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Minxminnie

The Year of Reading Dangerously

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This is a great book for any BGOer. It comes closer to the BGO attitude to reading than anything I've read elsewhere.

 

Andy Miller is working as a literary editor and has a young son when he starts to get frustrated at the fact that he actually reads very little of any substance. Despite having studied literature and working in books, he spends more time doing Suduko than he does reading. One day he takes refuge from the rain in a bookshop and impulse buys The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and surprises himself by enjoying it despite being initially a bit bamboozled.

 

This re-ignites his love of reading; he devises something with the (terrible) title of The List Of Betterment and challenges himself to complete a list of books which he should have read but hasn't.

 

The rest of the book is an account of what happened next, and a reflection on reading, on what counts as a good book, on how to cope with having lots of books, on book groups and e-readers ... basically, lots of things which we talk about on BGO. 

 

He is very self-deprecating and the book is very funny and engaging. I expected it to be an explanation of each of the books in turn, but it's not, and you can easily read the sections about books you don't fancy or those you haven't read yet. He doesn't spoil the endings or detail the plots, and it's easy to skim read the bits which are of less interest (for me, that was the Krautrock stuff.)

 

It has widened my horizons a bit about books I might read, and given me some good ideas of ones I should avoid, but it is more about reading per se. Really recommended.

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This sounds really up my street.  Thanks for the heads up MM.  What's Krautrock?

Edited by Viccie

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This sounds really up my street.  Thanks for the heads up MM.  What's Krautrock?

Broadly speaking, 1980s German electro-pop, like Kraftwerk. Wikipedia gives a more helpful description and dates it from the late 60s onward.

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Have started The Year of Reading Dangerously. I don't seem to be bonding with the author so far although found some humorous bits. The one obscure (to me) book about a head rolling out from under the tramcar and supposedly the story having to do with the Russian political system, had me wondering why anyone would want to wade through an incomprehensible book. I realize that the author was an English lit graduate so his knowledge and interest would be a lot different from mine. Even him standing on the corner of the street with a copy of the Communist Manifesto waiting for his mother had me thinking that this might not be the book for me. Maybe MM can set me on the right path and give me a better insight.  :( 

 

 

The post above is from momac - couldn't quite make it say that when copying!

I'm sorry you don't like it momac, especially if I convinced you to order it! Maybe it's not the book for you, but I'll give you my thoughts anyway.

 

I think that I had the same reaction to The Master and Margarita - it didn't appeal to me and I couldn't quite get why he persevered.

 

However, he did become fascinated by the book and remembered that reading could work in different ways - that persevering with a less obvious choice could open up reading experiences that he otherwise wouldn't have.

I could relate to that. When I'm busy, I'm too ready to discard books because they don't immediately appeal, and I maybe discard books which would take a bit longer to pay off. It's not something everyone needs to do, and it's not a superior type of reading as far as I'm concerned; everyone should read exactly what they feel like. But the book really becomes a reflection on his own relationship with books, which I really enjoyed.

 

Like the writer, I also studied literature at university, but I would argue that doesn't make you a better reader or one who can sit in judgement of others' choices. It just gives you a permanent guilt complex for not reading more and a constant niggling feeling that you're reading to a deadline and you need to get on with it.

But if anything, it is a good reminder that when you were young and had the encouragement, you read and developed opinions on some of the most challenging things ever written, and you, and everyone else, can do it. Certainly, it is good to understand the context of books and the conventions a particular writer is playing with; this opens up certain texts which, quite rightly, won't be read by the average reader, and adds an extra dimension to those which will continue to be popular. But all that information is freely available for any general reader who cares to look into it, if they want to.

 

However, I would argue that a really good book should be able to be enjoyed without that, and  think Andy Miller agrees - he responds to The Master and Margarita as a general reader rather than a literature student.

 

I thought the bit about the Communist Manifesto was hilarious, especially as he had been in a tea room eating a "bourgeois scone". I like the way he sends himself up like this.

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Thanks MM, I still have the book sitting on my Kindle, so I can get back to it any time I want.  He is self-deprecating and that's humorous, so I'll just let it sit and percolate and have a look at it from time to time, no need to tackle it all at once, maybe for me it will be better in short segments.

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Thanks MM; no need to tackle it all at once, maybe for me it will be better in short segments.

Oh, I definitely agree. I read it all in one go but I thought it was really designed to be read in much smaller chunks.

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Oh, I definitely agree. I read it all in one go but I thought it was really designed to be read in much smaller chunks.

 

 

MM - I just finished a rather dark book by Peter Robinson, well written and interesting but the crime he was seeking to solve was of a particularly violent and nasty nature so it was quite a relief when I started back in at The Year of Reading Dangerously and found myself laughing at Andy Miller attempting some of the recipes in the book, The Sea, The Sea.  His humour is really understated which makes it that much funnier.  Also the fact that he and his wife had a number of recipe books in the kitchen and their guest remarks at how clean they are as his are usually stained and finger marked - of course, they had never been used which accounted for their pristine condition.

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