Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saving the Best Until Last

Jessica and I were having a discussion the other day about dead authors. I was telling Jessica how I am, with the utmost care and attention, pacing myself with regards to reading books written by deceased writers such as John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. I am painfully aware that once I turn the last page I will never read a newly written Steinbeck or Hemingway book again. This is both desperately sad but also inevitable, we all die eventually.

Although we can’t claim we thought it up we discussed the idea of choosing one book from a dead author we love and saving it until we reach old age before reading it. That way we can savour that writer’s work and have something to look forward to. There are, of course, setbacks to this plan. For example there is the risk of unexpected, untimely death meaning the saved book goes forever unread (disaster!) I suppose you’d have to weigh the pros and cons and maybe be willing to take a risk.

Ultimately Jessica decided against the idea, she thinks it’s a better idea to re-read old books you read when you were younger. I will definately be doing this but I still like the idea of saving one. Eventually I decided to save ‘Travels with Charley’ by John Steinbeck. I have a lovely folio edition of it so hopefully I will be able to resist temptation!

What book would you save?



  1. I think I'm with Jessica. It's unusual for me to read all of an author's work, even a beloved one, but it's not because of a deliberate effort to save the book until old age. I'd rather just plan to reread or even discover a new-to-me author.

  2. I like Teresa tend to leave a couple unread from writers I love as I want something to save like Teresa for later life ,all the best stu good shout on travels with charley THOU I ve it on my tbr pile and have been saving it for a rainy day ,all the best stu

  3. Oh, I understand that feeling, the utter dread of turning the last page of a beloved author. It happened with Madeleine L'Engle for me, when I knew I'd read everything she'd written when she died. Same with Robert B. Parker's mysteries, as I loved his books for something light yet still engaging. This has been my Summer of Hemingway, enjoying him for the first time ever in my life, so I'll cry with you when we turn the last page.

  4. Oh, perhaps I'm too negative but I just couldn't save a book for old age. Who knows what may happen tomorrow?
    I'm all for the re-reading. I think there is something to be had in re-reading truly fantastic books when you're older. Who knows what fantastic things you may discover second time around?

  5. Saving a book sounds like a nice notion, but I don't think I have the patience. Still if I did save a book by a beloved dead author... it would probably be Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain.

  6. Interesting idea, to save a book to read. Reminds me of the character Desmond in LOST who was saving "Our Mutual Friend" by Dickens to be his last book. :)

    I don't know if I could consciously save a book! But, I have only read the complete works of a few authors, so it might come to that.

    I will say that there are only 1 or 2 titles by Wharton I haven't read, and I will be sad when I check them off my list. I like knowing that I still have more of her to love!

  7. Chris, I'm completely with you on this one! I get really worried about running out of books by my favorite authors. I've read all of Austen, but have been saving Sandition (even though I've heard it's not wonderful). I've always been saving Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle and Dickens' Bleak House. I decided a few years ago that I only got to read one book each year by my favorite authors. That way, even if I run out of books, I still pace myself so they last longer.

    p.s. Travels with Charley is my favorite Steinbeck of all time, so I hope that one day, when you do read it, you love it.

  8. No, I couldn't leave a book for 'the end'. I clearly remember when I was wee and my granny died that apart from realy missing her, I hoped that she hadn't gone half way through a book!
    I loved Travels with Charley too.

  9. @ Teresa: Once I’ve found an author I like I always aim to read everything they’ve written, I guess it’s the same as wanting to own all the albums of a band you really love. Having said that I have never had the idea of saving a band’s album to listen to when I reach old age...

    @ Winstonsdad: John Steinbeck is my favourite writer so it had to be one of his books I save and Travels with Charley seemed the most appropriate being one of the last books he wrote

    @ Bellezza: It will be a very sad day indeed when I turn the last page of Hemingway, I don’t even like to think about it :o(

    @ Relish: You make a good point, I guess it’s the same as movies often when I re-watch them I notice differences from the first time around. I am sure I will re-read old books as I move on in life
    @ Bookish Hobbit: I know what you mean, it would be difficult being disciplined about it. To be honest I may say it’s my intention to save a book but in reality I will probably fail in the attempt! I’ve not read any Mark Twain yet but I intend to one day, any recommendations where to start?

    @ Allie: I watched the first series of Lost but stopped after that (I lost interest, pun intended) it is sad when you finally read all there is of a dead author but as someone else said I guess there are always other to discover and fall in love with. I’ve recently become a fan of Truman Capote.

    @ Melissa: Nice to see someone sees it from my point of view! Lol One Steinbeck book a year? It would take discipline to limit myself like that but I guess I should considering the horror of ever running out of Steinbeck to read, I shudder at the thought. I’m sure I will love Travels with Charley, I’ve heard from others it’s brilliant.

    @ Katrina: I have no idea if i’ll actually carry out the plan, I suspect I won’t have the patience!


  10. There are very few authors I've read all of, but I think I'm down to one Jane Austen (Mansfield Park), so that's my dilemma. I hate to think soon I'll have read everything she wrote. Still, I do think re-reading is the way to go rather than saving. Books change so much for you as you get older.