Stop The Press! Have you really read that book you read?

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

I have been doing a some work in the last few weeks cleaning up my libraries on Goodreads and LibraryThing.  I have been putting in some of the information about when I have read books, throwing reviews up when have one, and I was stumped with the older books in my library.  I am finding that I am not feeling comfortable with designating them as read or rating them.

Por ejemplo (allow me to practice my limited Spanish):

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

I read this book in my freshman year of college.  At this point that is quite sometime ago.  I was seventeen. I’m not even sure if back then I had ever read anything about a country or culture outside of the United States; I would have to think about it, really long and hard (I’m not counting anything British, or Western European for that matter).  African history was neither a top priority nor one that was thoroughly addressed in my American education.  What I remember about this book is really vague.  There was a village and some sort of conflict, they ate food with which I was unfamiliar.  I don’t remember liking it.  I think I was overwhelmed with a lot of things which I deemed “other” at the time, and at seventeen I was just overwhelmed and didn’t get it.

When I read the description of Things Fall Apart now, it seems like it is an amazing book and one that all these years later would be right up my alley.  Achebe is considered to have written a masterpiece which realistically portrays pre-colonized Nigeria (without romanticizing it) and the changes that occurred when Nigeria was colonized by Great Britain.  It was written in 1958, just two years before Nigeria declared its independence from British rule.

Ultimately I decided to change this book from “read” to “unread”. I couldn’t have told you a thing about this book without reading the description, and even reading it really doesn’t bring back that many memories.  I would like to read it “again”.

As I go through my library I will be considering all the books that I have read, seeing how much I remember and making some decisions about whether I really want to consider a book “read” where I have few memories and even less understanding of it. I could be missing out on some good books by saying that I have read them already.

How about you?  Are there some books in your library that you might have to consider “unread” if you really think about it?  How do you make the determination as to whether you have read a book or not?  Is there any thing that you are missing out on because you have “read” it already? Talk to me people, I really want to know.

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    1. I know! I think the act of thinking about something and writing helps to solidify the memory more in your mind too, and then you have the blog as the refresher.

  1. It’s funny you bring up Things Fall Apart. This is a book I’ve noted I’ve read in my LibraryThing library, but for the life of me I can’t remember anything about it. I remember enjoying it, but that isn’t saying much. 🙂

    The problem I have with going back and reading something like Things Fall Apart is that there’s SO MANY books I’ve have to do this with! I have a terrible memory, and there’s just so many books that I want to read anyway, without going back and re-reading books I read 10 years ago. For example, I absolutely loved every single book LM Montgomery wrote, but I can’t remember much about the stories any more. Of course, LM Montgomery’s books are books I could possibly end up reading with my daughter if/when I have a daughter.

    trish’s last blog post..Review & GIVEAWAY – The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

    1. I don’t remember L.M. Montgomery either. I read all the books but when I think about it the movie is probably what I remember the most. I will probably re-read Things Fall Apart because it is such a classic, and it bugs me that I have “read” it but that I can’t remember it.

  2. What a great post that really made me think! I definitely agree with you that I’ve “read” books a long time ago and don’t really remember them. I guess I technically “read” them although I’m pretty sure that if I revisited them, I’d have totally different opinions.

    1. That’s another good point that you bring up Julie. There is stuff that I remember and I know I would probably think totally differently about them today. I re-read Pride & Prejudice last year and still loved it but I feel like my perspective on the characters had deepened.

    1. Ultimately I might not so it for all of them because of time constraints, but in general I would probably like to start doing more re-reading.

  3. When I set up my books on LibraryThing, I was pretty sure which of the older ones I’d read and which ones I hadn’t. Most of the ones I added as “read” were long-term keepers that I’d read more than once, even it it’s been a long time since I last read them. But I didn’t assign ratings or add reviews to the ones I’d read – and I have no plans to go back and do it, ever.

    1. With some the only thing I can remember about them is whether I thought they were good or bad. And when they are good I really want to go back and know why I thought that. At times like these I am glad that I have my blog beacuse writing helps the memory to solidify more and I have the record to refer to if I need a refresher.

  4. Perhaps if you started reading it the plot would come back to you? There are quite a few things I read as a teenager that I can’t remember much about, but I don’t put them on library thing or mark them as read anywhere. I might go back and read them at some point, but for the time being I have enough in my TBR pile!

    PS. Things Fall Apart is on my TBR challenge list, so I plan to read it quite soon – I’ll let you know what happens then if you like!

    Jackie (Farm Lane Books)’s last blog post..Lurkers – What would make you show your face?

    1. I’m not sure that the plot would come back to me on this one. I don’t even remember discussing it in class. Finding the time to re-read is always an issue. I would like to do it more.

