ms_bracken (ms_bracken) wrote,

Vincennes Review of Books 2010

Last year, my aim was really to read more books - I had been disappointed by how relatively little I'd read in 2009, and wanted to get my book larnin' game back on.

I did this! Last year, one useful thing that I did was to track books read against commute time (I did not put this graph on the internet as it was not pretty enough). Fairly unsurprisingly, when I was commutng two and a half hours a day, I read significantly more and - since my commute was not going to change - something else had to. This thing was that I stopped putting my book in my bag in the morning, and instead held onto it on the walk down the the train station. Turns out that many mornings I couldn't be bothered to take a book out of my rucksack, which is shockingly lazy now that I write it down.

Obviously this wasn't the only thing I did to increase the number of books I read; I also read some really really short books. Examples of the works of deathless art I have ploughed my way through this year include a novella by the guy who writes Hipster Runoff, Paul Rand's Conversations With Students and an unauthorized Justin Bieber biography. Speaking of the Paul Rand, though, I can heartily recommend it if you feel like there is not enough smugness in your life currently! I can also recommend the Justin Bieber biography if you enjoyed the wikipedia entry on Atlanta, GA, but feel like it would be even better if it were printed in a book.

Another thing that I changed about the way I read was to read only non-fiction at home (although I dropped this in order to read Infinite Jest, of which more later), which definitely ramped the amount of non-fiction that I read -

- although there was no consistent theme to the non-fiction, so this year it would be good to read more around a specific topic.

Part of my non-fiction reading, and a bit that I particularly enjoyed, was reading my friend's PhD theses. I read slemslempike's thesis on FUN and slightlyfoxed's thesis on coming out stories. (Disclaimer! Apparently "that's not my thesis, that's my monograph." But it seems tidier to group them together and it was a thesis at one point). Whilst I didn't know enough to get the most out of either of these, they both introduced me to entire disciplines that I had not known of before - which I did not expect to happen, and which will make for interesting future reading.

I also read some long books! Specifically 2666 and Infinite Jest. 2666 continues to haunt me - of all the books I've read this year it is possibly the one that I think about most. On the topic of Infinite Jest - noone told me it was funny! It's very funny and a much easier read than I was expecting. Although I was pretty shellshocked by the fact that it finished... when it finished. It's possible that by that stage I couldn't really envision a time when I wasn't reading it, since it took about a month. Anyway, if you've not read it and sort of want to but aren't sure, it's excellent and you definitely should.

Aims for next year! I am going to accept that I'm probably not going to re-read Anna Karenina, but rolling over the "read more Patrick Hamilton" aim that I did not meet in 2010.
- Give Ivy Compton-Burnett another shot, it's possible that I've matured since I decided (in 2004) I couldn't get into her
- Foucault's Pendulum - this feels like a book I should already have read! Also I enjoyed The Name Of The Rose (although I enjoyed it five years ago)
- Some of slemslempike's girlhood studies and related books

Previous years here, by the way - 2009, 2007, 2006.
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Seriously, I'd emphasise the "relative" in "relatively little in 2009". I mean, 38 is nearly twice what I read this year, and I had a good year! And last year I read about nine books, though it felt like more, which made me very sad.

So, you know, don't beat yourself up about it (or rub it in, natch).

I think Infinite Jest is on the cards for next year. Although I'm pretty sure any time I've suggested I might read it, you were less than complementary about my ambitions versus ability.

Also: I think I'm buying a Kindle purely to read the big hardbacks I own - all the Baroque Cycle, 2666, etc - on the train, because I am really bored of all the books I like being heavy. The James Ellroys have been pushing it this year.
Yeah, it's very much relative. Also, and I did try to point this out in my entry, I read a reasonable number of books that fit anywhere on the bad to mediocre spectrum, so any count is going to be chock full o ballast.

I'm pretty sure any time I've suggested I might read it, you were less than complementary about my ambitions versus ability.

I had not read Infinite Jest when I cast those aspersions! Redacted, redacted. And I can see the benefits of a Kindle for that and other weighty books. If you're taking it on the train it's about as heavy as a toddler.
Ah, but what I like about the physicality MASSIVE books is also the pleasure of seeing how much you've read of it/how much of the MIGHTY MOUNTAIN OF WORDS you have scaled.

(Dude, would you ever be interested in reading my thesis?)
The mountain of words aspect was nice! The aaargh footnote arrgh footnote to footnote aaaargh train going round a corner LOST MY PLACE aspect, less so.

I'd definitely be interested in reading yr thesis. You have my email addresss...
Hahahahahha you didn't know about FUN until this year? :)

also co-sign on Focault's Pendulum! The first 50 pages are a bit of a slog but then it's awesome and fair cracks along. I, on the other hand, have never read in the name of the rose, although I've read the rest of Eco's big novelly things (but not theory etc)
No, and fun is totally amazing, I think you would like it! (The thesis was kind of about the limits of fun - i.e. what counts as such, i.e. the implications of the fact that having a not very good time in a club is still characterised as FUN whereas having a lovely time sitting on the sofa reading a book is not.)

This Eco news is good news. And I have The Name Of The Rose if you fancy a read of it, it is ace.
And I have FP if you want to do an Eco swap?
S'do it!
oh you definitely have to read Foucault's Pendulum, it is sheer delight and much more a silly airport historical thriller than anyone gives it credit for.
This is basically exactly what I wanted to hear. Good-o!
I think the phrase we're both avoiding here is "it's like a good, intelligent, well-written Da Vinci Code" (I avoided it ftb never having read DVC)
I like to think of it as more of a good, intelligent, well-written The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail* tbh

**I have never read THB&THG
Ha, I was going to reply to cis with "well, I've read the Da Vinci Code and they're basically the same, right?" and then... avoided that.
Dude, this kind of post makes me wish for more LJ. I wish that the smart people I know wrote more at length pieces rather than Facebook oneliners. I am particularly impressed by your use of graphs.

I sadly lost my diary in the middle of the year, so don't have a complete record of what I read. Not that much, this year, I fear. Also, walking in as opposed to commuting means I read less.
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it, I must remember that writing is not as hard as I think it is.

I suspect I'd miss commuting a bit if I could walk to work - it's nice to have time to read in when I'd otherwise be bored rather than time when I'd otherwise be asleep...