The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Sunday Salon: Reading Meme

Posted on: March 30, 2008

Eva in her Striped Armchair came up with a fun description of the different kinds of ways the habitual reader relates to books, how she groups them. I thought it would make a fun meme so I decided to tackle it. You should read hers first because it’s funnier than mine.

The guilt read – Translations and Caribbean fiction used to fall under this category but now picking them up is becoming a habit and the urge springs from natural cravings rather than guilt when I peruse my recent reads and notice I’ve fallen into the white American/UK rut again. For example Geoffrey Philp’s highlighting of Kwame Dawes’ artistic project on HIV/Aids in Jamaica at the Pulitzer Center (unfortunately?) made me rub my lips and think, Hmmmm…I could totally go for a Jamaican novel right now.

I think the only guilt reads I have left are the unread books I want to and should read but for which I can’t quite summon up the mood so I check my bookmarks for new books. :p Oh, and contemporary fiction. Sometimes I have a natural craving, a lot of the time I am comfortably settled in to a whole range of classics…and then I hop over to Dan Green’s site and feel wretched for not picking up Stephen Marche’s or Jesse Ball’s latest yet. *squirm* (He often advocates the importance of covering contemporary fiction.)

However, I picked up Lydia Millet’s latest of my own free will! It doesn’t seem to be getting half the excited attention Oh Pure and Radiant Heart did so that must earn me extra brownie points with…my imaginary literary supervisor.

One of my favourite bloggers really liked this book/author read: I have quite a few favourite bloggers with wholly different tastes from me so I don’t have this problem since I just don’t read the books.😛 Of those who do we are curious about or appreciate the same or similar authors. And, to be perfectly frank, I adore you all but am quite careful about following up on recommendations about authors new to me because I prefer to buy rather than borrow books and I know I’m a moody reader. It’s doubtful that I’ll get to a new book before the return window closes so I like to think I made good investments. There are about two bloggers who can send me to the book store to try an author I don’t know that hasn’t received much blog or print attention. So my records been perfect so far.

I’ve been reading a bunch of 20th century lit recently, so now I need to read a classic: For Eva it was YA lit that sent her for the classic, and for me in this category “classic” means anything pre-20th century. This happened recently and is what sent me to Austen and now to Brontë because I’m still craving female authors.

I regularly become weary of modern prose and wish for more archaic rhythms and formal, repetitive structures. It’s what I was raised on and what I first respected.

well, I haven’t enjoyed a single book by this author ever, but s/he’s really popular, so I ought to give it another go: No, no. If I didn’t like it it sucked or wasn’t my cup of tea. Passes are only given if I didn’t finish the book abandoned it for other reasons besides the possibility that it was so godawful I could not get past page 3. (Gallant, Rusdhie and Vonnegut have this pass. In light of that replace “popular” with “respected”.)

Of course, there’s the why does the world suck so much? read, whose main job is to make me completely forget all of my problems. Romances may fall under this category, as do fantasies and favourite pre-20th century classics. Basically, I guess, the books I loved when I was a kid.

Then there’s the I’m going somewhere and need a book small enough to fit in my purse/suitcase/etc choice: Yeah, this is why Don Quixote will never leave my bedroom. I always carry a book around and since I find myself out and about doing so much research these days, or doing office hours etc. I am less inclined to purchase hardcovers. Why big publisher persist in producing hardcovers in GINORMOUS dimensions is beyond me; they even curse some of their trade paperbacks with hardcover-like lengths and widths. I suspect they want to justify charging me $30+ for a tiny 200+ pager so I tend to flip the bird and silently inform them to pray that I remember their precious tome when it comes out in paperback. Indie publishers produce saner hardcover sizes that cost less so I feel kinder towards those.

I was anxious to get my hands on Quiet Girl by Peter Høeg and Winnie and Wolf by A.N. Wilson until I saw the brontosauruses the respective publishers expected me to lug around. (The second one is also obscenely expensive even for a hardcover. I don’t know if the publishers thought that J.K. Rowling wrote the book? How else do they expect it to sell? Huh.)

the random seduction read: This hasn’t happened to me in a while. I have so many ideas about the kind of books I’d like to try…even when I’m randomly browsing I typically have a criterion in mind.

