Filling Up on an Author

I currently have three Richard Posner books on hand. Of course, three books are a small slice of his oeuvre, and I’m not going to try to read all of Richard Posner. Some years back, I made an unhappy attempt to read all of Virginia Woolf’s full-length novels during the span of one summer. I read many of her books alright, but if you had asked me then if I understood them, I would’ve honestly said no. If you ask me today if I remember anything from any of them, I would (hopefully) honestly say no.

But the impulse to fill the reading plate with many, perhaps all of the works by a single author still grips me every now and then. Such an endeavor could yield a fruitful reading experience, I suppose, provided that haste doesn’t enter the picture and makes waste. This is difficult because once you set a goal like, “all of Author X’s books”, then the natural reaction even if you try to fight it, is to count how many of Author X’s book pages you’ve gotten through in a day. Inevitably you push yourself to finish more pages faster so that you can move on to the next book and whittle down the list already. This mixing of the nominal (“finish the books”) and the real (“actually get something out of reading all these books”) is strange but more familiar than I’d care to admit.

In any case, the reading of an entire oeuvre of an author (or close to it) is probably absolutely requisite for one thing: being able to announce who one’s favorite author is. After all, one can’t very well answer “Author X” to the prying question of, “who’s your favorite author?” without being able to state in the affirmative that, “yes, I’ve read works A, B, and C of author X” and then smugly adding, “In fact, I’ve read all of his works, and I think that D is really his best due to [insert some obscure and impressive sounding reason here]”.

On a related note, some have mentioned that “what’s your favorite book/author?” is a legitimate question asked during job interviews for aspiring-to-be-employed librarians. I fail terribly at such questions since I don’t walk around with the idea fixed in my head that I have favorite authors or books. But it’s never too late to develop a proper answer, and the proper smugness to go with it, right?

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