It’s been a mixed year so far on the reading front. On the one hand, I’ve read ten books so far which is good. On the other, there have been some disappointing reads. The start of the year saw me in lockdown again so I was able to get a lot of reading done. Now I’m back at work, I’m not so sure that I’ll get through some of the very big titles on my list. We’ll see.
The main achievement so far is having finished Middlemarch. I’m not really one for the classics so reading such a long book was a big ask. My main motivation was it is one of my father in law’s favourite books and he doesn’t really approve of a lot of the things I read (Terry Pratchett, David Mitchell, anything with a hint of fantasy or magic realism, in fact) so I don’t think he really believed I’d manage it. It was a slog for most of it. It was only the last two hundred pages where I felt compelled to find out what would happen. Now it’s finished, I’m glad I read it but mostly just because I can now say I’ve read it.
I’ve been trying to read more widely. My default option is male, white authors such as Julian Barnes, Chuck Palahniuk, Ian Rankin and Markus Zusak. Okay so often they have interesting things to say about masculinity but I’m trying to get out of this comfort zone. So I’m trying to read more women, LGBT writers and writers of colour. So far this year, this has brought me some of my favourite reads – Take Nothing With You by the fabulous Patrick Gale, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – all of which are much recommended.
The other thing I set myself to do this year was to read more current fiction. I read a lot of contemporary fiction but not usually things that were out in the last couple of years. This hasn’t panned out quite so well. I found Where the Crawdads Sing tedious (as I so often do with things that have been really popular) and David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue was just disappointing. One thing with reading things from twenty+ years ago – it’s easier to know what is good because they have stood the test of time.
Another thing I’ve wanted to do is expand the genres I read in. I try as much as possible to read a variety of genres. It’s at least partly responsible for some of my less good reads. A lot of the people I’m friends with on Goodreads seem to read only one genre and they post a lot of five star reviews but I know that I would be bored with that. I view it as basically reading the same book over and over. My favourite genres are probably dystopia (I’ve already read two this year) and detective fiction and I fall back on them a lot but I try to make sure I step outside them as much as possible. So I’m currently reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre – spy fiction being very much unchartered territory for me – and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not sure how much of this genre I will read in the future but I think I will explore some of Le Carre’s back catalogue.
As it’s nearly the Easter holidays, and once I’ve finished Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I’m going to embark on another of the large classics on my list – probably Moby Dick. And then it will be on to some non-fiction as I’ve not read any of that yet this year. Although often when I make proclamations about what I am going to read, I completely abandon them. One thing is for sure, it will be an interesting reading year.
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