February 9, 2023

On Finding Books Again

Although reading has been semi-present during what you could call my formative years, it is only in the past 6-12 months that I’m finding my interest has revived to the level it was at when I was younger. As a child, reading was quite probably my favourite thing to do and the 13 year old version of myself would proudly confess to having read the whole of Lord of the Rings in the space of two weeks.

Admittedly there was a loss of interest because, as with most things I enjoy, it got to the point where I was so aware of literature being so saturated it lost its appeal – quite probably a weak opinion to have, but it is fact and something that happens regularly (i.e. music can lose its appeal to the point where nothing satisfies for weeks).

Since having left university and subsequently generating the cloud over my head that appears whenever I’m in conversation with friends who are still studying, or students in general, I feel that I should be embarking on a self-education of sorts. The result is that, although only in its tentative and early status, I am starting to expand my literary horizons (forgive that cliché) and attempt to challenge what I like in a book.

For example, recently completed books include A Clockwork Orange, Down and Out in Paris & London, Tender is the Night and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (after tomorrow morning’s train ride into work, you can add Homage to Catalonia to that list). Purists out there are probably scoffing to themselves as these are relatively well known books to anyone who digs a little deeper by well known authors, but the truth is that everyone has to start somewhere. There is always going to be a list of books that according to some anonymous authority “everyone should read”, and I would counter-argue to you scoffers that this is as good a place to start as any.

Aside from developing an appreciation for George Orwell that far exceeds what I originally got out of Nineteen Eighty-Four, I am matching the challenge that I set myself. For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night was a book that I set upon after seeing it referenced by Renton (character from Irvine Welsh’s series, beginning with Trainspotting but in this case referring to Skagboys); honestly, it was one of the toughest reads I have ever put myself through. Not because it is a wordy book written by, undoubtedly, one of the best descriptive writers I have encountered, but because the plot was a struggle.

Now that I can reflect on the whole story, I can appreciate the book’s quality – it has left me with an impassable sadness which I originally interpreted as my not enjoying the book at the time of reading. It is precisely for this kind of thing that is the reason I would recommend people take up reading again if you haven’t done for a while; even a book that I begrudged myself to pick up and force my way through eventually manifested itself in a rewarding way. Sure, I didn’t enjoy the book at the time (I remember thinking, more than once, that I hated it), but I know I’m the better off for having finished it.

Where this will develop to is something that can only be answered in ambiguity, and is probably better left unanswered. The immediate future points to starting Game of Thrones, but there are a few that I want to get under my belt (namely, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby) before I start looking for more drastic changes.

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