Monday, December 21, 2009

Year End Chatter or The 2010 Reading List

December is when the whole world is doing best of lists. Each day a list or many catch my attention. But I don't read that many lists because the pleasure of a list is in making one for yourself. My must read list in 2009 helped me not miss some very good books. It provided me with the impetus to get the books I'd listed and read them because I'd put the list out in the ether and hey if you are like me that makes you really accountable to the nameless in ether.

So I made a 2010 must read list. These are works I'd like to spend time with over the year and in a way I think these books worked their way into this list without me looking for them in any determined manner. Each of these titles surfaced several times in my various reading material in the past year or so.

The 2010 Reading List:

  1. Serendipities: Language and Lunacy - Umberto Eco
  2. The Infinities - John Banville
  3. Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography - Penelope Fitzgerald
  4. The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald
  5. About Looking - John Berger
  6. Samuel Johnson's essays in The Rambler - recommended eloquently by Andrew O'Hagan in NYRB
  7. A Sentimental Education - Gustave Flaubert
  8. Speak, Memory - Vladimir Nabokov
  9. Brooklyn - Colm Toibin
  10. White Teeth - Zadie Smith
  11. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
  12. Out f Sheer Rage - Wrestling with D.H.Lawrence - Geoff Dyer
At the moment I am quite excited by this list. Come January and I'd choose the first of them. Rather I'd read number 1. Because who says you need to wait till January to choose. 


Chenthil said...

have put up my list too.

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Ravages/CC said...

Eric: Shut up and f off.

L: Like I mentioned on Chen's blog, I hope to finish reading the books I bought in 2008 & 2009. Academia permitting.
Good stuff in the list. Should try and read them sometime before 2011.

Jigar said...

The list looks interesting - which one have you started reading?

Also, do you really stick to your lists or do you pick books outside the list based on impulse too?

Personally, making lists is so much fun than actually following them...and they sometimes overwhelm me in a queer way, maybe coz lists, more than anything else, makes me aware of the endlessness of thoughts/ideas. so I have a love-hate relationship with them.

Interestingly, Umberto Eco's new book is titled "The infinity of lists!" Think I should read that one first :)

Echo/Lavanya said...

Jigar, I read a lot of other books not on the list. In fact it gets very tempting to pick up books that are completely offtrack. For instance I am in a Naipaul phase and a JK phase. I have no idea why or how I got there (haven't thought about it a lot yet.) So I am reading a lot of their books over the past few weeks. On my 2010 list, I started with The Rambler, essays 1-69. Found this really lovely light blue 1979 (or is it 1977?) Yale edition at the library. Of course Rambler is available online as well.

For me a list helps handle the overwhelm that I would feel otherwise. Years ago I read about a Paul or a Philip in some magazine. This Mr.P would choose some area of interest and pursue it in detail for n number of years. Once he felt he had satisfied his curiosity in that area, he would pick another and bury himself again. To me this made an impression. What a good idea I thought. So I make reading lists and other kinds of lists to help me focus on curiosities that interest me.

I also read and thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Cohen's A Chance Meeting. I recommend it with several stars.

Jigar said...

Hi Lavanya,

I think I understand what you mean by being in a certain phase. It happens with me too. Currently, I am in a Murakami phase (which is totally unplanned)...found an old
copy of 'Kafka on the shore', read it, and though the story was not coherent, found it seductively readable. So went to Landmark and grabbed a copy of 'Dance Dance Dance'. It seems that i have unconsciously decided to read more of Murakami's stuff as soon as
possible...its a sort of compulsion that is better left unexplored as long as there is
pleasure in the process.

Sometimes my curiosities take a forking paths rather than a linear one. During such phases, I generally multi-task, and while I enjoy it there are times when somehow somewhere I loose my balance, and get stuck with that old question which I will never
be able to answer once and for all: "Now What?"
Mr P's method can provide some help here. I also liked the way you look at lists. As in, they provide some order in the
ever-chaotic web of choices.

Thanks for recommending Rachel Cohen'book. I googled it and came to know that its a collection of eassays. Will surely try it some day. Its been a while since i last read essays. They require concentration and intellectual engagement which is quite
demanding than reading a fiction (which I am doing a lot these days). I Have added cohen's book in my general reading list, which is not year-based, but contains books that I should try before my string gets pulled.

By the way, I inferred from your blog that you read lots of essays and non-fiction. Are you into
Arts as a profession?

Echo/Lavanya said...

I must disagree with what you say about fiction. If we assume the word 'fiction' to just mean a story with a beginning, middle and end and usually made up per some formula that is guaranteed to entertain then yes fiction can be read with far less concentration than is required for essays. But good fiction doesn't just entertain. It requires concentration and engagement (intellectual, emotional.) And the best of fiction instead of demanding such engagement from you automatically draw it out of you such that you are participating and thinking and living the words on the page. Fiction is demanding because I think it is one of the best teachers of life.

here is a little backstory about me that probably answers your question about my profession et al.

Jigar said...

Lavanya, I don't disagree that fiction is one of the best teachers of life. But compared to an essay/non-fiction it is generally more engaging coz it has plot/mcguffin a reader gets stuck with while the story dramatizes its idea (unlike an essay which directly comes to the point) or forms an allegory that indirectly alludes to a certain way of looking at life, its joys, sorrows, hazards et al. Off course, there are fiction that have no plot and are just, for instance, internal monologues of a character. Done well and rich with ideas, even the monologues can sound interesting. Also, i don't mean that a good fiction has to be interesting or has to crave for a reader's attention by putting unnecessary events.

On the other hand, there are essays that use jargons or ideas that forces me to refer to other materials for better understanding of its subject, and thats why i think of them as more demanding. To put it in perticulars: For me, trying to read Sontag or Derrida is more demanding than say reading Calvino or Marquez....and that doesn't mean fiction is not demanding but I hope you get my point.

Jigar said...

I went through your back story, and was surprised to know that you are also an engineer. Its always interesting to meet someone from technical background sharing literary interests. Your remark on being a bad cook took me to yet another blog wherein you advice on 'How to order food for a group'. I like the way you write.
Apart from being an avid reader, are you ambitious with writing too? As in, do you write short stories or are planning to write a book or something like that? It is just an impulsive question coz I think every reader thinks about being a writer at some point in time. I am no different, but i have to work really hard on my grammer and storytelling abilities to do that.