  5. If I think about it, I’d probably have to consider Wuthering Heights unread. I read it when I was like 14 and I didn’t like it, but I was pretty much a whole other person back then. I have no idea how I’d feel about it now. A lot of people have told me they love it for the writing, and that’s definitely something I appreciate a lot more today.

    1. I tried to read Wuthering Heights recently and didn’t make it past the fisrt few pages so that might not change much! It’s a books that I have had for years and it looks well read but I can’t remember much about it either and dn’t know whether I read that in high school or in college.

  6. This is an interesting, thought-provoking post … and you know, now that I think about it, there are indeed several books on my Shelfari page that I have marked as read but I don’t remember. (Seems that there’s several of us with that issue, 🙂 I might just have to go back and look at which ones might be worthy of a re-read. At the very least, it’s a potential blog post.

    1. I think that’s what I am going to do. Cherry-pick a few and give them a re-read. I am more curious about some more than others.

  7. I first read Things Fall Apart in my high school English class. It was so amazing. I believe it was one of the first books I read outside of American or British literature, too. It helped start my love of books set in other cultures. If you don’t remember this book, please read it again. You will be glad you did. In fact, I may go pick this up from the library and re-read it myself. It’s that good.

    I also want to tell you that you have an award waiting for you on my blog:

    Rebecca’s last blog post..I’ve Been Awarded! Yippee!

    1. Thanks for the award!

      I definitely want to re-read Things Fall Apart again. Especially having read Half of A Yellow Sun last year. It’s not all of my long ago reads that I am concerned about remembering, but a few of them do seem particularly worthy.

  8. I knew it. I just knew it…I assign these books to 17-year-olds, and even the ones who read them don’t remember them. Actually, this is one assigned to juniors (usually 19-20 years old!) at the college where I teach. If you’re going to re-read it, try it along with Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, because the themes are eerily similar.

  9. I think that’s tough to decide, although I see your point. Someone above mentioned Wuthering Heights, and I read this over 15 years ago, so I would consider it unread. I remember the names but not what happened per se. Although some books I read that long ago I remember clear as day.
    Depends on the book, and how much of an impression it made on me I guess. However, if you can’t remember a lick of a book, I would consider it unread.

  10. I totally know what you mean! When I was first adding books to my LibraryThing account, I had to really go through and think about the books I “read” in high school and college before determining whether or not I could remember a thing about them.

    Though I remember liking it, I would have to count Jane Eyre in this category — I read it cover to cover on a trip out west during summer vacation, passed the test I took at the beginning of the year and nod my head like I understand when friends discuss it now!

    I guess I decide that I haven’t really “read” a book if I can’t remember the names of the characters, where the book is set . . . or any of the really important details of the plot! Sometimes I have just vague memories of one particular moment in a story, and that probably isn’t good enough. It’s just hard when you read as much as we all do! In the ten years since I read some novels in high school, I’ve torn through a billion other books. It’s tough to keep them all straight!

  11. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I know I’ve read a certain book at some point, but can’t remember for the life of me anything about it. Those are the books I have to re-read. You’ve inspired me to go through my GoodReads….just as soon as I get my LT list imported over there, LOL.

    Michele’s last blog post..A Worthy Collection for Your Permanent Library

  12. I’m too compulsive about finishing lists to consider a book not read if I read it. I have LibraryTags to remind myself that I do not remember books just because I read them — I will tag a book “read in high school” or “read in college” and “re-read” or “to be re-read.”

    1. I had started tagging books to be re-read at one point. I don’t know what happened. Maybe I thought I would never get back to them?

  13. This is such a great topic. You really made me think. I know that I don’t remember anything from my university English courses, except Shakespeare and a handful of plays. I’m not too sure I want to go back and re-read some of them (Ulysses comes to mind …). But there are definitely books I for pleasure back then that I have only a vague recollection of – and I think I would really enjoy rereading them again. I should go and make a list …

    Belle’s last blog post..June and July Giftaway

    1. It’s definitely not a blanket thing. Some things are better left alone! But there are a few that I would like to really have read and have an opinion on one way or another. I feel a personal challenge coming on.

  14. I am not much of a reader really. Well, I read factual things, blogs, online stuff. I have loads of books, but many have something in common – an abandoned bookmark. I seem to start books and then leave them. If I just glance across my book shelves I can see at least 20 books I have never finished. The last one I did not read was The Time Travellers Wife. I can see A Loyal Character Dancer and really have no recollection of that book at all. As for all the ones I have read, my memory really does not serve me well these days, and I could never review them! If I was put on the spot, I’d probably say I have not read any books…. all unread. I do remember Lord of the Rings, but then I read that at Uni, then again before the films came out, and then watched the films several times. Now, do I remember the book or the film?