Advice for 2015 - Enjoy the Read

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
It’s the last day of 2014.  Many folks are putting together lists of resolutions for the New Year.  This is one of those posts but not full of items such as exercising more, making my bed every day, being nice to people, etc.  This post is all about books.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal through Goodreads of reading 25 books over the next twelve months.  I proud to say that while I didn’t quite reach my goal, I did read 24 books.  To be fair, I believe I started, stopped and tossed aside an equal number of books over the same amount of time. Nothing out of the ordinary there for me.

There were a number of memorable books amongst those I finished this year, some of which were books I normally would not have picked up.  However, I decided to expand my horizons and open myself up to enjoying other genres and taking recommendations from others.  Some of my favourites this year were The Orchardist, The Shootist, The Red Tent and World of Trouble (final installment of The Last Policeman trilogy).  Interestingly enough, those four faves are all fiction.  This year definitely saw a reduction in the amount of nonfiction titles I finished.  

The final book of 2014 for me was Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously.  I learned of Andy through Sylvia’s Twitter feed where we had a discussion about, not surprisingly, books and I learned Andy was a writer. His book sounded interesting so I added it to my list of “to be read”.  A week or so later, I received a gift card from a friend and decided to pick up a couple of ebooks. The Year of… was a steal at only $5 so I downloaded a copy and dove in.  Loved it.  

Beginning in my teens and throughout my adult life, I’ve felt a little bit of pressure to read the “classics”.  You know what I mean, those books everyone who’s anyone who reads has read and says you should read as well (what an odd sentence).  You study them in school, they have their own shelves in book stores. Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, etc. As I began exploring many of these books, I found myself loving many of them.  There were others however that I struggled with and gave up on.  A few of these (War and Peace, Moby Dick), I gave up on three or four times.  I always wondered why I couldn’t get through them or why I didn’t enjoy them as much as I felt I should. They’re classics for a reason, right?  

Reading Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously, the main thing I took away from it was that different books resonate with different people….differently. There I go again. You and I will not take away the same things from reading the same book. You’re not going to “get” every book you choose to read.  And that is ok.  There were times when Andy himself didn’t quite get each book he started.  The difference was that he stuck with his books (with one exception) while I gave up on mine.  He managed to finish (and enjoy) both Moby Dick and War and Peace. Argh.  Andy’s book gave me permission to not get so hung up on the details if they’re bogging me down.  It’s ok to not understand the intricacies of every book I pick up (there’s a reason people write their PhD thesis on some of these works and spend their lives studying them) but to enjoy the story. I’m pretty sure that was probably not the point of his book but it’s what I took away from reading it.  And that made all the difference in the world to me. 

Andy’s list of his 50 books included some I’d already read and enjoyed, ones I’d wanted to read for a while, and others I’d never heard of.  While 50 books is out of the question for me this year, I’m upping my goal for 2015 to 30.  I’m enjoying reading once again although I’m struggling to find nonfiction works that interest me. This is a bit of disappointment for me but I will not be dissuaded.  I don’t have a list of 30 books ready to go for the New Year – my tastes and desires change almost daily.  However, I’m stating publicly that I my first book will be Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.  I will also be trying to read some Dickens but am not sure what to start with (suggestions please!). 

2 comments:

Eugene K. said...

The Brothers K is an ambitious, but as I recall from many years agoo when I read it, wonderful read. I recall in particular the parable in the book on the Grand Inquisitor on the nature of man, a piece of writing that has stuck with me for many years. I would like to recommend another Russian author to you, Isaac Babel. Babel was a short story writer who was eventually disappeared by Stalin's people. His family escaped and his wife went on to teach at a University in the States. Babel's writing is usually packaged as a collection. There are two main streams in his stories. One is the Odessa stories - all about Jewish gangsters, and in particular, Benya Krik, The King. The other stream of stories is known as the Red Cavalry Stories, very short stories based on his actual adventures in the army. Very unusual writing.

Eugene K said...

This year I read fewer than my usual pile of books. I'm just finishing up Duddy Kravitz. I liked a book called Jim the Boy quite a bit. I also really enjoyed The Sisters Brothers. I don't read many biographies but I read Blind but now I See about Doc Watson the guitar picker, and that was pretty good. The most topical book I read this year was Crazy Town by Robyn Doolittle all about Rob Ford. Living in Toronto, Rob Ford news was top of mind for everyone.

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