Serious Reading


I read a lot – always have done and love it to bits. But I realised last year that I was reading to unwind, to de-clutter the head and generally de-fizz, rather than with any view to appreciating good literature.  Don’t get me wrong:  I was still reading a sprinkling of classics and future-classics, but light relief definitely had the upper hand.

It might be because I’m getting older and I’m wondering when I’m ever going to read the myriad of books that we’re all supposed to read in our lifetime. It might have been triggered by a clear-out of the bookshelves that left unread “proper” books sitting as a reproach.  Or it might be because I read an inordinate amount of non-fiction – travel; biography; current affairs; history – last year.

Whatever the reason, I intend to plug some of the gaps in my reading in the course of 2016.

On the go is Possession (A S Byatt), and Midnight’s Children, Beloved and The House of Mirth are jostling to be next in line.  (They’re part of the reproach brigade, already perched on the shelves.)  I might go back to The Kite Runner (I stopped at that bit, for those who’ve read it or heard about it), but I don’t feel strong enough to have a third assault on War and Peace, not having got through the first battle scene on the two previous attempts.

A friend recommended Stoner:  A Novel, which is ready and waiting on the Kindle for next time I’m travelling, but I’m not sure what else to read.  I’m feeling a gap in American literature of the 1930s to 1950s, but there are no specific works in mind.

I like a good, strong story; immersive fiction is preferred; and I don’t cope well with gore, humiliation or violence. I’m happy to read works in translation and I don’t mind long books.

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

7 thoughts on “Serious Reading

  1. RedHeadedBookLover

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  2. mrtrench

    I can heartily recommend ‘Stoner’ – possibly I was the one who recommended it to you anyway. I also enjoyed ‘Midnight’s Children’; once you have read it read Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’ and just confirm to me that it is heavily influenced! I can recommend the Updike Rabbit novels and also ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Adichie

    I currently have two on the go. ‘Letter to my Father’ by Kafka is as you would expect: rather sombre with some fantastic turns of phrase and ‘On Black Sisters Street’ by Unigwe – which hasn’t really fully engaged me yet but I am only about 20 pages in.

    Perhaps you can give me your top five tips?

    • Thanks for the tips. I’ve read White Teeth so I’ll think about how that might have been influenced by Midnight’s Children when I read that. That might be my next book.
      If you like long books, try The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt or The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. For something shorter, either Dolce Agonia or The Mark of the Angel (both by Nancy Huston) or The Debt to Pleasure by John Lancaster.
      I’ve heard good things about Elena Ferrante’s books set in Naples but I’d better try reading those before recommending them!

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