New for 2015: Welcome to David's Book World

My reading over the last few years has settled into a regular pattern. In a given year, I’ll read quite a lot of books that I end up thinking are OK; they pass the time long, but ultimately I don’t feel much attachment to them. I’ll read a fair number of books that I think are good (or better) and there’ll be just a precious few that change me and become favourites. That’s when I experience what Andy Miller (in The Year of Reading Dangerously) called “the dizzying force of books”; when reading becomes more – deeper – than a hobby for me.

I’ve tended to assume that this pattern is just a reflection of how things are – but what if I’m wrong? My favourite books, and the strong reactions they inspire, are the key to how and why I read; but I have never organised my reading around this, and now I want to see what happens if I do. In 2015, I’m going to go looking for books that affect me most deeply, and really try to explore what makes me tick as a reader.

What kinds of books am I talking about? Well, that’s a tricky question. They’re books as disparate as The Luminaries, New Model Army, Legend of a Suicide, Redemption in Indigo, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, and Hawthorn & Child – all these books, and others, have left me with intense feelings that I was compelled to write about. But each response was unique, and it’s difficult for me to pin down a common thread. I might suggest that my favourite books often carry some sense of their own artifice – certainly I have learned in recent years that the power of fiction is not diminished for me if I’m kept reminded that it’s just words on a page (quite the opposite, sometimes). But I’m only really going to find out what books I like best by actively reading and thinking; this will do as a starting point, however.

What does this all mean in practical terms for my reading and blogging? Reading more selectively, for one thing; more of a balance of old and new, probably. I still want to take chances on new books (I’ve found plenty of gems that way, after all); but I’m going to be choosing books primarily on whether I think they’ll have that ‘something’, and dropping them more readily if it turns out that they don’t. I know this is vague: it’s going to run largely on instinct, and I’m still going to like some books better than others. The point is that I want to concentrate on books that ‘enrich’ me (in a broad sense) as a reader, and be attentive to all the different ways in which that can happen.

In terms of this blog, I’m not sure yet: my responses to books might get more personal; I might do fewer of the round-up posts; we’ll see. One big change, though, is the name of the blog. I chose ‘Follow the Thread’ six years ago; it was intended to denote following the thread of an argument, but also to echo Theseus following the thread through the Labyrinth, as a nod to the fantasy and science fiction that was my primary reading material at the time. All this is still fine – but my reading has developed in a different direction from the one I anticipated in 2009, and I want my blog to have a name that reflects the reader I am now.

So I’ve come up with ‘David’s Book World’, which is essentially what the blog is about – the books that make my world, and how I see them. It’s also a recognition that translated fiction, and other ‘world lit’, are (and remain) integral parts of what I read. And it even lets me keep the URL.

I never have had a succinct answer to the question ‘What sort of books do you like?’ Now I have a whole blog where I’ll try to find an answer.

8 Comments

  1. Your comment about not knowing what sort of books you like is an interesting one, David. I thought I knew which books I liked and then I started blogging which led me to read books I’d never usually have chosen for myself and some of those were books I found I loved, so like you, I’m not sure what books I like either! It’ll be interesting to see what conclusions you come to.

  2. Do you think that in reading the books that are ‘okay’, it makes the real gems shine when they come along?

  3. I’ve lately gotten much better about not wasting my time on the merely-competent/merely-entertaining/merely-whatever (unless it’s what I need at the moment! which is sometimes the case), and let me tell you it’s a VAST improvement. Excited for you.

  4. David H

    29th December 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Naomi: I think it’s not so much that I don’t know as that I find it tricky to articulate – whenever I try to come up with a definition, I end up thinking of examples that contradict it. But I have definitely found myself become drawn to more ‘difficult’ books than I ever imagined I would. Who knows what developments will come next?

    Kate: I’m not sure whether it does, actually – I’d like to think that the really good stuff would shine anyway. Maybe what it does is make me more grateful for the small things. I’ll be interested to see whether the balance of okay to better books shifts next year, and how I end up feeling about what I read as a result.

    Ethan: I think that’s essentially what I want to aim for – to refine my reading choices, and leave the ‘merely’ stuff for when I really want it (which is when it stops being ‘merely’). I’m pretty excited, too.

  5. I sympathise since I also find it difficult to answer the question what books do you most like reading. Its easier sometimes to say what I don’;t enjoy (science fiction, fantasy, Young adult and anything containing talking animals!)

  6. Blogging has helped me read far more widely and deeply than I would have done before – but I too still can’t say succinctly exactly what I like reading! I shall follow the thread of your new focus with great interest (pun intended).

  7. How’s it going a month in David, or is it too early to say yet?

  8. Hi Max. It’s too early to tell, unfortunately: life-related stuff basically swallowed my entire January, leaving me with very little time to read (only five books – which is a lot for some to read in a month, but unusually low for me), and even less time to blog.

    I am thinking of doing the odd update post on this subject… maybe one in a week or two, when I’ve got more time.

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