Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008, A Year in Reading: Reading Resolutions

I swiped this idea from Niall Harrison (who appears to be getting a Baroque Cycle reading group together for the spring and summer; some of you might want to get in on that)--in what ways would I like to direct my reading over the next year? Like all such lists, this one is over-ambitious and unrealistic, but it is nice to put my goals in black and white (the corresponding list of of ways in which I'd like to direct my writing over the next year, meanwhile, is depressingly vague).
  1. The old standards. Read more. Make a sizable dent in my to-be-read stack. Buy less books than I read (though every time the dollar takes a plunge I have to suppress the urge to make an Amazon order).

  2. The big guns. Almost inexplicably, I managed to make it all the way through 2007 without reading either Ian McDonald's Brasyl or William Gibson's Spook Country. If I hadn't managed to squeeze in The Yiddish Policemen's Union I might have had to turn in my geek credentials. But what can I say? I like paperbacks, especially now that a lot of my reading is done on buses. I do, however, plan on reading both of these books in 2008, and I may add Iain M. Banks's upcoming Matter, though there's so much Banks left unread (I haven't even gotten around to non-M Banks) that it may very well end up being deferred.

  3. The classics. I think it's probably about time I read something by Willa Cather, and I'm toying with the notion of giving Anthony Trollope a try. I'd also like to read some more stuff by Elizabeth Gaskell (all the ecstatic praise for the recent Cranford miniseries has got me interested in the book, since one of the best ways to get me to read a novel is to adapt it into an interesting-looking film or mini), and for years I've been promising myself to read some of George Orwell's less famous work like Down and Out in Paris and London or Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

  4. Read The Master and Margarita. It's been sitting on my desk for three or four years. It's almost universally beloved. This is getting ridiculous. Like Niall with The Baroque Cycle, I'm clearly not going to read this book unless I make a project of it, but luckily Readerville has just scheduled a month-long discussion of it for February, which gives me a target.

  5. Read more nonfiction. Or, given my usual tendencies, read any nonfiction. But I've already got my eye on Hermione Lee's Edith Wharton ('read more stuff by Edith Wharton' isn't so much of a resolution as a foregone conclusion), and if certain folks keep talking up that collection of Joanna Russ's reviews I may just have to give it a look as well.

  6. Read more comics. With the exception of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, I didn't read any comics in 2007. I've stalled with both Y: The Last Man and Lucifer, and though I wasn't entranced with either I would like to know how both stories end. There's also the first volume of Buffy's season 8, not to mention several well-received standalone volumes such as Black Hole, American Born Chinese, and The Arrival.

5 comments:

Katherine said...

If you do embark on the lesser-known Orwell novels, avoid The Clergyman's Daughter. It's deeply depressing and pointless, and Orwell himself said it was the worst book he'd written.

As to the comics, I'd be interested to see what you'd make of Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds. I can't say I recommend it -- I thought it was good but unremarkable -- but a lot of critics have praised it to the skies; so much so that I find myself wondering what they're seeing that I'm not. For an actual recommendation, you might like Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland, which is a kind of essay in fantasia form about the city of Sunderland and Lewis Carroll's connections to it, among other things.

Shahar said...

Speaking of Stephenson, I was wondering whether you have read any Pynchons, and if not, recommend adding one or two to your list of resolutions (Gravity's Rainbow naturally, to which Cryptonomicon was sometimes compared, a comparison which Stephenson was very happy with, and the new Against the Day which I haven't yet read but probably should be my single 2008 reading resolution).
This is probably the right opportunity to raise another question which bothers me for quite a while. Is the absence of Hebrew books from this blog due to the fact that they are irrelevant for your readers or due to the fact that you do not read them? The last few years were rather interesting for Hebrew genre writing and it would be very interesting to hear your opinion about some of the books.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Oh dear, you've uncovered my secret shame. I read very, very little in Hebrew. Which, I suppose, is something else I should be resolving to change. Nir Yaniv was kind enough to send me a copy of his short story collection recently, so that's a place to start, and if you've got more pointers I'd love to hear them.

I gave Pynchon a try several years ago (Gravity's Rainbow, in fact, and it was in the wake of reading Cryptonomicon and noting the comparisons between the two books) and bounced off him hard. I've still got my copy, though, and I'll get back to it someday.

Anonymous said...

A few recommendations if you intend to follow on "read more comics". "Sparks: An Urban Fairy-Tale" by Laurence Marvit remains one of the best graphic novels I have had the chance to read in recent years. If you're in the mood for something big and epic, I'd recommend Hayao Miyazaki's "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind". For something quick and fun, there are Grillo-Marxuach's "The Middleman" and Sean Wang "Runners", and I'd also throw in Vinton's "Jack Hightower" and Kibuishi's "Daisy Kutter".

Outside comics, I'd also recommend "Salmonela Men on Planet Porno" - an antholgy of short stories by Japan's leading Science Fiction writer Yasutaka Tsutsui. Not all stories are good, but there are a few gems, and it makes for an overall interesting reading experience.

-Raz Greenberg

gareth.rees said...

The Clergyman's Daughter is certainly depressing but I found it far from pointless. It has vivid portrayals of obscure corners of early-20th-century English society, based on Orwell's personal experiences. Homelessness in London and life as a beggar — hop-picking in Kent with people from the East End — the misery of being a school teacher in a society that places no value on knowledge. All leavened with Orwell's particular combination of social criticism and Swiftian visceral disgust. The smell of the glue-pot may linger for a while.

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