If you are reading this and you are even remotely tuned into the world, you will have realized that for the last month or so, there have been multitudes of people carrying around various volumes of Harry Potter for one of two reasons; they are either trying to remember what the volume that is coming out in the theaters is really supposed to be like or they are rereading the 6th volume to gear up for the 7th, which brilliantly is being released just after the newest film. It was brilliant because it gets all the people who are Harry Potter fans geared up for the new book, and because, sadly, if they had released the book first, I think it would have lost sales in favor of those who would rather experience the fantastical wizardry on film.
After that very long introduction, I get to the point of the post. There are books that are classified by various people into different categories based on numerous qualifications. I almost never read a book because it is on the NY Times best selling list unless it is pure coincidence - that has no bearing on my book choice at all. And since I have not yet read a single volume of the wizardry adventures, clearly popularity doesn't have much pull on my topping my need to read list. So, here are the explanations of why I read what I read.
First are recommendations of merit. The books that fall into this category are those who were suggested by someone who I admire for their intellectual gifts, similar interests, etc. Because of these suggestions I have had the opportunity to read Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I had several people suggest them and have loved them so much that those individuals are permanently on top of my If-they-suggest-I-will-read list.
Also on this list I work in the authors whose work I have read a large part of and either make time to re-read or to experience the joy all over again with a new work. These authors typically didn't vomit up a book once a year to make lots of money over a crappy plot or tell the same story over and over again but in a different city and from a different point of view, marketing it with some big company and a past name recognition because they had a book made into a movie. Generally at most, they have written about a dozen books, more essays and are humble about their writing abilities and the press that is awarded to them. I can't think of one that is currently alive.
Second (and this could be first, but the first needs to be dedicated to the true desires of my heart, eyes and brain) are those that I need to read to prepare for ____________ - depending on the assignment at hand, fill in the blank. At this point in my life, this reading category is filled with preparation materials for the adventure quickly arriving othewise known as my first year teaching experience. I just read The Old Man and The Sea, several books on teaching writing, and today plan to get through some modern one act plays.
Third are the classics, but not a classic for the sake of saying that it is a classic. For instance, the every popular Moby Dick was such a chore for me to trudge through, never capturing my interest or even amazing me with it's description, word choice, etc. While that may be close to the top of books that I never want to go near enough to know I'm near, that award hands down goes to One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez) - in fact I've never found a real person (real as in not a professor who has had his appreciation of good literature tainted by the weird and abnormal or someone who thinks that just because a book recieves an award it is worth reading) who has been able to read this without wanting to have a burial by fire afterwards. I love to read the really great classics - The Scarlet Letter, books by Hemingway, Shakespearean plays, great poetry, epics, etc. Generally the authors of these works have been dead for at least a hundred years, although there are some exceptions to that rule.
So there you have it - I don't know what is going on in Harry Potter - I would like to read them some day with my children and experience the phenomenen with them for the first time, but if you know of a book that would fit in the other categories above, please let me know. Perhaps you may even find yourself placed in the first category.