If there’s one thing I’ve learned after five years of grad school in the humanities, it’s that the reading never ends. Every book and article leads you to ten or fifteen other books and articles that you immediately feel irresponsible for not having read. Along with impostor syndrome (see previous post), my sense of “book guilt” only seems to get worse as the months and years keep marching forward and I’ve barely made a dent in that massive pile of pages. Reading fiction used to be one of my great joys, but now “book guilt” invades that too–I feel like every book I open needs to be relevant to my research (and it’s all relevant, really).
The books on my very long list are all amazing in some way or another, and the thought of reading them should fill me with a sense of joy and wonder at being able to discover such great thinkers. In reality it just fills me with dread. Once I’ve started reading a book or an article it’s not so bad, but thinking about them in a great big intellectual lump makes me want to crawl under the covers and never come out again.
So, with that in mind, here’s a list of books that I need to get read, and soon–breaking it down into small steps helps, I’ve heard. Some of these I’ve skimmed but don’t claim to understand at all, some I’ve only read the introduction, and some I just haven’t touched. Feel free to add your own!
Karl Marx–Capital Vol. 1 & 2, The Critique of Political Economy. And plenty of others as well. I’ve come to realize that until I know Marxist theory inside out I’m not going to be able to wrap my brain around 80% of the rest of the theorists, whether I ultimately call myself a Marxist or not.
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble. Everyone complains about how difficult Judith Butler is to read, which might be why I’ve stayed away from her for so long. Gotta face the fear.
Jacques Lacan, Ecrits. This enormous white volume has sat on my bookshelf for about a year now, taunting me with its literal and figurative density. As with Marx, even if I don’t count myself a Lacanian, I’d better know what he’s talking about.
Sigmund Freud, The Freud Reader. And of course Lacan doesn’t make much sense without Freud. Yet another big volume that I’ve skimmed (The Uncanny, Beyond the Pleasure Principle) but haven’t really delved into.
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1; Discipline and Punish. No excuse here. Skimmed these, but really need to read thoroughly so I can use the word “Foucaultian” (“Foucauldian”?) with actual authority.
Jacques Derrida, Signature Event Trace, Specters of Marx, Of Grammatology. Might take a lifetime to understand these, so I’d really better get started.
G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right. In a way it all comes back to Hegel, so I should probably start here. But he scares me.
And there are at least twenty or thirty more. Sigh. Better get to work if I ever want to read Barbara Kingsolver or George R.R. Martin again without feeling guilty.