Book Club: Reading

18 Mar

I’m utterly pretentious when it comes to books.  I buy a lot of titles because I feel I should have read them and, I think because I’m utterly uneducated, it gives me a sad little thrill when people think I’m highbrow because of my taste in literature during my morning commute.  But while I’m happy to admit that, I hate the idea that people think I read books like that for the sake of it, and not because I enjoy them and like being challenged.

Years ago I bought Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment because I felt it was one of those books I should have read.  I started it worried that it would be far too clever for me, and that I’d find it too hard going or too boring.  I ended up pouring over it and it gave me a real love for the Russian classics.  The same can be said for Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.  I now love his work and really enjoy recommending his books to friends as they seem to enjoy them as much as me.  Lolita is another one.  I read it when I was 17 because I thought it was a bit risqué and made me look a bit clever and bookish, but I can safely say it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

So now this whole thing of picking up books I seem to think everyone with a brain must have read has become a bit of a thing for me.  I grab things in Waterstones because they look a bit obscure or a bit, to put it simply, wanky.  And I love it.

I was discussing books with a friend of mine recently, asking him to help me pick what to read next, pulling a few titles I hadn’t read off my shelves.  He said that we obviously had a very different attitude to reading, that he liked to do it for pleasure, not for a bit of hard work.  And I think perhaps he’s right.  I do like to read something that can sometimes be a bit of a slog.  For some reason that’s what really engages me.  But I don’t always think that’s a bad thing.

But I do love to read ‘light’ books.  One of my favourite authors is Tim Moore.  He’s a terribly funny travel writer, and I’ve just re-read his book Frost on my Moustache (more of which later).  Though I think I weirdly see things like that as a holiday, an in between book, sandwiched between those ‘should have’ novels.

My ex-boyfriend, Tom, is an artist and his bookshelf is the wankiest thing I’ve ever seen.  Even now, with my love for four-inch-thick tomes, I sometimes wonder if he actually reads for pleasure or just because he’s too smart for his own good.  But our couple of years together meant I got introduced to some of his favourite, and fantastic, authors, like Cormack McCarthy, Italo Calvino, Jose Saramago and Thomas Pynchon.  It’s only recently that I’ve realised I’ve read more of all of them than him.

I think my point here is that sometimes it’s good to take a risk on a book, pick something up that you don’t think will appeal to you.  Re-read something you had to read at school and didn’t like.  Because you might be very pleasantly surprised.



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