And so another year comes to an end – and a good year it has been for reading. I started with the target of writing a blog a week on the books read during the week, and on Goodreads I set a target of 50 books. The blog was mainly to keep a record for my own recall, as with age, memory is failing me rapidly! Goodreads congratulated me for reaching my target many weeks ago – and as I write I am into my 80th book. However, I have managed only 42 blogs, not because I was not reading, but because of travel, other commitments and often laziness!!
My reading preferences have always been serious fiction, historical fiction with a smattering of biographies etc. Within fiction, in recent years the reading has been mostly of Indian, or rather sub-continent writers in English and English writers. This may have had something to do with an overall bias, inherited from the colonial past. But it also has to do with the general availability at bookshops, and now since moving to NCR, the visits to British Council library.
But, one of the high points of the year was the shifting of my father’s collection of books from Chennai to my home in Gurgaon – something that I had wanted to do for many years!! And, while documenting his collection, I realized that he had had an amazing breadth of interests – biography, history, humor, economics, poetry, drama and of course, fiction. And fiction there was from so many countries such as Israel, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain etc… Of course there were a lot of British books, but there was also a robust representation of American writers. Many of these, John Steinbeck, JD Salinger, Mark Twain etc I had read in those distant days. But in the intervening years American writers had not been in my reading …..Around this time I also came across the ‘All-TIME 100 novels’, which is a list of the 100 best novels in English published since 1923 (when TIME magazine started publication) and picked by the book critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo. I found the list kind of balanced, from the books I knew and had read (30 of the 100) and decided to set a loose target (no time lines) of reading them all. And of course, US authors were highly represented in the list, while most of the 30 I had read were the non-American.
Since I started, somewhere in the middle of the year, I have read 15 books from the list – mostly by American writers. And it has been a wonderful discovery – I can think of few books in the last many years that was as good as the 1958 ‘A death in the family’ by James Agee or Theodore Dresner’s 1925 classic “An American tragedy’. Of course, the writing itself in Evelyn Waugh’s (British) 1946 ‘Brideshead revisited’ was unmatched. So, in the coming year I shall continue down this list – at the moment I am reading ‘Confessions of Nat Turner’ by William Styron, an iconic classic on American 19th century slavery, which is less known than ‘Uncle Tom’s cabin’.
The other good thing that happened this year that I got to join a group “Bring your Book” (BYB), and although I have attended only one group meeting there has been regular interactions through the various social media forums. And this predominantly young set of boys and girls are so committed to reading (and some so well read!!) that it has given me a fresh hope – book lovers are a breed that is not going to fade away soon!
But I have decided not to put myself under the pressure of a weekly blog on books in the coming year. I shall also try and go back and savor the classics – by re-reading some and reading some I have left unread. I shall continue to write on my views on them and others I read as and when I do.
So, Happy 2016 and happy readings every one.