Painting stories is a series where I share my current works. Sometimes it is how they came about. Sometimes it’s more of a story I associate with them.
What have you been reading lately?
It seems like I started my PhD, the number of books I’ve been going through has dropped dramatically. Not the academic stuff – not really – but things that I read for pleasure, things that bring me joy. Especially since the beginning of this year, I’ve began to regard my shelves not with love, but resentment, and most of that is targeted towards myself. Why can’t I just finish a book?
It’s not that I haven’t been reading at all this year. In fact, almost every book I have finished, I have enjoyed tremendously. Oliver Sacks’ “A Leg to Stand On” and “On the Road”. Patti Smith’s “M Train”. “Art and Lies” by Jannette Winterson, and also “Art Objects”. “The Lie Tree”. “Polar Bears”. “The Gastronomical Me”.
In fact, hardly one thing I’ve finished in 2016 stands out to me as abysmally bad, or offensive. Which is a shocker, because just a few years ago, a good chunk of the books I read, I rated one or two stars on Goodreads.
What is going on here?
I don’t think my tastes have changed dramatically, although I must say, I pick up just as much nonfiction as I do fiction nowadays. A casual perusal of my to-read shelf yields Margaret Atwood’s “Payback”, Jo Walton’s “What Makes This Book So Great”, “La Vie Secrete de Salvador Dali” and Natalie Goldberg’s “Old Friend From Far Away” (the latter a gift from a dear friend.)
There is also the diary of Anais Nin, which is a big surprise considering how strong my feelings used to be about publishing people’s correspondence and private journals. (Largely thanks to A.S.Byatt’s “Possession” which, come to think of it, isn’t really an unbiased source.) I guess what makes Anais Nin’s journal special is, firstly, she was alive when she published it, and she took part in editing the thing. She had a say in what is made public and what isn’t. This makes all the difference to me.
So is it that maybe I know my taste a bit better?
When I first started off as a book blogger, I didn’t know much about marketing, the publishing industry, and my own taste and judgement, which sometimes led me to read and judge books that, nowadays, I just wouldn’t bother with. Would I have picked up “Wings” and “Halo” if they weren’t notorious in my reading circle? Probably not. Would I have read “Wither” and “Hush, Hush”? Maybe – the premise sounds interesting. (In fact, the person who recommended “Hush, Hush” to me really loved the book, and I expected to love it too… )
These days, I consider going back to Goodreads and seeing what is what in my old community, but quite frankly, the site nowadays reminds me more about the scandals of 2011-2013 than any of the good times I had, talking to other book lovers and swapping recommendations and writing stories in the forums.
But that hasn’t diminished my pleasure in browsing the aisles at bookstores. It hasn’t made me any less excited to read an interesting blurb and discover a good story. I still enjoy getting lost in a book – even if it happens less often than ever before.
There is a book I think above all others as I think about my reading list this year. It stands out as the most agonising thing I ever went over, and possibly the one with the least satisfying ending, but…
I don’t know…
“A Little Life” lingers.
I reviewed it in full on Bibliodaze, so I won’t reiterate what I said then here.
But it is a book that changed me.
And that is something I never really say.
Reading Daemon Experiment is available in print and other forms on Red Bubble.
Psst: It’s Black Friday weekend. RedBubble are sure to run a lot of fun promo. Maybe if you liked one of my designs, now is a good time to get it?