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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Year of Reading Backwards...

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I'm not a re-reader. I could actually count on one hand the books I've ever re-read (well certainly no more than two hands). Life has always seemed too short to be going over old ground when there are so many new books being published every day. Of course, it's totally unrealistic to think that anyone could ever keep up with this deluge of books yet I still feel a niggling pressure to somehow keep on top of major new releases (a legacy from my bookshop days, no doubt ,where 'keeping up' was part of the job description).

There are many inherent dangers in only reading 'new releases'. The most obvious is that you're often reading ahead of reviews and have to wade through a lot of very bad books to find the gems and, let's face it, life's definately too short for that. How short I hear you ask? Well, I recently found 3000 Books which helped me crunch the numbers. If I read 30 books a year and live to the average life-expectancy of an Australian female (83) then I only have time to read another 1200 books before I shuffle off this mortal coil! Now, that really pulled me up and stiffened my resolve to stop wasting time on books that really don't deserve my attention.

So this year I'm approaching my reading from a completely different perspective.

I'm going to join Anglea over at Literary Minded in reading 20 classic, modern classic or cult books in 2011 (I've never read any Henry James, Evelyn Waugh or George Orwell)

I'm going to read things that have been waiting patiently on my shelves for many years (I'm looking at you Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy and Pat Barker's Ghost Road) and...

I'm going to re-read some of my favourite books (like The English Patient, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Middlemarch)

That doesn't mean that I won't sneak in the odd new release or thriller but I like the idea of having a little project to guide me. Perhaps you'd like to join me? If you're looking for a little inspiration you might like to check out the new range of specially priced Vintage Classics at the official site here or here where you can see more books per page.

Are you a re-reader? Are you in the grip of the 'new release'? Do you have any good classics you'd like to recommend?


  1. I really must stop reading this blog and go to bed (where I can read 'One Good Turn' by Kate Atkinson, a sort of murder mystery parody that is taking my mind off other, more real and grim events. But I have to insist that you read 'I Capture The Castle' by Dodie Smith (of 101 Dalmations fame). My husband would insist that you read Scoop (E Waugh) and our little girl would probably plump for Peepo, or Don't Forget The Bacon, or Madeline... And you could visit my friend Ann's blog at - where she is attempting to read 111 books in 2011.

  2. This is a really timely post Caz with it being World Book Day on Wednesday.
    I love ones about books.

    I've just spent ages writing a comment here and then accidentally deleted it!! I hate when that happens...sorry I haven't got time to re-do it now but will respond with recommendations tomorrow.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations Lucy. I've never read 'I Capture the Castle' but it is a favourite with many people I know and love so consider it on the list, ditto 'Scoop' which has been sitting on the shelf for ages. As to your little girl's recommendations I'm all over 'Peepo' and 'Madeline' but I'd love to know more about 'Don't Forget the Bacon'!

  4. P.S. Lucy. I did check out Ann's blog after seeing her comments on your site. Not sure I can make it to 111 books in a year but you never know!

  5. I know how flat out you are at the moment Deb so no rush. I've got 'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' on my list - how are you enjoying it?

  6. Oh that's a wonderful idea ... I sometimes worry about that time vs book ratio ... there's only so much time to devote to reading them!

    I'll have a think on what I'd recommend, but it sounds like you're already off to a fantastic start. :)

  7. I am enjoying ‘The Windup Bird Chronicles’ thanks Caz. Hannah suggested I read it and lent me a copy because I still haven’t got round to getting the books I want to read this year, which incidentally includes Bruce Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia.’ It is very unusual with lots of little incidents occurring and some naughty bits. I love his chapter titles and I am warmed to the main protagonists character. There are little things that he or other characters see or do that touch a chord with me …and it reminded me that I haven’t read anything by Tennessee Williams…I must.

    As for recommendations I agree with Lucy about ‘I Capture the Castle’…it’s a lovely gentle coming of age novel like Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ ‘Sophie’s Choice’ by William Styron also has that similar adolescent want-to-be writer narrative aspect to it. I would add Thomas Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, Steinbeck’s ‘Cannery Row’ and Ralph Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’ the latter being two of my favourite modern classics.

    I’m working my way through any books on Hannah’s reading list that I haven’t read before. Next up is Flaubert’s Madam Bovary if I don’t get distracted before then and I’ve never read anything by Dostoevsky and want to do so because I love Russian literature.

    I'm sure that as soon as I've posted this comment I'll think of better suggestions...I think it's a great idea have fun....

  8. Thanks for the recommendations Deb. Tom's just finished 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and kept muttering under his breath with frustration at Tess' behaviour! I read Madam Bovary once a long time ago and had the same reaction (very frustrating woman!) but perhaps I've mellowed a bit since then and would feel more sympathetic now;). I've just finished 'House of Mirth' which has a similarly frustrating main character but I loved it just the same as I'm a huge Edith Wharton fan.

    I'm going to put 'The Invisible Man' on my list and I'd like to suggest 'Crime and Punishment' for you - not a classic for no reason. I'm thinking of tackling 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina' too. Somehow I don't think a year is going to be long enough!

  9. this is a wonderful plan. i am always trying to balance out my classics with my new fiction reading. and tho i enjoy them i realize i haven't had a reread in quite a long time.