Sunday, January 02, 2011

Book Chatter

I like book bloggers. I'm glad they're out there. Each one of them seems to read lots more books than I ever can in a year. Plus, I really like those book bloggers who read old books at least some of the time. In other words, they're not exclusively committed to the contemporary.

Many book bloggers feature reading challenges. That's where you commit to reading a certain number of a certain kind of book, or a series of books on a certain theme, or with a certain common thread (10 coming-of-age books, or 12 time-travel books, or one Zane Grey western per month, or whatever, or every Hugo Award novel). In other words, many book bloggers are sort of obsessive-compulsive about reading. Me too. Maybe a little.

But I'm only a part-time book blogger. A once in a while book blogger. But I read a fair amount and I do like to give myself reading challenges. Like the (currently on-hold) challenge of reading through human history by reading interlocking biographies. Now that's a challenge. I started with Julius Caesar (you have to start somewhere), and made my way through a few generations until I finally got really tired of the Roman Empire. I then amended the challenge to include novels, not just biographies, so that I could spread out a little, wandering further afield. Anyway, it's on hold. I'm somewhere in the second century. Long way to go.

Mostly, lately, the way I find novels is by wandering the aisles of my local library. The trouble there is that my local library seems to be weeding out the old books, stuffing the shelves with contemporary murder mysteries and romance novels (two forms I'm not excited about, sorry). The truth is, in many things I'm just not into contemporary.

The best two novels I read last year were William Maxwell's They Came Like Swallows (1937), and So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980). They were amazing. I'm interested in reading others like them. Glimpses into the past, congering up from out of mostly ordinary memories, the extraordinary portrait of a time and place. These kinds of books are like complicated artifacts, beautiful and strange, and strangely familiar.

My reading challenge for 2011 is simply to read outstanding books this year. I want the end-of-the-year list to be evocative of many glorious hours of reading happiness. I've seldom kept such a list in past years, not often, but I'll do so here at the blog, along with a sure-to-grow list of books I just might want to read and don't want to forget about. Because, you know, there's nothing quite like a good book.


Glynn said...

I love Maxwell's work. It's been years since I read them but you just inspired me.

Bob Spencer said...

Glad to help, Glynn!

Anonymous said...

i think i would be great of you to keep a list of your reads here this year.