Friday, December 31, 2010

Notes on Reading

It has become a ritual: announcing the making and faring of reading lists (my planned 2010 reading.)

The exercise of making a reading list is a fruitful one. Because you have in mind the thought of a list, you pay attention to strange titles that you come across and, lest you forget, you note them. Interesting connections start cropping up when you do such notetaking for a while. Hence when I chose John Berger's About Looking and Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage for 2010, I ended up reading instead Selected Essays of John Berger edited by Geoff Dyer. Berger was on the list because I had read Ways of Seeing (by chance because a friend had gifted the book) the previous year and wanted to read his other works. Dyer came about because I was reading a lot of D H Lawrence material in 2009 and was interested in offbeat writings on his work. Out of Sheer Rage was highly recommended by many Lawrentians. How fortuitous it is then to learn that John Berger is Geoff Dyer's mentor. Not only did I read Out of Sheer Rage but, on reflection, it looks like my reading this year might well be called Year of the Dyer (regardless of how cheesy it sounds.) 

Another useful purpose of a reading list, especially if you make one every year, is the bird's eye view it provides of the evolution of your reading life. To see the seeds of your current reading lodged in the base of some haphazard past reading is quite a revealing and satisfying experience. Likewise it is also revealing to see how some focus about future reading can shape seemingly haphazard choices. 

I have been making the 2011 list for a while now (in fact I have a tentative 2012 list as well, no specifics but have marked Dickens so far) and what happened was I read quite a few that I was supposed to read next year! Remarkable ones include Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room and David Leavitt's The Indian Clerk (I am still reading this phenomenal book, seems like a fitting final book to my reading year. For more on the book, read Mark Sarvas's excellent coverage on The Elegant Variation.) I intend to carry over the ones I did not complete this year and also to keep the 2011 list broader than my present list. Naturally outreading the list isn't the aim but reading out (throat willing) is.

This year has been a very enjoyable year in the reading life and I look forward to a better 2011. I hope you have a great year reading.