Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Finding the next read

When you are not trained in literature by experts, you try to find your own teachers. Guides. For me, a way to find new work has been prizes. Nobel prizes for one. And once you start reading of, and around the author, you find their essays, their influences, and writings they enjoyed. And that leads you to more books and more authors. And then there is something to be said about serendipity. You follow enough literary mags, authors, people, and you might stumble upon something that you wish to read next. [1]

In the same vein, books about books have been another of my favorite reading pleasures. Sometimes, I complete them. At other times, I just surround myself with them. Dipping into them, here and there, coming out inspired, and with a new list. You may not agree with whatever they say, still, it is like reading about reading from a fellow, more experienced reader. Always a pleasure.

I recently read Susan Hill's "Jacob's room is full of books". The title got me. (No, not yet read Jacob's room. This one, like The Waves, has been on the reading list for a while.)

Back to Susan Hill's memoir. The book is a journal or diary of a year, around and about books, poems and authors. About writing and prizes. And life. Sort of a year's collection of diaries or in modern world, blog posts. My joy was in the list making. Many of the authors I've read, and many I've not, but keen to read. Reading such books is like getting some sort of context and intro to new authors, and other books. Meta books.

Little else to say about the book except that I have a bigger list to read next. I have not read any other book by Susan Hill. Although I kept noticing "Howard's end is on the landing" in the book shops.


Susan Hill's was a quick, laid-back read with a piece of paper keeping a running list. At the moment,  I have two slow-reads keeping me company.

One of them is Ursula K. Le Guin's, "Dreams must explain themselves". These are selected non-fictions - essays/ talks on different topics. So many thoughts get fired up. And some of them need context of her books. Still many to go.

The other is also a selection of essays - the Essential Stephen Jay Gould. Lots of essays clubbed across subjects ranging from probability to biographies, to his core, evolution. Reading these is not laid back for me at all, it can actually be a bit of work. But delightful work. So much to highlight, note down, and almost always, to re-read. It is a big collection, and I am just about a third in. But loving it.


[1] I might have to rethink the title of this post. There is so much in my immediate reading lists, and longer lists, and just a general wish list of books to read, that it is not the question of where to look for the next read. It is a question of priority, of picking one out of the many. It is double-edged feeling - on one hand,  delicious, that you've so much, so much to look forward to reading wise. And on the other, the vita brevis feeling, so much to read, and so little time. How do you fit in everything? And why can't I read and think faster. Wish there were a secret time loop, where you are away for five mins in real world, and in the book-world, you could do five hours worth of reading. Wishes. Anyhow,  the point of the post is that if a book comes with recommendation, or an introduction, it helps at times. At other times, you don't need any recco or intro, the book just pulls you. Sometimes you push and work through a bit and then the book pulls you. But in most cases, the book eventually drives the reading.

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