Literary Reading Plan
This Reading Plan will focus on providing you with a good foundation for getting caught up to speed on the essentials of some of the best books of the last hundred years. It is smart to begin with recent literature, and proceed from there. Sure, you could go “back to Homer,” but Homer isn’t easy to appreciate unless you already have a stomach for epic poetry, and starting from that side of history often ends shortly afterward.
These stories are some of the best from the last hundred years or so. They are chosen in part because they’re unusual in a way, but mainly because they thematically deal with “discernment.”
Each stage of the reading plan is scheduled to take about a month. That does not mean you cannot read ahead, but the hope is that the plan sets a steady but challenging pace for you.
1. Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom
2. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
1. Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice
2. John Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy
1. Gore Vidal’s Lincoln
2. Roald Dahl’s Boy
1. Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness
2. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
1. Frans Bengtsson’s The Longships
2. W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge
1. Willa Cather’s One of Ours
2. Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons
1. Sigrid Undset’s Gunnar’s Daughter
2. Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim
PLAN FOR POETRY
Poetry, if it’s not your thing, won't easily become your thing. However, here is a way to mitigate that problem.
You’re not going to be able to breeze through these poems. But read them aloud, to yourself, by yourself. Go over them patiently, one at a time. You’ll like some; you’ll be completely unmoved by others. The ones that you like make sure to mark, so you can return to them later on. Most of the poems, except Chesterton’s and Lord Macaulay’s, can be read in three or four minutes. Chesterton’s and Macaulay’s are “long poems,” but can be enjoyed piecemeal, because in fact they’re also stories.
The following Plan of poems is designed to reach an especially masculine audience. This is not to exclude women, or to undermine their importance, but to eradicate the silly idea that men don’t, or shouldn’t read poetry. Below are manly poems, like Kipling’s “If—” and Lord Macaulay’s “Horatius,” which have inspired generations of men, either to reflect on the purpose of heroism, or to hoist up the flag of freedom and bravery in order to leap into the fray, into the breach.
1. Rudyard Kipling’s If—, and Other Poems.
2. G. K. Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse.
3. Robert Frost’s A Boy’s Will and North of Boston.
4. The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation.
5. Oxford World’s Classics’s Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology.
6. Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay’s “Horatius at the Bridge.”