Stories”
James Moffett (ed.), “Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories”

Ernest Hemingway, “The Complete Short Stories” (Finca Vigia collection)
Eudora Welty, “Collected Stories”
Anton Chekov, “Selected Stories”

Alice Munro, “Friend of My Youth”
George Saunders, “Civilwarland”
Denis Johnson, “Jesus’ Son”

…been looking for a classic you can actually read and very possibly enjoy (and still retain bragging rights for tackling a noteworthy novel):

Gustav Flaubert, “Madame Bovary”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby”
Pearl S. Buck, “The Good Earth”
John Steinbeck, “Grapes of Wrath”