Read about it

For some reason, I suddenly have a desire to start keeping a record of the books I’m reading.

What has prompted this desire, I cannot say. Do I think I’m so famous and well regarded in literary circles that the world is clamouring to know what I’ve been reading? Um…….no. I am not even deluded enough to think that my friends, family or casual aquaintances are interested in viewing a list of the books I’ve read/am reading. I’m pretty certain it could be of no interest to strangers who land on this blog. Hell, let’s face it, even my imaginary readers, as supportive as those lovely people are, have no reason to be interested in a list of books that I have read, since they would be unable to read them anyway.

So why do I suddenly have this urge to record a list of  the books I’ve read?

Perhaps it’s a desire to enrich my own writing with better recall of what I’ve read. Perhaps I want to see what is revealed about myself through the list of books that I have lately chosen to read. Perhaps it’s just another ploy to create a diversion, in an effort to avoid thinking about my brother’s death last September.

But if I was to be completely honest,  I would have to admit that I’m thinking about writing down the books I’ve read since my brother died. Again, I’m not really sure why.

Maybe I want to check to see if I’ve been reading books that seem appropriate to someone who is grieving. Or, conversely, maybe I want to see if I’ve managed to read books that have nothing to do with sadness and people dying. Perhaps I want to see if I’ve read a well rounded balance of both. I don’t know.

Anyway, it seemed like material for a  post. I am not going to write reviews of each book, as that would make this post far too long.

Here they are, in kind of backwards chronological order, starting with most recently read, as best as I can recall:

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. I wrote a post about this book, which you can read here.

Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett. I have started to sometimes delve into the world of books written for teenagers and/or young adults, because I have an almost-teenager who is a prolific reader, and it’s nice to know what she is reading. It’s also good to discover quality books for this  demographic that adults can also enjoy. Some, such as this story, are complex enough to suggest that the only reason it’s classed as “kids” literature is because the main characters are teenagers. Surrender is about a boy who is dying, so yes, I did choose to read it for that reason as well. It turned out to be a dark, psychological tale with a slightly surreal feeling to it, about two boys – or is it? In the end, I was never quite sure whether there was two boys, or whether they were the alter egos, or dying imaginings, of one person. Worth a read.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. Well known American writer and journalist Joan Didion’s memoir about her life in the year after her husband died. Yes, I deliberately chose to read it for that reason, and in fact, I had read it once already, probably only about a year earlier.  So I knew what I was in for, and of course I had a different, more moving experience reading it the second time. This time I cried, not just out of sympathy, but out of recognition, for example when Didion describes her obsession with  calculating  how many hours he’d had left to live when some trivial incident happened.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. Outside of actually reading books to my daughter, this one was my first foray into reading a “kid’s” book to myself, and I would encourage any adult to read it. I can’t say too much about the topic of death in this case without giving out plot spoilers, but I’ll just say that I did not expect it to have anything to do with death, and that it was an enjoyable, moving and rewarding read.

A Visit From The Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. I’d read some short stories by Egan many years ago that I really liked. This novel is like a collage of stories, where each chapter jumps in time periods and locations, and where characters who feature in one chapter are secondary characters in someone else’s life in later chapters, but the entire effect is of their lives all being connected across generations and locations. I did not necessarily expect any thematic links to death when  choosing to read this, but, inevitably in a book which ranges across a period of about 40 years in the lives of at least about 20 characters, someone does die. Highly recommended if you like this kind of thing. I do.

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8 Comments

  1. goldfish

     /  June 18, 2012

    I post lists of what I’ve been reading, too. I chock it up to the simple fact that readers like to talk about books.

    I haven’t read the Year of Magical Thinking yet, but I fell in love with her writing style after reading her 1,000+ page non-fiction opus, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live. She also has a new book out about the death of her daughter called Blue Nights. It’s on my list.

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    • Wow, you are right: after writing a post about books, my subscribers almost doubled overnight!!! Who knew. (Well, you, I guess.)

      I have read one of Didion’s other (shorter!) books of essays….it may have been The White Album. I know of Blue Nights, and since re-reading The Year of Magical Thinking, I’ve gone a few times to bookshops half intending to buy Blue Nights, picked it up and leafed through it, and then felt as though I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak that must be inside it just yet. But I will read it some time.

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      • goldfish

         /  June 20, 2012

        Yeah, I think the assuredly emotional toll contained therein is the reason I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet either. I will though. Eventually.

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  2. i’ve been meaning to blog about what I’m reading as well! It’s just that I’m not reading anything at the moment…

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    • That makes it hard I guess. I’m not reading anything just at the moment either, except comments on my blog…!

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      • I hope to finish Ursula K. LeGuin’s book The Lathe of Heaven when I go home for winter break. It’s a great science fiction book, if you’re into that genre.

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      • I’m not heavily into reading science fiction, but I don’t believe in writing off whole genres, either – there are always exceptions. I’ve read a few, eg Brave New World, and a really cool, kind of gritty, one I loved called All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson. My much loved and recently departed little brother was into reading Ursula LeGuin, so perhaps one day I’ll give it a try to see what it was that he enjoyed so much!

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      • Do it for your brother ❤

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