So the world is ending in six months. Damn. I guess I’ll never go to Paris; I guess I’ll never write that novel. There’s that list of books to read in the back of my mind though—the classics, the Must Have Read Before You Die titles. What would I read if I only had six months left to live?
Where would I read them is a simpler question. I’d head to my family’s cabin in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, spend my days on the deck smelling pinesap and soaking up mountain air and sunshine, overlooking the valley from 8,000 feet, surrounded by raw rocks and aspens and pine. I’d spend my nights curled up in a comfy chair by the fireplace, with the warmth and the sound of crackling flames, the smell of wood smoke in the tangible weight of night.
But what would I read? I always thought I’d read Proust before I died. In Search of Lost Time: What a title in the face of an apocalypse! If you’re truly educated aren’t you supposed to be able to say you’ve read Proust? Or how about the Old Testament? Sure I’ve read it on and off my whole life, but never cover to cover. Do I really want to meet my maker without having read the entire good book?
I wish I’d read all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, or The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, because I always felt that’s what brilliant old professors read—dusty copies in cramped campus offices, on afternoons when they should be outside enjoying the sunshine. How about On the Road or Brave New World? Too ironic. What about War and Peace? Am I really going to die without reading the greatest novel ever written?
But at the end of the day, what would I really read if I only had six months left to live? All six of Jane Austen’s novels, one a month, with their perfect language and filled to brimming with their glorious wit. Why Austen? Because she’d remind me to laugh at myself, even if the world is about to end.