Tuesday, January 14, 2014

the arbness of book lists

book lists, i really don't get them. whether it's 32 books that will change your life or 50 incredibly difficult books for extreme readers or the guardian's top 100 books of all time or just the list that my goodreads literary adventures group wants to read in 2014, they're all so subjective. tho' the guardian isn't as far off as the others. i mean, that 50 difficult books list doesn't even include ulysses. not even i, who have had an entire semester-long course devoted only to ulysses and wrote a 25 page paper on it, have finished the damn thing. then there's my own list of the 88 books i read in 2013 (+ 7 harry potter, which aren't on the list). it's not so much subjective as eclectic. and i'm not recommending that anyone else follow it. i just like that goodreads helps me keep track of what i've read. i'd never have remembered reading all those books. hell, at my age, i hardly remember yesterday.

that said, i do love the book lists on brainpickings. they're often recommendations by theme, like this one of 9 books on reading and writing. especially because no. 9, mortimer j. adler's how to read a book, advocates writing in books as you read them (something which i love to do), saying that it's even essential to do so (with apologies to denmark's libraries). or this one, on the year's best books on writing and creativity. or the best children's, illustrated and picture books of 2013.  quality lists, thoughtfully composed, that i like.

my reading right now (and most of the time) is all over the place. i've spent far too long on this nick harkaway angelmaker book. it was recommended by the same bloggy friend who recommended edna farber's marvelous so big, so i had to read it, even if it wasn't the kind of book i'd normally read.  it is very imaginative and well-written, with lovely and unique turns of phrase, and even features some steampunk machinery, which i love, but for some reason, i'm reading it at a snail's pace. and it's not going to help that liz gilbert's signature of all things just arrived via amazon today, as i'm going to want to dive right into that. and i have to, because in ten days, i have a book club meeting where we're going to discuss it (plus it was my idea to read it for the book club, so i'd better have finished it).

how do you decide what to read? do you read more than one book at a time (that's part of my problem)? does the internet get in the way of your reading? or does knitting? i recently listened to an audio book of a danish thriller while knitting but i wonder if that counts as reading? when do you read? i tend to read before going to sleep, but if i'm enthralled by a book, i read whenever i can. i also often read while i'm eating lunch. i also like to read in front of the fire in the evening, that's probably my favorite reading time, but that can also be social, family time, so i don't always get to indulge in that.

what are you reading right now? and what will you read next? will you consult a list?


c is for cape town said...

Arbness! Love it.
My book list for 2013 was just so Id' remember what I read (also not being a big rememberer of yesterday!) and I think it has enriched each of those books for being able to look back along the list and be reminded of them. Also seeing the list as an entirety brought out interesting themes in my reading last year, which were unintentional to start off with. Seems I read a lot about grief last year.
But ja, generally book lists (similarly to my much watch list on Netflix) make me feel pressurised, and I don't like that. Reading books is pure enjoyment for me and I intend to keep it that way.

Magpie said...

i read more than one book at a time, all the time. they come at me from all quarters. i keep a list on my phone, so if i'm at the library, i can check the shelves in case something on the list is actually RIGHT THERE. or i pull things off of the large pile by my bed. it's totally erratic. :)

glad you're liking angelmaker.

Sammi said...

i can only read one book at a time, otherwise my poor brain gets confused. i had said that i was going to read all the books i own and have yet to read before i buy anymore but that hasn't exactly happened. and now i have douglas adam's hitchhikers guide series waiting for me and yesterday i went into a bargain book store and they had The Great Gatsby for £1,99 so I couldn't resist.

I don't know how I choose what to read, sometimes I read travel books when I'm feeling in need of adventure but am stuck here. Sometimes I read 'Classics' (I'm pretty determined that I will read the entirety of the Big Read's List in my life time) & sometimes I head for books with a cult following (Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska). I almost never bother with book charts, tho' I tend to keep my eye on the Booker Prize short list and add those to my to- read list.

Ariadne said...

So many questions... I don't follow lists, only some recommendations maybe. I buy books spontaneously, secondhand usually and try to read from my bookshelves all the TBR books. I read usually before I go to sleep but I agree that if it is something I really like I can read all day all the time. My special time to read is summertime by the sea. I read both in English and Greek usually alternating the language for variety. I only read one book at a time.I am reading Henry James' The Golden Bowl now. I don't recommend it for non-native speakers of English though. I find it too difficult, maybe a translation in Greek would have been better. AriadnefromGreece!

Veronica Roth said...

Speaking of arbness, that's me with books. I usually read what I come across, when I feel like it, what sounds like a good idea, favourite authors new books, but I'm notoriously fickle and discard a book half way thru if I'm bored. Reading the new book by Pratchett right now called Raising Steam (can't ever go wrong with a Pratch), and left a borrowed book half read in E - the first book of the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson; which I'm considering getting at the second hand book store to finish although I just about slashed my own wrists before the sixth chapter...terribly depressing beginning. Before that I reread four Beverly Nichols books (the Merry Hall ones plus Down the Garden Path), and on my bedside table are Bella Donna by Hitchens, Free Agent Nation by Pink, Wildwood by Meloy and about five Diane Ackerman's waiting for a reread. Oh, and The Zen Way by Schloegl; which is a daily read of a page or two. :)

will said...

Books tend to be in two catagories: 1. of substance and 2. something to do other than watch tv. I rarely watch tv.

I more or less stopped reading fiction some time ago and have instead focused on bios, historical and unique people/events.

Most recent reads: bauhaus archiv, Brassai Paris and Wit and Wisdom Patti Warashina.

And before those ... Austere Beauty - The Art of Z. Vanessa Helder and The Insurgents and The Plot To Change The American Way of War.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

I, just tonight, got myself a library card. In the 8 years we've lived here I had never gone. Recently I was bemoaning that I couldn't afford all of the books on my Amazon wishlist when I thought, duh. And off I went to the library.

I tend to read 1 or 2 books at a time but can only read what I'm in the mood for at that moment. (thanks, short attention span) Tonight I came home with a book on dyeing with native plants, a book by a local ex-congressman turned small farmer, and the Zero Waste home book. As I left thought I remembered that I wanted to read Murakami (because of your frequent raving but that will have to be another trip. I hope I'm in the mood for it then. :)

julochka said...

Molly - i have to go check my Read in 2013 list for themes. i fear more that it will reveal various psychoses, tho'.

Magpie - i'm glad you say you read multiple books at a time, that totally makes it ok that i do too (i'm such a flock animal (to directly translate from danish)).

Sammi - you haven't read the Hitchhiker's Guide yet. go do it now. i'll wait.

Ariadne - i have also enjoyed books by your adriatic sea in Thessaloniki and i totally understand that's your time for reading.

Veronica - i tried pratchett once, but i guess i wasn't in the mood and it didn't do it for me. maybe the timing was off. do you ever read your namesake, the other veronica roth's books?

Will - i have to intersperse the substance books with the less-substantive or i go mad. if you look at my 2013 list, there was a lot of non-fiction on it. but i am a fiction girl at heart. which is funny, because i think if i were to write, it would be non-fiction.

Lisa - you didn't have a library card? really? well, i didn't either until we moved over here to the boonies. now my local library is the source of my friends and social life. i love it! it's much more than just books.

Snap said...

I do LOVE Brainpickings -- get my little grey cells working. I sometimes have two books going -- one pure fluff and the other a history or *heavier* book. I mix the books in between life, crochet, knitting ... kitties ...