This year’s resolution is to read 40 books, with an emphasis on raising the bar in terms of quality.
I don’t know if you’re like this too, maybe you are, but I’m easily tempted into reading things which I know will be easy going. My job tires me out, and the fact that I’m even reading at all feels like enough of an accomplishment sometimes, so I read some fairly throw-away stuff.
There are all sorts of categories of throw-away books:
- Formulaic novels where I know exactly what to expect
- Books written for children or teenagers
- Books I’ve already read
- Magazine-style non-fiction books about “facts”
- Celebrity biographies
- Here’s a good one – fashionable modern books, where the typeface is huge and double spaced, the language is simple, and the story deals with nothing in much depth. An alienated person travels around, almost gets involved with someone, then later almost has a realisation about themselves. A time and a place are evoked. The book is 50,000 words long, and single spaced would come to something like 70 or 80 pages.
There is nothing wrong with these books. They are like cheeseburgers, or pizza. But just as eating pizza every day would turn me into a tired, slow-moving creature who needs to catch his breath after climbing a flight of stairs, reading only throw-away books would (and has) limited my powers of concentration and made it harder to read the books I really enjoy. In 2010, I’m trying to cut down on these books, but not cut them out entirely.
Beyond this vague guideline, there are also some set criteria.
ONE: I will read Don Quixote. I’ve wanted to read Don Quixote for freaking years. Someone told me it was one of the earliest, or possibly even first, novels ever written. My ex-girlfriend loves it, and gave me a copy for Christmas two years back. Terry Gilliam is supposedly back on track for finally making a Don Quixote film. This, then, is the year I will read Don Quixote.
TWO: I will read 2666 by Roberto Bolano. I’m putting this down as a criterion because it’s enormous, and I won’t get around to it otherwise. I went to a lot of trouble finding the thing, but for months now it’s been sitting there, slowly testing the structural integrity of my bookshelf.
THREE: I will get to know three contemporary authors this year. I hardly ever read contemporary authors, unless they’re horror or counter-culture, and I’d like to get a feeling for what’s out there – just seems like a good idea, in terms of my writing aspirations. “Getting to know” involves reading at least four books by each, so this will be a big part of my reading for this year. I’ve chosen two of the authors already: Kazuo Ishiguro and Harumi Murakami. The third one is TBC.
So there you go. As I write this, it’s January 23rd, and I’ve finished four books – I have the good fortune of being laid up with a bad cold, so that got me ahead slightly. That and the fact they’ve been fairly short books.
Oh, a quick final note on what to expect: as I said in the intro, I read a lot of horror. Recently this has been focused on ghost stories and weird fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I read modern books about people taking drugs, losing touch with reality, committing murder or committing suicide (or combinations of the same). I like transgressive stories about moral corruption and nihilism – oh, and existential alienation! That’s always a good one. But I’m not exclusive about these preferences, and hopefully my year’s reading won’t seem too fixated on these subjects.
Felix’s War Diary: 11 November 1918
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