I always feel like I’m missing out on an author if I haven’t read her/his entire collection of work. Whenever I mention to somebody that I’ve read somebody, it is almost assured that they will ask me if I have read “X” and I will inevitably say, “No, I’ve read ‘Y’.” And then they’ll say, “Well you have to read ‘X,’ it’s so good.” It seems no matter what I read it isn’t enough, or at least it’s not the right one. I’ve been thinking, therefore, of choosing a different author each year and trying to read through her or his entire work.
I’m curious, however, in which situations this will really be useful. On the one hand, I’m not teaching a class. I’m not looking to become an expert on any particular author. On the other hand, it could be interesting to read through the novels, short stories, etc of a selected author, in the order in which they were published, to see how an author changed and grew, what were her/his missteps, what her her/his successes. I’m not sure if this will do much to expand my understanding of writing or the writing process or if I’m really just looking to assuage my ego in the case that a certain author is brought up in conversation. It could feel rewarding to say that I have read everything by her/him in such a situation. Maybe I’m just seeking a way to impress people and it has nothing to do with making me a better reader or writer.
What do you think? Is there a point to having a goal of reading an author’s entire collection of work? Currently I am considering Toni Morrison as my selection for this year. I am reading The Bluest Eye and would also be re-reading Beloved, Sula, and Song of Solomon in order to place them chronologically within the context of her other work. If you were to choose an author for this project, who would it be?