Why I read what I read

June 11, 2007 at 2:48 pm 4 comments

It’s a mix, really. But there are three guiding principles: to get to know my academic field (margins as well as centres); to read the sort of books I’d like to write; and finally, for pure pleasure.

The first category is rather broad. It includes postcolonial fiction, especially Australian, anything written in the Middle Ages (5th to 14th centuries, as well as Classical works which influenced these centuries), anything written after the Middle Ages (any time up till now) which refers in some way to the Middle Ages, and of course academic books and articles about these topics. I suppose I should be catching up on the theorists too.

The second category, books I’d like to write, is veering towards young adult fiction of a magical nature. That’s sort of what I wrote the first time. I say sort of because I don’t think it fits neatly into a genre, which is partly why it took so long to write – 10 years, on and off. I’m currently seeking an agent – a painstaking process. This time I’d like to write something with a neater structure – a structure I have in mind before I begin. Books I’ve read recently in this category include Lian Hearn (Gillian Rubenstein)’s marvellous The Nightingale Floor trilogy. It’s an epic adventure set in a land reminiscent of medieval Japan. The story is gripping, the writing is beautiful, and I just loved them. There’s actually a fourth one waiting for me in Leeds – I’ll tell you all about it when I’ve read it.

The third category – pure pleasure – obviously overlaps with the first two. I love beautiful writing. I love a light touch. I love fantasy, of the Gaiman and Pullman kind. Of the novels I’ve written about so far on this blog, I’ve enjoyed The Hours the best.

So on my rather hazy to be read list are: 19th and early 20th century Australian literature (I haven’t read much of this and feel that I should), Beloved, by Toni Morrison (often is mentioned in postcolonial contexts, and I’ve a feeling it’s a great book), more Walter Scott (I read and loved Ivanhoe earlier this year), and oh, lots more. I want to read some Gail Jones. I want to start re-reading Chaucer, as my recollection of some of The Canterbury Tales is getting rather hazy. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and buy a second copy of The Riverside Chaucer (big lump of a thing that just will not fit in my bag and so must remain in Adelaide). Any recommendations? Why do you read what you read?

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Entry filed under: bookworm.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Siew Cooper  |  June 12, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Like you, I read to keep abreast of what is happening in my field; I’ve been lazy, what with pushing my postgrad plans a couple of semesters back, but I do like to breeze through some post-colonial journals, contemporary African writers, Australian writers, and Indian writers.

    As for reading to inspire writing, well that goes without saying for most things that are read, and found pleasurable. I read so widely because I love the act of reading intensely. I would love to get to the Canterbury Tales at some point (almost picked it up at the library last week, actually), and I love works from all eras and cultures.

    Beloved is certainly fantastic; you should get to is sooner rather than later!

  • 2. Eva  |  June 13, 2007 at 4:03 am

    I enjoyed this entry a lot. 🙂 My entry on the topic is at http://astripedarmchair.blogspot.com/2007/05/me-and-my-books.html in case you’re interested!

    I love Gaiman and Pullman as well; lately, through the Once Upon a Time challenge I’ve discovered Charles de Lint. Also, if you enjoy reading ya fantasy, you might want to look at I, Coriander by Sally Gardner. I thought it was amazing!

    I have a question for you, or at least a request. I’m an American, and I know nothing about Australian lit. If I wanted to fix that, where would you recommend I begin?

    Oh, and I heartily second (third?) Beloved. I expected it to be bad, but read it out of a sense of obligation, and I found it amazing.

  • 3. meli  |  June 14, 2007 at 8:44 am

    No problem, hijack away! Thanks everyone for your comments. I’ll try to get a copy of Beloved as soon as I get back to Leeds. Thanks for the recommendations – the world is full of wonderful books!

    An Imaginary Life is one of my all-time favourite books, and I love Invisible Cities too. (Went through a Calvino faze a few years back, and Invisible Cities was the best.)

    Oooh, introducting Australian literature, where to begin? I think this warrants a post of it’s own. I’ll get on to that soon. For now – Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton. Absolutely.

  • 4. Erin  |  July 16, 2007 at 1:17 am

    We seem to have different tastes, but that’s what makes the world go round. When I was a kid I was fascinated by horror movies, morbid as it sounds, but my parents wouldn’t let me watch them. I started reading the genre though, which they allowed, go figure! So I’ve turned into a huge horror/thriller buff. I’ve always loved romance novels as well, I guess it’s the feminine part of me. I enjoy drama too, and of course love mysteries. AS to why, not sure, all the genres just interest me. I read a lot of herbals (non-fiction books on herbal medicine) as I love studying the subject. The only other non-fiction I skim is on psychology. I suppose I mainly read for pleasure.

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