Book Review – The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

2015-04-04 08.55.02The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller is a book that illustrates a project so close to my own bookish journey that I have found it very difficult to review. As a book in its own right it’s great. Andy delivers a fantastic articulation of his emotions and his opinion about the books that he read. More importantly though, he describes a process that changed his outlook on life. The book is a well written account of a year in Andy’s life and how 50 neat little piles of paper-potential made their impact… OK, OK, some of them were actually quite big!

The reason that this review has taken me quite a long time to write is not because I wanted to do justice to Andy’s prose (soz.) It is that the book has many rather disconcerting similarities to my own Post Consumer Book Club. I experienced a truly odd feeling when I unwrapped a Christmas present to find this book. Unexpected and unknown to me, yet so close to the journey which I had started 6 months before. As I read I found so many familiar feelings described, so many similar situations that drove Andy towards doing something more than just read occasionally, made him commit to something to see where it took him.

I expected there to be some fundamental difference in our reasons for doing what we’ve done. Mainly because the manifestation of our discontent is quite different. Andy chose a list of special books, books that he needed to read, books of betterment.  I chose everything I own that I hadn’t read! Yet I could have written the formative sections of TYPOD (all be it badly!) We both found ourselves looking at bookcases full of unread books and wanted to commit to something meaningful; his motivations were startlingly close to mine. The difference? Well, as I said, Andy chose to commit to a list of well thought out books; a subjective list, but a good list. There was one slight problem with Andy’s approach; it took him a long time to create the list. It took him years in fact, but once done, he had a strong list of 50 books of betterment. In my case, I wanted to take some more immediate action, in recognition of the fact that I wouldn’t have done anything if I had waited. The difference in the two approaches meant that, relatively speaking, I started about 2 years early, but I have a few more books to get through so I guess, duration wise, it may be a dead heat in the end? We might even find out in a year or two unless I’m still going? That’s always possible, as I’m already demonstrating, my book list is going to grow and be added to. As long as change is strictly in adherence to the rules then that will be fine! I also know that I will have to let some of my books go along the way, for the obvious reason that they will be shite! Still, when I started The Year of Reading Dangerously, all these parallels built up and I felt an affinity with Andy and his well written reasoning, his books and his dangerous year.

The Year of Reading Dangerously does not describe reading on a cliff, or in the middle of the M25, or even next to a crocodile! Although these could definitely be considered dangerous in the usual sense. Andy’s interpretation aligns with the definition of the word that has always been synonymous with the written word; reading some things is still illegal, some are revolutionary and some will take you to places you don’t want to go. Andy’s reading changed his life and made him consider what’s important in it. I was hoping for something similar when I started my blog. I can feel my understanding and opinion of my path through life changing as I read and as I work through some of the reasons I embarked on this interesting path. So Andy has completed his year and is changed for it. For me, it was decidedly odd to read through to the end of someone else’s reading experience when I am not even half way through mine yet.

Andy says that reading made him ask serious questions about art, work, family, freedom, integrity and packed lunches. Good. I really got a sense of how different books evoked emotion and  concepts as The Year of Reading Dangerously played out. The book is not about mentioning all 50 of the books Andy read, its about the journey, but I would have liked to find out a little more about why some of the books were on the list. I would also like to have heard about one or two that didn’t make the final cut. Both our lists shared a book in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. For me it  really did make an impact. I was jaded by consumerism and  interested in ethics when I started reading for PoCoBooC. I agree that it was pretty dry in places, but it doesn’t half speak to a dispossessed class. I try to imagine what reading it would have been like if I were one of Tressell’s peers? I suppose that I took the realisation of something that I already knew from Andy’s experience: Read, look, investigate, understand, question. Art provokes, but its a foil for us to test ourselves against. Someone else’s concept to accept or reject. Serious, dangerous, questions indeed.

