Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace

You may have thought that your Kindle had stopped working when it stayed at 2% progress despite you reading Infinite Jest for hours, daily, for an entire summer. It hadn’t. Unfortunately, now that your body has stopped working, your soul is suspended in a state of existential limbo until you finish reading everything you started. So go find your charger, and remember, the footnotes are part of it!

Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand

This whole bound-to-perpetual-intermediacy thing doesn’t apply if you fundamentally took issue with a book’s content, like you did with Atlas Shrugged, right? Wrong. While there are exceptions, no absolution is granted for people who know anything about Ayn Rand, and still choose to read Atlas Shrugged. Now you must finish the whole thing or your spirit can never, ever know rest.

A Little Life — Hanya Yanagihara

Reading the Wikipedia about this queer epic melodrama may have sailed through book club with comments like “I think this is about trauma.” But it will not sail you across the river of souls. Would a bookmark help?

Finnegans Wake — James Joyce

Throwing your copy of Finnegans Wake at a subway spitter’s head was indeed a resourceful act of heroism that Finnegan himself would probably delight in. Probably. You wouldn’t know since you’d only started the foreword when your attention turned to the escalating commuter altercation. Your courage and good aim may have gotten you on the 11 o'clock news, but they alone will not get you into the afterlife. For that, you must first finish reading Finnegans Wake so you can finally find out what Finnegan’s values are. In getting to know fictional characters, we get to better know ourselves! Only then can our souls prepare for the beyond.

Changes For Samantha: An American Girl — Valerie Tripp

You were so close to finishing this one — and so close to peacefully slipping away into nothingness surrounded by loved ones who are of course sad that you are gone, but happy that you thrived up until the very end. You may have missed the boat on this serene end-of-life tableau, but you can still get your act together and finish reading the final installment of the original Samantha series. Though it’s been such a long time since you were an American Girl®, you’d better start over with the first one and work your way back up to book six.

The Handmaid's Tale — Margaret Atwood

Watching the show doesn’t count.

Nine Stories — J. D. Salinger

Just finish one.

Salt Fat Acid Heat — Samin Nosrat

Don’t you want to learn how to cook with heat?

You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir — Parker Posey

She can’t die until you finish reading this one either.

Anna Karenina: The Unabridged Audiobook, Narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal — Tolstoy

Just 27 hours and 19 minutes left to go.

White Teeth — Zadie Smith

Typically, the nearly deceased are only required to finish reading books they’ve actually started. However, the way you’ve been telling people for years that Zadie Smith is your favorite writer when the only thing you can quote by her is an essay she wrote about Joni Mitchell, which you have read 14 times, and not her most famous novel, which you have read no times, is just too embarrassing. It’s impossible to liberate your spirit from the corporeal plane in this current state of cringe. Do you need to borrow a book light?

Maus — Art Spiegelman

You did read Maus in school, but you should probably read it again anyway. Both volumes. When you have some free time.


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