Reading from 2007

Several people whose blogs I read regularly have posted lists of the books they have read during 2007, including links to their reviews or thoughts about these books. So if you are short of ideas for what to read, there is nowhere better to start than these thoughtful, individual guides — untainted by marketing hype or publishing fashion, but what these readers sought out according to their tastes and (in the main) enjoyed:

Reading Matters: 65 books read during 2007 on a wide range of subjects, with links to reviews.

Stephen Lang: books read in 2007, including 49 novels, 9 short stories and one work of non-fiction (yes, it’s Richard Dawkins!).

Magnificent Octopus on some bests and worsts of 2007.

John Self’s Asylum: not one composite post, but just go there and keep scrolling down — every post is a jewel of a review.

And at the Book Depository blog, Mark Thwaite rounds up various "book of the year" posts and articles from the blogosphere and the media, including dovegreyreader (fiction and non-fiction) and the Guardian readers’ choices.

Buy, give and read a book this Jan

Via the deblog, it seems that January is the "semi parodic" (in the words of its creator, Foma) NaJuReMoNoNo month. The "semi parody" is of national novel writing month (November), or NaNoWriMo as it is acronymically known. Foma designates January as "national just read more novels month". Luckily the challenge is not too arduous, as one has to read only one novel during the month of January to qualify. Even so, I think January is the wrong month to choose for various reasons:

  • December is the month when people have time off work in order to read novels (I’ve read 5 in the past 5 days, for example, compared with only 1 in the whole week before the Christmas break).
  • Everyone has made resolutions in January so they are busy fulfilling all those "work harder, study harder, get more exercise" promises that by February will have fallen away.
  • Nobody has any money in January to buy books because they’ve spent it all on Christmas presents or in the sales.

Whether or not you want to join in the January reading challenge, Debra (deblog suprema) reminds us that the quarterly "buy a friend a book week" (BAFABW) is next up FIRST OF JANUARY. The synergies are obvious…. but please stick to buying, giving and reading a book rather than getting into any NaJuReBAFABMoNoWMo-style monikers.

Slimmed-down literature

In an essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine, Frank Wilson reviews the the first six Phoenix Compact Editions of the classics- Melville’s Moby-Dick, Dickens’ David Copperfield, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Tolstoy’s Anna, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, and Mrs. Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. Does the reduction of Anna Karenina‘s 800 pages to 384 sound appealing? Frank writes:

"There is nothing inherently wrong with what Somerset Maugham called "the useful art of skipping." Maugham himself in fact helped produce a series of abridged classics in 1948 called "Great Novelists and Their Novels."
But it’s one thing for me to skip. I know what I’ve passed over and can go back and read it if and when I choose. It’s another thing altogether for someone else – even a Somerset Maugham – to do my skipping for me. The only abridged book I can remember reading was the edition of War and Peace that I read as a teenager. It left out the historico-philosophical essays that Tolstoy interrupts the action with. (To tell the truth, when I finally got around to reading the whole thing last year, I found myself feeling retroactively grateful.)
No, the real problem with the Phoenix series is its premise – that you can take away just about everything from a great novel as long as you leave the "narrative line" intact."

Or, to reduce it to a compact form, as does Frank: "you’ll never know what you missed".