There were so many aspects of this book that I want to talk about or mention, but I verge on writing a whole book about about a book about book, and that is just silly. I will end this post by saying that because I read The Year of Reading Dangerously:

  • I now have a book list in creation to give my challenge some form. I had previously not been so definite in my organisation.
  • I have also been considering the balance between writing both blog and twitter against reading. I’m keeping the blog, but will regularly check.
  • Lastly, I have Andy to thank for the addition of 3 books of betterment to my list. In a week, on my birthday, I will be adding War and Peace, Anna Karenina and Moby-Dick to my list. Not sure where they will be inserted yet though…

Thanks Andy. Great book and a great project. Keep up the good work 🙂

Rating: 9/10

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Book list updated. Squeeze in The Damned

TheDamnedCoverIf I had some damned (maybe in a jar?) I would need somewhere to put it. I am about to get hold of some in the form of a book. A book written by one of my friends which has been published and was released this week. I and Mrs.Pocobooc are going to the book launch this weekend and I’m getting a signed copy. I will therefore have some damned and I need somewhere to put it.

Where better than in my book list, and as I’m excited about reading it, I have updated My Book Activity page to show that I am going to squeeze it in after my current book.

The Damned between Tristan Gooely and Isaac Asimov? sound about right to me 🙂

A tweak and a sneak – Twitter and The Damned.

The Tweak

I have been having a bit of an issue with the time I divide between Twitter and this blog. I seem to spend a lot of time tweeting and reading tweets when I really want to  write more and read things of more than 140 characters. So, here is what could be a slight realignment from Twitter to the blog. This will hopefully still mean productive tweeting, but also some slightly smaller and more regular blogging. I really wanted to use this blog as a place to get words written regularly. I originally wanted to catalogue my adventure into books and various other things, but at the same time, give myself the opportunity to regularly write. I know that I usually don’t go anywhere near the full editing process, I barely re-read what I write sometimes! It’s only when I really have time that I faff around and re-arrange structure etc.

Oi, you were meant to say that you hadn’t noticed, that you thought everything here was professional and well polished: you were meant to lie!!

TheDamnedCoverThe Sneak

My friend Tarn Richardson has written a book called The Damned and it is for some unknown arcane book-world reason, available now; before the release date. A sneaky early release. Go to Amazon and buy it, or better still, go to your local book shop and buy it. Apparently it is not on the shelves yet, but it’s in stock with “most major book retailers” and can be requested.

I might have mentioned The Damned once or twice? Either way, Tarn has been working on it for ages, and it is officially released next week! The launch party is on Saturday (23rd May) in a secret location beneath a church or something? I read and reviewed the short prequel called The Hunted back in February and it suitably whetted my appetite. My anticipation of the book itself has been building nicely ever since. There was a publisher give-away in London a while back and reviews hit goodreads that were all very very positive; appetite whetted even more. I could possibly have wangled a copy of the book early, but I wanted the anticip…

…ation. I want to go to the launch party and get a copy there, and get it signed there, then take it home and read it (perhaps not on the night. Apparently there will be beer…) I want to be able to blog a review and for it to be at a time when everyone else (yes, yes, my thousands of readers: You.) can get a copy too. So I will, watch this space.

Book Review – Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings

2015-04-04 08.55.45Right, no messing about in this review. This is a good book. It is the 3 part of The Belgariad Quintet and comes after  Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery. Read those reviews, then continue the reviews a bit more for this book! I am still very much engaged with this story and really want to get onto the 4th book soon. Just not got much more to add at the moment. 🙂

Rating: 7/10

Book Review – The Story of O by Pauline Réage

It has taken me all week to get round to writing then submit this review. (don’t you just love the day job huh!) I had the review idea worked out pretty quickly, but I had to wait for the weekend to whip it into shape. I sometimes get strapped for ideas, but I know that I am bound by The Rules to write a review of all the books that I read.

I wanted to write a review of The Story of O that contains piercing insight, a review that would go down in the anals of history as one of the best. After all, the book is branded as one of the most important works of erotic fiction ever written. Unfortunately, I knew from the first moment I opened the book that a full review would be a bit too racy for most people. There are things being forced, whipped and buggered all over the place! But this is a very well written book: the prose is clean and flows very well. It was the frankness of the story which dominates that prose which took me by surprise. It’s very hard to write a sensible review on this subject, I was strapped for ideas so I decided to crop this review down to the bare minimum and just subtly marked the odd word here or there to hint at the contents of the book…

I could wax on for ages about this book, but to conclude, does The Story of O deliver? Corset does 🙂

Rating: 7/10