Despite all my best intentions, I have not finished my writing on the reading I did for the decade of 1940-1949. I started a new job in September, teaching in a private school. I actually love the job, but it was supposed to be a 5 hours a day, 5 days a week gig but has turned out to be more like 7 hours a day while I learn my way around the school, the kids, the curriculum, etc.
So it is all I can do to keep up my reading. I try to read at least 100 pages a day but a good day is 200 pages. I have started reading books for 1950 and have finished one. Tonight I got about half way through a second. I am also in four reading groups which works out to approximately one book a week, but it is good, because it keeps me reading contemporary books and gives me people to talk to about books. As a wanna-be writer, I think it is healthy to listen to and observe how other readers besides myself react to books. I've been in these reading groups for about a year now and it has been quite revealing.
Although I read the entire LA Times and NY Times book reviews every week as well as Bookmark Magazine every month, although I read about 10 different literary blogs on a regular basis, there is really no comparison to listening to your everyday reader say how she felt about a book. I have met every kind of reader in these groups. There are people who only want to read a book that makes them feel good. There are other people who automatically dislike a book if it does not agree with their views on life, politics, religion, you name it. Some readers in these groups balk if they have to look up words in a dictionary while reading a book. Others freak out if a book is more than 300 pages long. But then there are readers who love learning about some thing, people, or place they didn't know about before. And readers who love history. And readers who just get rapturous over good writing.
Then there is the blog here. I don't know who reads it. Sometimes I get wonderful comments and other times I get emails from people who are too shy or afraid to post a comment. Other times I get those spam comments from people who are promoting their own blogs (and usually selling something). There is some kind of button you can push to keep those people from posting comments, but I am a strong believer in laissez-faire capitalism, so I just let it happen. For most of the time there are no comments at all. But if you are reading this and have ever entertained the idea of posting a comment, PLEASE DO SO. Even if you disagree violently with what I have said about a book, even it you read comic books or Nicholas Sparks, I am interested in what you have to say about reading, books, fiction and how these things affect your life.
This week, I went out and did some retail therapy, after months of being careful not to spend money. My biggest thrill was purchasing Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.
I've read about three chapters and I am the most enthralled with her awareness that any novel is only as good as a reader thinks it is. That is so democratic, so merit based and just so sensible. So getting back to all those book reviews I read, I am afraid I don't have much use for critics who think their job is to criticize any book they read. I read the reviews to find out what has been published. I rarely agree with the reviews. And I write this blog simply to communicate what happened when I read a book, how it affected me and to hopefully stimulate a dialogue on any given book.
What are you reading? What books have you loved? How does reading affect your life?