Friday, October 9, 2009


Talk about a literary tell-all!

I can't believe how brave she is.

First, let me say, you know, sometimes you just meet someone who’s the real deal. The genuine article. A stalwart pal. But I’m realizing now, I’ve never met Janet Koch in person. Which is odd, because I really feel as if I know her. Miracle of internet technology.

She’s hilarious. Clever. Talented. Makes fantastic book videos. And is soon to be multiply-published! But today, she comes to Jungle Red as the bravest blogger this side of –ah, maybe she’s actually the bravest.

And this was all her idea.

Favorite Books I’ve Never Read

JANET: As my husband can attest, I read a lot. (“Turn off that light. It’s time to go to sleep.”) Once he asked me how many books I’d read in my life. Um, no clue. Since I’m the kind of person who alphabetizes her spices and keeps the clothes in her closet organized by color, in 2004 I started keeping a spreadsheet of the books I’ve read. On average, I read 138 books per year, or just over two and a half books a week. At that rate you’d think I’d have read everything I wanted to read, right? Not quite.

Yep, there are still an awful lot of books out there that I want to read. The list would be shorter if I’d chosen English for my college major instead of geology, but back in 19-whatever my wishes and desires were different than today.

So. I’ve never read The Old Curiosity Shop. I’ve also never read Anna Karenina or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Never read On the Road or Jude the Obscure and I’ve never once managed to make it all the way through Gravity’s Rainbow.

Sad, isn’t it? But it gets worse.

On the mystery side of things I’ve never read The Big Sleep, The Woman in White, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Maltese Falcon, The Talented Mr. Ripley, or The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Pathetic situation for someone who claims to be writing mysteries.

Then there are the children’s books I’ve never read. Children’s literature fascinates me, but I’ve still never read Wind in the Willows. Or Where the Red Fern Grows. I’ve also never read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The Wheel on the School, or The Cricket in Times Square.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

And that’s just the fiction. If I tallied my unread non-fiction (Silent Spring, The Guns of August, The Double Helix, Up From Slavery, etc.) we’d be here all day.

But in spite of my haven’t-read-this-yet list, I don’t quite feel like gum on the bottom of a shoe. Every year I make sure to read some classics, some non-fiction, and a number of new authors. Examples? From my 2009 list: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Symphony of Spirits by Deborah Forrest, and In the Woods by Tana French. Not so bad, eh?

And I feel sure that eventually I’ll get around to finishing Gravity’s Rainbow. Right after I read Wind in the Willows. Which comes right after The Big Sleep and The Old Curiosity Shop and…

HANK: Fine. I’ll play. I’ve never read The Woman in White, either. (Hallie is going to kill us. But I have the book RIGHT HERE. Does that count?) Or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Rosemary, yeah, I know. My bad.)
(And Janet—a list? You are so wonderfully organized. But you have to read Ackroyd and Ripley. Really. You’ll be glad.)

How about you guys? Fess up! What books have you never read? You’ll feel better if you tell. And we will, too.

After 11 years and 6 1/3 unpublished manuscripts, Janet Koch (writing as Laura Alden) recently signed a three-book contract with NAL for a cozy series.

(JRW: Who hoo! We’re so delighted.)

The series features a divorced mother of two who was goaded by her so-called best friend into becoming the new secretary of the local Parent Teacher Organization. With a little bit of luck (Janet says this—JRW knows she’s already worked harder than anyone and she’s made her own luck), the first in the series will be published in late Janet lives in northern Michigan with her husband and two cats. When she’s not working on her cozy manuscript, she’s freelance writing for the local newspaper, studying for her nurse’s aide exam, reading, or doing some variety of skiing.


  1. Hooray Janet! congrats on the contract--we're all so pleased for you! And yes, Janet makes fabulous book trailers...

    And really, Wind in the Willows is not a chore, not the least little bit. So many books I haven't read--if it's historical, probably not. Dense and literary, unlikely.

    So you're in good company and thanks for stopping in today!

