A Pause for Thought about Reading, OR Why I’m not Reading Middlemarch (yet!)

I bought 3 new books today. This post will be about why and what they were.

Reasons to Read

I’m halfway through my 25 books project – in terms of books, obviously not time – being in the middle of book 13, so it seemed like a good time to reflect on progress. I’ve been wondering why exactly I’m doing this. Reading should be about pleasure shouldn’t it? I seem to have found a way to make it a chore. Also it seems to have become more important that I achieve my 25 books target (which I’m not doing anyway) than to enjoy what I’m reading. All that “I just wanna be someone who reads (again)” stuff probably has more to do with middle-age crisis and yearning for youth than actually what books I choose and whether I enjoy them.

So I’ve sort of come to a conclusion: I should read books I like. Well d’uh, who knew eh? But how do you know what’ll you’ll like before you read it?

So what are things that make me want to keep reading:

  • I want to find out what happens
  • I want to spend more time with interesting, entertaining characters
  • I want to be taken away to a different world
  • I want to update my spreadsheet and see the page-count go up

One that’s missing from there is that “I enjoy language itself”. Now it may be true that I am capable of appreciating the beauty of a well constructed sentence, though I do sometime doubt it, it’s not really on my reasons for reading. It’s not why I turn to a book in the first place.

What Should I Read?

Or, as I said, how do I know what I will like? I’ve said I should read things I like and on realising this I decided to change my remaining 25 books list. I quickly found that once I weeded out the books that I wanted to read simply to be “better read” then I actually didn’t have quite enough books I want to read. So I felt a trip to the bookshop was in order, but what to buy?

Well one approach is to stick with authors or a genre you know and have loved in the past. Which is why I read so many Terry Pratchett and Larry Niven novels in my 20s. But my tastes have changed. I don’t now approach those books with the same sense that I am guaranteed a good time that I once did.

Another approach is to go for books which other people tell you are good – whether it’s friends and family or celebrity book clubs or serious literary prizes. This can work but my experience so far is that you have to be quite canny to choose a subset of such books that pique your interests for other reasons anyway. Both the books I’ve officially set aside, The Crow Road and The Book Thief, as well as severall that have dropped off my list fall into this category.

Another approach is to go for ‘classics’ – if they’re still being read after X years they must have something to them. True and both the classics I have read so far have much to commend them but I haven’t been blown away by either. An unrepresentative sample perhaps.

And the Winners are…

So you’ll be dying to know by now what the 3 new books are:

Fire by Kristin Cashore – its fantasy which is a genre I like, it has an intriguing premise and a review I read got me interested.

The Innocent by Ian McEwan – I realised that I’d enjoyed both books I’d read by him so why not try another?

1974 by David Peace – good/popular enough to be adapted into an acclaimed ITV drama series. It’s a crime thriller, which is not my usual genre of choice, but I suspect it will be a page-turner.



About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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One Response to A Pause for Thought about Reading, OR Why I’m not Reading Middlemarch (yet!)

  1. Pingback: 25 Books, book 15 – 1974, David Peace « Cheese Never Sleeps

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