The haunting of all the books I have bought but never read: a memoir

The struggles of an English major who is basically illiterate outside of school

ILLUSTRATION: Siloam Yeung / The Peak

By: Kyla Dowling, Staff Writer

I can feel them watching me.  

The clown on the cover of It by Stephen King, the main character of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina . . . Their eyes follow me as I enter my room. I pick up all three Hunger Games novels from my desk chair so I can take a seat. I’d meant to read them back in the seventh grade, but I had more pressing issues then. I was swamped cosplaying BBC’s Sherlock and kissing my friends “for practice” (definitely not because we were all secretly a little gay).

I move the books to my bookshelf, attempting to find room there. There’s space between Dante’s Inferno and Shakespeare’s Macbeth — the latter of which I realize, with relief, I’ve actually read. Sure, it was for my eleventh grade English class, and sure, I used Sparknotes for every scene without the original baddie, Lady Macbeth, in it but still. One down, 376 to go. 

Despite my intentions to sit at my desk and order my course materials, I find myself stuck at my bookshelf. All I can see are books, piled precariously on top of each other, seeming to sneer at me. 

“It was a dark and stormy night,” comes a voice from my left, and I turn to see A Wrinkle In Time teetering on the edge of the bookshelf. The little girl on the cover stares through me. “Don’t you want to know what happens next?” 

Please,” says the knight on the cover of The Iliad. “Who would want to read such drivel? I have real worth.”

“Pick me, choose me, love me,” cries the novelization of Grey’s Anatomy from my nightstand. 

The Great Gatsby tumbles off the shelf. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father—” 

“You shut up,” I say. “I’ll read you when I feel like reading about queer men being repressed.” 

I lift my feet out of the books and hobble over to my desk, finally opening my laptop and taking a seat. I check my list of course materials. One of them is Beowulf because I am an English major and for some reason professors won’t just let Grendel sleep already. I log into Indigo and add it to my cart, only to be slammed with suggestions from the site. 

“People who viewed Beowulf also viewed The Handmaid’s Tale.” I mean, the TV adaptation of that was good, so I may as well add it to my cart. 

“People who viewed The Handmaid’s Tale also viewed 1984.” Hey, it’s only $6! That’s a steal!

“People who viewed 1984 also viewed The Coronavirus and Me: An Erotic Novel.”

You know what? I deserve this, for better or worse. Probably worse. But, hey, I’ll read them someday, right? Right?