Strange Horizons Book Club and a moment of reflection

OmbriaThe Strange Horizons book club on Patricia A. McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow is now live; go and take a look. We had a really good discussion, which looks set to continue in the comments; I hope the SH book club goes on to be a regular and reliable source of interesting discussion about books.

This experience (amongst other things) has set me thinking about reading and what I want to get from it. I’m not the only blogger who’s been doing that sort of thing recently – see this post by Simon Savidge, for instance. Now, I’m happy enough to be a prolific – and relatively fast – reader; but Simon’s points about reading mechanically, in a way that does a disservice to a book and yourself resonated with me. This is not necessarily an issue of quantity: for me, it’s a matter of what I want reading to be.

The truth is, in the last few years I’ve read too many books which have essentially done little more than pass the time along, which is not what I want. The most powerful books I read change my world, get under my skin, inspire thoughts that I have to write down and share – that’s what I want.

Of course there will be ups and downs. The odd makeweight book is inevitable, especially when you like to take chances in your reading. Equally, I’m not saying that every good book has to scale the highest of heights to be worthwhile. But there have been too many times when I’ve knowingly kept on reading something just for the sake of it; or when I’ve read with more of an eye for having something to post on the blog than for why I’m reading. It shouldn’t be that way.

So here’s a resolution to be more selective in what I read and keep reading.There may be fewer posts on the blog, but maybe not; I expect I will read fewer books, but shouldn’t feel short-changed for that. After all, reading is not a competitive sport, not even if it’s just competing against yourself. Rather, it’s a journey of discovery, and the point of this blog was to share that discovery – so that’s what I aim to keep in mind.

4 Comments

  1. Well said. I took almost three months off from blogging and rediscovered the joy of reading for my own sake, not the blog’s sake. I stopped reading an endless diet of new books and pulled books from my shelf that had been sitting there for years and years. I had one of the best summers of reading I can remember for a long while.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, David. Along similar lines, I used to have an if-I’ve-started-it-I’ll-damn’-well-finish-it policy. Then, with advancing years (insert phthisic cough here) and the realization that the number of books one can read in a lifetime is finite, I introduce the 100-pages rule: if I get to page 100 and I’m still unmove, that’s it. More recently there’s been the introduction of the 50-pages rule . . .

    And, leading on from what kimbofo says, over-reading for the wrong purposes can be frightening. Years ago I judged a literary award and had to read several score books in a period of six months or so. After I’d finished, it was some months before I could pick up a book for pleasure: my reading was confined to work stuff and the newspaper.

  3. Blogging has to follow reading. I’ve seen more than one blogger start to let the needs of the blog drive their reading choices, and it’s not good for the reader (or indeed the blog ironically).

    How will you choose which books to read and which not going forward?

  4. David H

    30th October 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. I’ve thought about taking a break from blogging before, but the truth is I don’t really want to – if I read a book I loved, I’d want to come back on here and tell people about it.

    I do need to cut back on the new books, though. It’s true that some of my very favourite books were brand new when I read them; but I need to have a more careful approach to it.

    To answer Max’s question, I think I’m just going to keep a firm idea in my mind of what I want from reading, and judge the likelihood of a book meeting that. Right now, I’m getting more and more into books that engage with form and voice (they’re the books I seem to find most inspiring), and I still want to read more translations. That’ll do as a starting point, I think.

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