  2. I have to confess I've never read any of those books either. Ouch. I just picked up The Big Sleep and The Big Nowhere, which considering I write books about L.A. and consider myself somewhat noirish is probably a crime somewhere. Add to that, I've tried to read L.A. Confidential and couldn't -- though I love the movie. But I read at least 2 books a week, sometimes more, I just don't read many 'classics'

  3. Thanks for having me on Jungle Red!

    Haven't read L.A. Confidential, but I have read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Loved it :)

    You know, I think tomorrow I'll stop at the library and pick up a copy of Wind in the Willows. (You didn't expect me to start with Gravity's Rainbow, did you?)

  4. Hi Janet - Congrats on the book deal. Tell us about your book you make them just for yourself or for other writers? (I'm thinking of doing one for Dead Head.)

    I've never read Gravity's Rainbow either. And never finished Atlas Shrugged. Never read a Nancy Drew or Robert Parker. My list of flaws goes on, but I'll spare you the rest...

  5. I've missed a lot of classics: In Cold Blood, War and Peace, 1984...

    Haven't read a single Harry Potter either, which drives my mother and friends crazy.

    I never have enough time to read, but I can't figure out what I can give up to make more time.

  6. I haven't done War and Peace or any of the Harry Potter books, either. But I have read Wind in the Willows and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

    Roberta, Janet's book trailers are wonderful. One of her early efforts was for my YA, Saving Grace, and I'm still getting compliments for it.

  7. Hi, Janet - I LOVED the trailer Janet did for's genuinely creepy.

    Interesting topic...books we're ashamed to admit we haven't read.

    Well, I HAVE read Wind in the Willows. HAVE read Woman in White (it's the book that got me hooked on the genre). HAVE read the Maltese Falcon and Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Not (yet) The Big Sleep.

    And there are quite a few great books in my "The Bibliophile's Devotional" that I confess to not having read: War and Peace, On the Road, The House of Mirth, The Count of Monte Cristo...and the list goes on.

  8. Book trailers are great fun, though I question whether or not they actually sell books. I suppose it's like that old adage about half of every marketing dollar being wasted, only no one knows which half.

    What I like doing is trying to find what I guess I'd call the essence of the book and compress it into 60 seconds of video and music. However, I don't have the equipment or know-how (or inclination) to do anything fancy and slick seems to sell.

    Never read On the Road or War and Peace, but as a teen I loved The Count of Monte Cristo. A few years ago I happened to reread it and realized there isn't an ounce of humor in the whole book. Hadn't noticed that at all when I was 14.

  9. Please. House of Mirth. Is wonderful.

    And I'll have to try Wind in the Willows again. Ah..I just never liked it...I think I thougth it was scary.


  10. Congrats on the contract! And I 2nd the vote that you read Ackroyd - love that book :)

    I've never read Gravity's Rainbow, DaVinci Code, and just one or two more :)

  11. Hi Janet,

    Congrats on the contract!

    I, ahem, have never read an Agatha Christie (imagine mystery writer now hiding in the corner). I did read 1984...for fashion. In the 80s I wanted a high concept T-shirt that had quotes from the book on the back, and my dad said he'd buy it only if I read the book and knew what the quotes meant. Quelle motivation!

  12. Janet, your confessions tear a beautiful breach in the world of the pedantic. Bravo.

    I must confess, the vast majority of Shakespere has eluded me. I can appreciate the deeply human brilliance of it, yet I've never mustered enough attention and time to get into it.

    So many books, so little opportunity. One of the great hallmarks of extreme wealth is time to read and to travel!

    Anyone agree?

  13. When I started college, I went in as a Comparative Lit major. Two years in, when I realized HOW MUCH Spanish or French I was going to have to study & read, I switched to English Lit. As a result, every time we were supposed to read Milton in a class, the professor would say, "Well, you've all read Paradise Lost, so we're going to read X."

    Guess what I never did read? :)

  14. Does it count that I've read the first 30 pages of Gravity's Rainbow about ten times? Can't get past the list of banana concoctions. My book club is reading Woman in White this month, so I'll finally get to it.

    Great topic.

  15. Does it count that I've read the first 30 pages of Gravity's Rainbow about ten times? Can't get past the list of banana concoctions. My book club just decided to read Woman in White, so I'll finally get to it.

    Wonderful topic.

  16. Does it count that I've read the first 30 pages of Gravity's Rainbow about ten times? Can't get past the list of banana concoctions. My book club just decided to read Woman in White, so I'll finally get to it.

    Wonderful topic.