The OF Blog: Personal reading challenge, week two, plus comment on a reading metadiscussion elsewhere

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Personal reading challenge, week two, plus comment on a reading metadiscussion elsewhere

Later today, probably in the late afternoon or evening hours (the late morning to be devoted to trying to sleep again and the mid-afternoon to watching my beloved Vols play in the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament for the men and the women playing in the first round), I plan on writing a full review of John F. Williams' non-fiction reflective piece, Hating Perfection.  With that, I will have closed out my planned 7 reviews in 7 days with 7 reviews in 6 days (plus sometime this weekend or early next weekend, I'll review at least one of two books I read just prior to that, either Gail Carriger's Changeless and/or Karin Lowachee's The Gaslight Dogs) of books I hadn't read prior to this past week.

I enjoyed mixing in books that I had purchased earlier with review copies of books that I ordinarily would have set aside.  Forcing myself to write at least 750 words (I believe the shortest was actually just over 850 words) per book, regardless of what positive or negative things I had to say, was a learning experience that I hope will help me to continue to grow as a reader and as a critic.  I found surprises in some of the works read.  I also found myself struggling to remain engaged with the text.  Whenever this happened, I made sure to note it in my reflective review essays.

Since I really need something to keep me active while I wait for the tedium of arranging to take tests for further certification and for admission to graduate school (in hopes that I can get a full grant), I decided to expand this personal challenge for at least another week and probably one more week after this one.  Again, I chose a mixture of purchased and received works, hopefully with a variety of styles and genres.  This time, I expanded the already-ambitious reading schedule (mind you, I'm also reading through a few lit journals and magazines this week!) to include a couple of series-in-progress.  One of the books has already been read, but since there are two other books in the series to date to be read, I plan on writing a single review of those three volumes.  Same holds true for another series, as I never got around to reading the first volume and will read that and the second and then weigh in with my opinions.  Below are the books (series listed on the same line) that I plan on reviewing, starting probably on Sunday but possibly late tonight if I have the time:

J.K. Huysmans, The Damned (Là-Bas)
Kate Griffin, A Madness of Angels; The Midnight Mayor
Kenzaburo Oe, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness:  4 Short Novels
Karel Čapek, War With the Newts
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Empire in Black & Gold; Dragonfly Falling; Blood of the Mantis
Alasdair Gray, Lanark:  A Life in 4 Books
Saul Bellow, More Die of Heartbreak

Hopefully, this roundness of texts will keep me engaged and not to fall into any of those ruts that I fear so much.  Interestingly, while I was making up my mind to continue doing this, Gav over at NextRead, apparently at the prompting of Mark Newton, has written two posts, called "Why Not Just Read and Review the Books You Want to Read?" and "Books Can Wait...Can't They?"  My initial response was to think to myself, "Yes, you can read and review what you want to read, but what really is the best for you in reading?"  By that, I mean what is going to engage you as the reader most and what has the most potential to act as a positive agent for personal change (or edification or entertainment, in the older senses of that word)?  Is it reading the newer stuff, just to see if you can discover something before the masses do?  Or is there a greater appeal in approaching the older works and seeing how you, the reader, measure up to those august texts?

There is an attraction in doing both.  My list above certainly reflects this.  Out of the 10 books listed there, five are older works published before 1990.  Only one of those is a SF work.  The other five are two ongoing series, each begun in the past two years.  A work written during the time of the Decadents.  Two "urban fantasies" set in London.  An omnibus of translated Japanese fiction.  An early 20th century Czech SF novel written by the author who graced us with a new meaning for "robot."  Three epic fantasy novels.  One of the more surreal novels of the 1980s.  And a latter novel by a Nobel Prize-winning novelist.  Much to learn.  ¡Viva la diferencia!


Liviu said...

The one thing to note is that the Tchaikovsky series completes its first arc with the just published (UK) Salute the Dark and all four can be read as a finished series; reading only the first three is like reading 3/4 of a huge novel

Regarding the question - how you choose what you read - it depends a lot on why you read and here everyone has his/her own answers

Personally I think that it essentially does not matter as long as you read since the statistics (partly depressing - only these many people?, partly cheering - these many readers in an age of twitter, facebook, games, tv, and all 5 minute stuff!!) show that the gap is between the habitual readers and the rest

Larry said...

I know. I surpassed the average American's yearly book reading by the second day of the year, if not the first. Sad.

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