Wednesday, 30 March 2011

on reading

I love to read.  I'll read magazines, leaflets, even magazines that don't belong to me and could be about anything, for example, barges or chartered surveying.  I'll read other people's newspapers over their shoulders if the opportunity arises and I love a good poke around in someone else's bookshelves.  I belong to a book group (more later) and one of the main reasons I decided to do a degree was the reading opportunities it offered in the very good library at Swindon College (I know, you didn't know it was there, either).

What I'm not very good at is reading things that don't interest me straight away.  I'm a skimmer, a picker-outer, a nugget seeker.  I can happily read an article on the bio-whatsits of frog faeces if I'm engaged with the writing and think I might be learning something.  However, give me a book that has a boring blurb or a first page that either dulls my senses or (at the other extreme) is too complicated and high-falutin' for my particular brain cells and I won't read it.

Libraries were made for people like me.  I have trained myself to use the library for potential books, especially where book group goes.  Our book group takes it in turns to choose a book for each session, we all read it and then discuss it when we've stopped talking about everything else in our respective lives.  We've discovered some real gems along the way and everyone takes care to choose something they think the group might enjoy or that they want to share.  Most people are very loyal and read the entire books.  I have become non-compliant and, if any of them read this, which I know maybe one or two do, I fear that one day there will be a book club cull and I will have to answer for my actions. 

My problem?  I truly believe that life is too short to read a book that I don't enjoy/doesn't inspire me/doesn't teach me anything and I'm not prepared to invest time that I could be using to read a book that does tick all my boxes to gamble on a book that might or might not beyond page 10 or 12.  Is that a terrible confession?  Should I add this to my list of failings?  Please forgive me oh patron saint of book reading, I cannot read a book just because one of my friends has recommended it?  Should I concentrate on doing the right thing and reading the book my friend recommends just because they're my friend?  I contemplate this question every few weeks, about 24 hours before book group when I have to admit to myself that I've ignored the proposed book for something else I've chosen.

This year's book group reading so far has been scuppered by Jonathan Franzen.  I received 'Freedom' for Christmas and then immediately bought 'The Corrections', his previous novel to go on to.  I've loved them both.  Love his language, love the dysfunctionality in it all.  Love his point of view on most of what he writes about.  I only read before I go to sleep so I can't read more than one novel at a time.  That would be too confusing and have unpredictable effects on my dream patterns.  I have about 50 pages of 'The Corrections' to go and our next book group book 'A Fraction of the Whole' on order at the library.  I'm going to have to time it right and make sure I have AFOTW right there when I finish Franzen, otherwise I'll be on to Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' before you can say 'you shouldn't judge a book by its cover'.


Gill said...

I've not managed to get into J Frantzen but have A Fine Balance there ready and waiting!

I am the same bad girl in my book group, often skimming the book hours before the meeting and then deciding on the way there whether to confess or to pretend and try to get away with it. But for some reason, I find it really hard to give up on a book half way through, feeling that I'm "giving up", which seems wrong. There's some deep psychological conditioning going on in my head, I think.

Have you read Hare with the Amber Eyes?

Only Me said...

I think you're quite right to stop reading a book if its not for you, but I'm like Gill I find it really hard to give up on a book once I've started and then it sits by the bed for ages and takes me for ever to finish, which is very frustrating, when there is a pile of want to read books underneath it.

Sue Gee said...

I have recently overcome the habit of "finishing what you have started." whether it be food, books or sewing projects - it sounds we are all victims of parents who went through'the depression.' Finising books I dont enjoy - makes me depressed! Finishing everything on my plate makes me depressed and over weight and finishing sewing projects that I never should have started makes me irritable and depressed!No wonder they went through the depression!!
I think a lot of books are in need of some serious editing. I have recently enjoyed 2 shortish book - My See Though Heart and Susan Hill's a Kind Man. Not a word was superflous, the writing skillful and the stories imaginative. Right now I am enjoying Dorothy Coombson's Goodnight Sweetheart! HAve to admit I gave up with Mr Franzen half way but am guilt free!