I bought this X years ago, and I still haven’t read it, which is a horrible waste of money read, which provides a strong incentive to get those books off the TBR shelf: Yeah, as mentioned up top, I have a lot of those. But not as many as Danielle.

I call X one of my favourite authors, and I haven’t read anything by him/her in forever read: I have a few of those: Borges, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cicero, Proust. Dubus recently fell off that list. I try to get through my Borges’ Collected Fictions but the arrangement of everything just pushed together is overwhelming, I think, so I decided to gradually collect individual books. I do that for Ted Hughes because his Collected Poems is a whopper at 1333 pages. I’d like to know the jokers who bought that with the intention of actually reading it… The individual collections are packaged more nicely, anyway.

If you’d like to take this and adapt it to your specifications feel free.

10 Responses to "Sunday Salon: Reading Meme"

“well, I haven’t enjoyed a single book by this author ever, but s/he’s really popular, so I ought to give it another go” It took me three times with Vonnegut before I actually liked his book. But I owned them all, when my boyfriend said this was his favorite author I took him seriously and bought a whole bunch of his books in one go. So I generally don’t like him but will probably eventually read them all.

I have a lot of books I buy and don’t read. I usually don’t feel guilty but every once in a while I pay FULL PRICE for a book (I am cheap and usually shop the used market) and then wonder why in the world I did that when I haven’t read it yet.

Book I really want to read but haven’t read yet: Secret Life of Bees. Though I still wish I hadn’t bought it FULL PRICE because I have seen it in the thrift stores a couple of times since. I always kick myself when this happens.

It is snowing right now and STICKING. WOW! I knew it was snowing but I didn’t expect to turn my head and have it look like winter out there.
(Being quiet now…)

Hey Megan! I think you’re a first time commenter so thanks for that.

Aha, someone else who gave Vonnegut a pass. Yes, most of the people for whom I hold great affection and respect think Vonnegut is the bee’s knees so I’ve put him aside to try another time.

I don’t wince too much at paying full price for a book usually because if I do so I got it at the local indie shop and, as the manager said, it keeps them from having to lock up shop and apply for jobs at Chapters. But if I’m buying online yeah, all discounted because Chapters.ca takes 24% off most books.

Thankfully, it’s not snowing where I am! It gets really cold at night but no snow.

What a great idea for a meme! I’ll have to give the categories some thought.

It was so much fun to read your take on it! And good for you for resisting trying out an author ‘just one more time.’ It’s so hard for me to write one off completely…

That’s a great meme! I’ll have to hold it in reserve for one of these fine days.

You talk about that TBR shelf as if it’s a bad thing….;) ! I’m always hesitant to choose favorite authors for the same reason–can I call them a favorite if it’s been ages since I’ve read anything by them?

I prefer reading individual books rather than the collected editions too; the complete works of somebody or other is just too intimidating, particularly for me if it’s poetry. A single volume I can get to the end of before I tire of it. I’d kind of like to read some Wallace Stevens, but I’ve got his collected poems, and I’m not sure I want to read the whole thing and I don’t like dipping in and out of something either.

LiteraryFeline thanks, I look forward to your post about it. And I really enjoyed the essays you did on Ex-Libris!

Eva just create a bad association with the author and you’ll be cured. Something drastic like smearing cat poop on the spine…

litlove thanks.

Danielle I was actually rather envious of yours — frightened, but envious.😀 As for favourites I still include the authors if I retained a clear memory of my positive reaction to the work/s and reasons for it. So I still count the first two books of In Search of Lost Time whereas I’m hesitant to name Pride & Prejudice because I just couldn’t describe my past reactions to it except to say that I don’t cringe when I think about it so I must have liked it.

Dorothy oh, that’s funny I have a collected Stevens too and it languishes, ignored. I made better headway into the Donne and for some reason don’t mind dipping into that.

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