In the five weeks since leaving Sigmer I’ve read about 20 books, more than I’ve read in a long time. A number of the books were forgettable, but some were worth recommending, and possibly re-reading:
Pierre Bayard‘s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read was treated a little unfairly in the press, partly because of its provocative title. In fact the book is an excellent analysis of what reading is, and why it matters, particularly when so many books are forgettable (like the 15-or-so recent books I’m not mentioning here). It’s another short book, and well worth taking for a long journey or a couple of bathtimes.
Anne Fadiman‘s collection of essays, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is another short book on reading, but even quirkier than Bayard’s. Fadiman talks about her experiences of books using anecdotes, such as the interior decorator who rearranged a friend’s bookshelves by colour; or her father who, when reviewing books while travelling, would tear out each page as he read to save weight.
I picked out Being Dead by Jim Crace at the second hand bookshop on Highfield Road because it looked like a bland literary novel and I was (for once) in the mood for something forgettable. In fact it was a haunting and brilliant novel, one of the best I’ve read in years. I’m now reading his collection The Devil’s Larder.
The biggest disappointment was a literary novel I read about quantum mechanics. I’ve read two books recently that straddled physics and literary theory and both have been irritating and poorly written. I discovered the recent one through a weblog recommendation and the Time Out reviewer is quoted on the cover, declaring that it ought to win the Booker. Instead I found the writing scrappy and the ideas dull. Maybe physics doesn’t lend itself well to literary fiction.