Tuesday 7 June 2011

Reading Challenge 2

It’s my birthday this week and I’ve decided that new year challenges should not be restricted to January 1st. So, as of Friday,  I’m only going to read books by authors I’ve never read before. I’m not absolutely certain that I’ll be able to keep it up for a whole year, so I’ll aim for Christmas, which will be six months, and then see it goes. Perhaps declaring this intention in public is not particularly wise, but as very few people read this blog, it’s not really all that public.

Why this particular challenge? Well, looking back over these blogs I’ve been writing, I’ve become aware that I seem to be entirely sold on reading the old and familiar, firmly attached to certain authors and happy to be comfortable. In fact, considering that I would definitely put reading as my number 1 thing to do, I’ve become pretty unadventurous in my reading habits. When my friend Roz lent me a large pile of books most of which were written by people I’d never heard of, I was daunted rather than thrilled.

So I may start with Roz’s pile. I haven’t looked all that hard at them (although they’ve been in The Pile for nearly six months now) but I have the impression that they are largely Scandinavian. I’m wracking my brains to think of Scandinavian books I’ve read in the past and I can only come up with Pippi and the Moomins, oh, and there was that book I had to review, I’m struggling for the title, Alberta and Jacob I think, by Cora Sandel? It has to be said that the oddness of all these examples is not entirely promising, though I did enjoy them all, more or less. But I suppose one cannot judge an entire literature on a handful of examples.

Anyway, I may start with Moby Dick because quite a few people seem to be surprised that I have yet to read it and they all champion it hugely. I find this a bit off-putting too. It’s so thick! It’s about someone obsessed with a whale! I suspect that the people who love it were forced to read it for school or university or something and it only seems great compared to the other turgid stuff they had to wade through. But. Expanding my reading horizons means taking recommendations, lots of them. It means picking up things by authors I know so well from reputation that I find it hard to credit that I have never read any of their books (Mrs Gaskell: how have I never read Mrs Gaskell?).

And I’m not just planning to read literary greats. I’m looking for some new sources of rubbish too, and I intend to work my way through 1001 Children’s Books, filling in the gaps in my knowledge.

Perhaps I should start in the attic, picking out stuff I’ve gathered but never got round to reading. There was a time when I just picked up any secondhand book I’d heard of if it was in good condition, thinking I’d be bound to want to read it some time. I suppose I was library-building without realising. But perhaps the attic would be a dangerous place to start: I might be tempted by all the lovely books I already know.

You know, I think I’ll start with Moby Dick. That should take me a good long time, and I can probably get a nice secondhand copy on the Internet. And if you have any bright ideas, do send them to me.


  1. Coincidence city! Just been posting on Moby-Dick.
    Yes, start with it.
    Have you read any Carson McCullers? Only found her this year (bit slack of me); an astonishing writer.

  2. Yeah, you're in the same attitude, frame of mind as me. Discovering along an adventurous reading path in unknown literary lands. Like you, it now feels strange that I am well read in African literature, especially black African but the closest I've got to scando stuff is children's fables and Moby Dick, which although I hope you won't be disappointed, is astounding really; a solitary man, a small boat and a dead whale. How did that writer make something of that? Can I read Roz's books after you?

  3. oh yes, heart is a lonely hunter, member of the wedding... must dig them out. Oh no...

    am definitely going for MD, but considering reading it on R's kindle for a whole new experience.

    Ed. can't pass on Roz's books as I have to give them back, but I'll let you know what they are and what I think as I go through them. At the moment, 'Out Stealing Horses' by Per Peterson, which is much better than I first thoguht now I've got into it. Fear that sounds like damning with faint prasise, but not meant that way. honest


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