I always aim to do at least one blog post a week, and aside from one week in August plus the time I was away, I’ve kept up with that. It’s particularly easy now that Doctor Who is on and I can post my thoughts on each week’s episode. But I don’t feel I’ve been living up to my blogging potential for a while. I used to do reviews on here for practically every book I read; that hasn’t been happening lately, aside from my gushing about how great The Martian was. If I have particular thoughts on a book I’ve read (or listened to) in the past few months, I’ve just been doing a little review on Goodreads.
More recently, it’s been the same with films: I’ve kept up with my New Year’s resolution and watched one new film a week (even when not counting new ones I see in the cinema), and I’ve been writing short reviews on them each month – but I haven’t really wanted to do that for the September batch. I have general opinions I could give – I enjoyed Network and The Raid 2, I thought Fast Girls was too generic, and I was disappointed with The Apartment and Escape From Alcatraz – but I don’t feel compelled to go into detail. For the last two films I watched this month (Fargo and Chinatown), I didn’t bother to take notes.
So what’s the problem? It could be linked to the fact that I’ve been feeling down lately, for a number of personal reasons. But also, I currently haven’t been wanting to go into a book or film thinking about how I’m going to review it. I made these particular New Year’s resolutions to get lots of new books and films into this year for my own personal experience, and I’ve wanted to focus on that – aside from when something leaves such a big impression on me that I just have to talk about it.
But then, the book I’ve just read does fall under that category.
The theme of the individual experience is central to The Year Of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. When I bought it from Waterstone’s, the girl at the checkout told me it was a great book. This was ironic as in the book itself, Miller – who used to work in a bookshop – mentions how selling books and giving honest opinions to customers often don’t go hand in hand. But as it turned out, I really loved this book.
The concept is really quite simple: it’s a non-fiction account of how Miller – having lost touch with reading due to work and family demands – made a list of books he was “ashamed not to have read” and committed himself to reading them, gradually expanding the list until he had read fifty books in one year. There’s plenty of additional detail inside this framework, as Miller talks about the history of some of the books, how their themes link to his past and present life, and a range of facets in the whole world of books, from libraries to e-reading. Ultimately, it’s one man’s account of his relationship with reading, and I thought it was fantastic: not just because it was so readable, but because it encouraged me to think. It introduced concepts that I had never properly thought about or put into words before.
Miller makes it clear that when he presents his ‘List of Betterment’, found in the appendix, it’s not meant as a list of books that you yourself should read before you die or anything like that. I currently haven’t read most of the books on the list myself, and listening to some of the descriptions, I wasn’t always compelled to check them out even when Miller himself liked them (though I was inspired to read some Tolstoy and Wodehouse in the near future). But that’s not the point: Miller is describing how each book spoke to him. The stories he really liked, such as Atomised and Absolute Beginners, are the ones who made a particular connection with his own character and mind. And surely that’s how it is for everyone. There are so many different books out there that whoever you are, there must be some that you can connect with because of your individuality. I’ve connected with a number of books because the characters felt like me in some ways: The Rosie Project, The Universe versus Alex Woods, and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower before it started getting too melodramatic. And it’s not just characters: I don’t have much in common with Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian, but I connected with the science and space travel elements, and Watney was perfect at guiding me through what was going on.
So learning about one man’s reading experiences in The Year of Reading Dangerously has compelled me to think about my own approach, and it always feels nice when a book stimulates me like that. This year, like last year, I’ve kept up good reading habits. Signing up for Goodreads has given me additional focus: earlier this week, I hit my Goodreads target of 40 books for the year. In both 2014 and 2015, just under half the books I read were on the Kindle, which seems about right as I tend to alternate between Kindle and paperback. Audiobooks, which I’ve been reading more of in 2015, are usually for the bus. There’s been no real order to it: some of the books have been on my list for some time, while I just happened to come across others, many of which I discovered through blogging or Comic Con stalls. They’ve represented a range of genres, and I’ve found merit in most of them. That’s another of the messages in The Year of Reading Dangerously: reading is a good habit which does make your life better. I’m definitely glad that I’ve read all the books I have, even when I wasn’t that impressed with them.
This hasn’t turned out to be a traditional book review, but I’m still giving The Year of Reading Dangerously a 5/5. As for what I’ve said at the beginning about my blog, I’ll just have to see what blogging desires the future brings – I do have some plans for new projects at least.
Also, reading is awesome.