Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 in reading

It's that time of the year again. I'll now write about 2016 in reading.
It wasn't much. This year I spent more time living, experiencing, exploring, experimenting, absorbing "all the vast range of impressions that life could offer", then moved to Leeds and became extremely busy with studies. Over the past months I've mostly read non-fiction books in or for my course.
I read 2 new books: ****: The Anatomy of Melancholy by my blogger friend Matthew Selwyn, and the Pulitzer prize winner The Sympathiser by Viet Thanh Nguyen, who is in my facebook friend list. I don't think very highly of the latter, which deserves a long essay/ review, but by the time I finished reading it (which took a very long time), I was tired and just wanted to move on with my life. My thoughts summed up in 2 words: "too American".
Let's look back at my reading ideas for 2016
I didn't read more Russian literature- no Dostoyevsky, no Turgenev, no Gogol, no Nabokov... Highly interested in Vasily Grossman at the moment but unable to find time for Life and Fate. However, I did read another Tolstoy book, consisting of "The Cossacks" and "Hadji Murad" (speaking of which, a rather good-looking guy started a conversation with me online a few days ago, but I lost interest the moment he said Tolstoy's a misogynist that was also a bad writer and his wife rewrote all of his novels).
I didn't read more Dickens. Gave up on Bleak House. Instead was another Victorian writer who never seems Victorian- Lewis Carroll. People who associate Victorian literature with social realism and thus tedium should read the 2 Alice books, or someone like Robert Louis Stevenson.
Recently I've just read an Edwardian writer, E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. A rather thin book, enjoyable enough but not great, and maybe this reader was in the wrong mood to appreciate it.
I neither reread Madame Bovary nor got acquainted with other French writers of that period.
I didn't read Norwegian literature.
I didn't read Faulkner or Woolf. Nor early James Joyce, though I did borrow Dubliners in Leeds.
I didn't read another Henry James. Nor Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton. 
Looks like a year of failures. 
Except that it couldn't be a bad year, as I discovered Moby Dick, a masterpiece, a novel unlike any other, a book that had a profound impact on my views on literature as well as on my life like Anna Karenina previously did; fell in love with Herman Melville; revisited "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and spent time with the other 2 great Bs "Benito Cereno" and "Billy Budd, Sailor"; read the wonderful "The Encantadas", at least twice, and a bunch of Melville's short stories; and again went to sea with Melville with The Confidence-Man
That, I suppose, isn't too bad. 
Reading ideas for 2017? I'm going to be more busy, not less. There's 1 book in the list: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Anyone's in for a read-along? 

As I'm in Vienna, and have just gone to a concert, here's some music: 


  1. good idea... authors i didn't read: trollope, burton, doestoevsky, truman, fielding, dickens, (no, i did read one; forget which, though); and i read a trollope but can't remember that either... i guess i've attained the age when not reading or reading are about the same, seeing as i can't tell the one from the other... and so it goes(from ice-9, maybe, or catch-22) anyway, Happy New Year!!

    1. Do you like to join my read-along then?
      And Happy New Year.

  2. I wrote a comment that disappeared ... Oh well, let's try again ...

    In terms of numbers, my reading last year was pitiful. I should be ceremoniously drummed out from the International Society of Literary bloggers. but I am reconciled to not having read anywhere near all that deserves to be read. the main thing is to read, or re-read, works that are rewarding. last year, I re-read a lot of Shakespeare, and finished my fourth reading of "Don Quixote". And that's good enough for me.

    So why focus on what you haven't read? You appear to have found a lifelong friend in Herman Melville: surely that makes 2016 an outstanding year, no?

    1. You're different, you've read a looooot. I'm rather uneducated and ignorant.
      But yeah, that's the best thing about 2016: discovering Melville.

  3. Graduate school can - perhaps should - pretty much kill off serious reading outside of the field of study. For my first couple of years, I switched entirely to mysteries and science fiction, books my limited concentration could handle.

    Vienna during the music season - what a treat, what riches!

    1. "Perhaps should"? Hahaha.
      You've been to Vienna, I assume?

    2. No need to assume!

      During August, tourist season, the musicians are all off on the festival circuit, in Salzburg or wherever, and Vienna's music is no more interesting than that of any other city. But during the regular season - wow!

    3. Tom: so what was your major?

    4. Off-topic: did you go to the zoo? I love the zoo.
      Pity I'm not familiar with Bernhard. Mozart and Klimt everywhere. Everywhere.
      Also, have you had Mozart coffee? Next time you're in Vienna, go to the Greek café/ restaurant opposite the entrance to the Belvedere palace, and order Mozartkaffee. It's marvellous.

    5. Only near the zoo, in the gardens around it.

      The cakes, the coffees, I know, so wonderful. Opposite the Belvedere; got it.

      The Mozart kitsch can become sickening.

    6. Yeah I love them. I mostly went to Aida.
      Love the chocolate as well. I bought some Heindl chocolate to bring back to Leeds. This type:

  4. Here is an ancient post where I write about my PhD.

    "Major" in the context of graduate school sounds bizarre to me, but I see there are some schools, like Cornell and UT-Austin, that use it.

  5. ha! just as i thought: you're not an amateur, but a highly trained, inquisitive, knowledgeable, curious, brilliant, researcher with a lifetime of experience behind you... no wonder...

  6. An amateur in literature, though. Maybe I'll try to sell an article someday. Then I'll have to change my name.


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