Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Review: The Year of Reading Dangerously

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

My first book of 2015 was a book about books.  I have several such books in my library now.  The "book about books" is becoming a favorite genre of mine.

This is also an autobiography of sorts, since the author includes all manner of detail about his life, his past, and his imagined future, since books are tightly entwined with his life -- much the way books are entwined in the life of any enthusiastic reader.  The books we read shape us, and our lives shape our experience and memory of the books.

The first book Miller records reading is one with which I am familiar: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.  He seems to be as fascinated and confused as I was (and still am) about this Russian classic, not quite getting all the jokes and pokes but getting something from it nevertheless.  Miller spares us deep, insightful analysis of what he reads and instead gifts us with something a bit more concrete -- how what he reads, and the very act of reading, affects his life. I found myself identifying quite a bit with Mr. Miller, especially with the difficulties he faced in just managing to read, to keep his mind concentrated, to find time, and to avoid all the many distractions available.  Like I am attempting, he kept for a while a blog about his reading, but he found that keeping up with the blog was detracting from his reading, even preventing him from fully grasping the book. (I don't think I'll have this problem, as my whole purpose in keeping a blog is mostly to talk to myself while allowing other people a peek into my head and a chance to converse if so moved.)

He also spends some time discussing and dealing with the huge "library" that is the Internet, and everything that is available via means legal and illegal.  I had one takeaway quote that I think is worth remembering and perhaps making into a quote poster:

The Internet is the greatest library in the universe: unfortunately someone has removed all the "no talking" signs.

If there is a single biggest block to my reading, it would be the Internet.  However, I'm trying to use it to make myself read.  I'm making myself publicly accountable and even getting friends interested and involved in my reading.  A sprinkling of guilt might be the encouragement I need to keep this up.

As is true of any book about books, Miller includes book lists.  Three, in fact, listing books he read, books that have influenced him, and books he intends to read.  I'll say that I find him hugely ambitious, but he has given me a reason to attempt some Tolstoy, among other members of the Great Western Canon..  War and Peace might one day sneak onto my reading list, although I'm holding out against Moby Dick.

CHALLENGE MET: Read A biography/autobiography by someone I don't know

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