Book groups are great because you get to read stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily choose. But groups are a pain because you feel obliged to read stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily choose. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise. Sometimes it confirms your prejudices. But best of all is when it takes you back to a book you thought you knew only to find you’ve completely changed your mind about it.
It’s a long book, divided into four sections, of which we read only the first about an unhappy little boy in Jerusalem whose parents are trapped in unprocessed memories of what happened “Over There”. I found it piercingly poignant but also surprisingly funny. It might have been a different novel altogether from the one I read soon after its initial publication in an English translation. Perhaps it was a different reader?
I’m roughly twice the age I was on first reading, so of course I’ve changed. I’m probably twice as happy too, but wouldn’t that swing the balance of my reading preferences away from darkness towards the light? But it’s not so straightforward. I’m fiercely loyal to the darkness that made me but the difference is that it’s more processed. I’ve a stronger sense of what is and isn’t mine.
So I might be more comfortable these days with literary darkness, but I think I’m more open to humour too. I might smugly conclude that I’ve extended my reading range, if there weren’t significant pockets of intolerance too. I’m less likely to plough through books that make readers fight to find their pleasures be it due to the author’s style or the publisher’s choice of print.
There might be other changes of which I’m not yet aware. So over to you: have your reading preferences altered over time?
How do these 12 books measure up against the reading targets I set myself earlier this year? I’ve exceeded my targets regarding independent publishers (67% – 8 books – against a 50% target), female authors (58% – 7 books – against a 50% target), and BME authors (25% – 3 – compared with a target of 25%), but missed out with translations (with 2 – 17% – against a 20% target).
I’ve also picked out one potential favourite of 2018 (Jott by Sam Thompson).
Do please share your thoughts.
Her province’s a palace, a kitchen, a farm,
the White House, a rocket, a sty.
She’s a thousand years old, she’s black and she’s white,
she’s a phantom long dead or unborn.
She’s shackled and swayed in the bowels of a boat;
she’s blessed with the freedom to roam.
She’s a boxer, a banker, a beggar, a boy;
a cleric, a cleaner, a crow.
Her lip curls or curves, she wrinkles her brow,
she laughs, wipes a tear from her eye.
Her vista refreshed with each turn of the page;
she’s a citizen of everywhere, a reader, she’s me.