A Bookish Observation
Andy Miller’s book, The Year of Reading Dangerously – How Fifty Great Books (And Two Not So Great Ones) Saved My life, has had a profound effect on me and my reading. I listened to it as an Audiobook from Audible.com, narrated by the author himself, then I purchased the hardback because it’s a book I knew I would want to refer to again and again. And then I bought the Kindle eBook too, because it’s nice to have it easily accessible in my library in the “Cloud”. Mr Miller’s narration put a smile on my face immediately. He has a self effacing humour typical of British people. He made the discussion light hearted but serious all at the same time.
The development of my very own List of Betterment, inspired by this book, has occupied my mind for months. I started working on my personal list after reading about the author’s trials and tribulations climbing the mountainous reading challenge he set for himself. His book choices included many famous classics and several obscure titles. Not for a minute would I try to climb the same mountain, it’s much too high for me. That said, I’ve created a list of the books I believe, after reading, made me a better reader, which in turn enhanced my empathy with the experiences of others, and my understanding of myself, hence the term “betterment”.
I could give you a list of the fifty books Andy Miller read in his year long reading challenge, but I think it would be much more fun to buy his book to find out which ones he chose and why. I was pleased he didn’t focus on the “Western Canon”; he went with his personal choices, some completely new to me, some not even listed in my edition of Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Mr Miller’s experience is very well steeped in the knowledge of literature, good and bad. His day job is in the publishing industry, and he has a University education.
It didn’t matter to me which books he chose for his journey, what mattered to me was his musing about books. I love books about books. As mentioned several times in my previous blog posts I have an aversion to the “classics” and shame upon shame, an inability to understand poetry. Books like A Year of Reading Dangerously help me access books that I otherwise would have no understanding. It’s like coming in through the back-door, sitting at the kitchen table and having a lovely person converse and share their knowledge of something really really interesting. Why interesting you may well ask. Interesting because, classics have stood the test of time, they come highly recommended for a good reason. Millions of people across many cultures and generations have put their stamp of approval on them. I have a longing to tap into an experienced reader’s love of these books, before investing my time in something that may turn me off classics for life.
I’m not a lazy reader, and it’s not that I haven’t tried to read several classics, and I’m proud to say, I’ve sometimes succeeded. It’s just that I find it wearing and unrewarding to read words that don’t make sense to me. The most difficult book I’ve ever worked hard to read was Possession by A.S.Byatt. I don’t think it is in the “classics” category yet, however I did work through it three times and finally enjoyed the story once I decided to skip the poetry. I doggedly researched the myths mentioned throughout A.S.Byatt’s story. The author would be disappointed if she knew I skipped the poetry. The poetry was very important to the book. I decided to skip it and was rewarded by “getting” the story, well part of it anyway. After that experience, I don’t think I’ll bother with another book I don’t “get” after reading 50 pages. There are so many to enjoy.
In his book, Andy Miller shared how a well read, well educated person, approaches a reading challenge of mountainous proportions. I enjoyed his story, his narration, his humour, the serious bits, and his musing on the struggles of daily life. It’s amazing what we all could do if we put our mind to it. Tenacity rules!
This blog was written by Diane Challenor 2015
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