Reading something old, reading something new…

I’m changing the way that I read.

Mostly, I’ve always been a one-book-at-a-time reader, and if I ever had more than one on the go at once, they stayed where they were in my mind. I’ve never questioned that.

But recently I’d read a number of new releases in a row, and I enjoyed them, but still felt I was… in a rut somehow. Talking about it on Twitter reminded me that reading can inspire deeply emotional, transformative responses – the sort of thing, after all, that got me into reading as a hobby in the first place. I felt that I wanted to bring my blog closer to the actual reading, even if it meant that a straightforward review might not always be the best way to capture the experience.

First, though, I wanted a different approach to reading: my one-book linear method just tends towards a cycle of read-review-read-review-etc-etc, which I want to break. So now I’m going to have two books on the go at once, at least one of which will be a ‘classic’ or older book. The idea is to increase the potential for the books to bounce off each other (metaphorically!) while I read them. As I go along, I’ll see where the inspiration for blogging strikes.

The first books I’m reading under this ‘system’ are Scar by Sara Mesa (tr. Adriana Nodal-Tarafa), newly published by Dalkey Archive; and A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow, originally published in 1960 and recently reissued by Parthian Books. There was nothing deliberate about those choices; but it seems they have a certain thematic connection, so we’ll see how it turns out… 

6 Comments

  1. I always have two books on the go – one on my Kindle that I lug around everywhere I go, and a paper book for reading at home (especially for reading in the bath!).
    I try to keep the two books fairly different – if you’ve got two WWII thrillers on the go at once, you will get muddled! I’m not as structured about it as you are suggesting though. Quite often one will be a novel and the other non-fiction – that works really well.
    You’ll be amazed how many parallels you find – humans are adept at seeing patterns and making connections, so you’ll find things to complement each other in almost everything.
    Have fun,
    Sarah.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. From past experience, I don’t think I’m going to be quite that structured in practice! But it always seems that I have to make a deliberate effort to read older books, so I thought this would help. I don’t have much non-fiction, though; who knows, maybe I’ll end up reading more as a result of this. I’m excited to see where it takes me!

  2. Stan Barstow’s short stories are exceptional so I hope A Kind of Loving is as good. If so that should be a treat.

    I’ve been thinking a bit about my own reading patterns recently, though more as I tend to read more older books than new. The joy of new books is you can be part of the conversation, though at the same time I don’t want others’ release cycles and publicity cycles to drive my reading.

    Not sure about reading two at a time though. A novel alongside a short story collection sure, but my concern with two novels is that it might make it harder to push through a more challenging work and sometimes that’s needed and has great rewards once you make the effort.

    Sarah’s right about finding patterns and connections, though my fear there tends to be that as a species we’re so good at it we often find them where none truly exist.

    I’ve never quite understood the idea that one can’t read kindles in the bath. You just put them in a clear plastic bag surely like a small food bag? That way they’re fine, whereas a hardcopy book is damaged by the humidity. I don’t take long baths (or any baths really) so it’s a bit moot for me but if I did I’d take my kindle rather than a hardcopy book.

    • I could read my Kindle in the bath I suppose, but I am paranoid about dropping it! Basically it’s an excuse to buy more books though :o)

      And I used to think I could only read one book at a time, but we happily watch multiple series on TV at the same time and keep the stories in our heads – the same works for books! As long as they aren’t too similar…

  3. Every time I try to read two even very different novels at the same time, I always default to one or t’other. Not quite so bad if one is a classic / doorstop though. Good luck.

  4. My experience is, the more books, the more bounce. I am normally reading five or six books at a time. Half my blog is just “bounce,” really. Fortuitous discoveries.

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