Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Little Guide to Your Well Read Life (book review)

If you're interested you might chance upon my used copy re-released into the wilds of secondhand books, or you can check out the author's site for it with sample material at

The good news? It is indeed little.

I felt like I had come to the place he was at in terms of how to set up a personal resources list of ideas for reading and in keeping books I'm meaning to read and books to treasure. Only he placed a lot more value on having around a great deal of volumes in the home and I don't think that advice is great for everyone all of the time. My natural inclination is to insulate my walls 5 rows deep with books. but I've been working hard for years to unbury myself. I think I've moved more material to the recorded book lists in order to let go. I have the trust that I can look it up again somewhere.

 Also, he's really intent on releasing you from the desire to finish books you're not the most crazy about, but I can think of two instances in my recent experience where I was so glad I had stuck through to the end, and it was worth even those times I'd read through and still been disappointed in other works to find those two works satisfying. In fact, one of them is a book he names: Crime and Punishment. He says he found the book more crime than punishment. Well, I had been reading that book and it depressed me almost the entire time as the murderer becomes more and more blatant in his crime as he realizes no one suspects him, but oh! Oh, how the last few leaves of the book are good and redeeming and worth every bit of  all the rest. I am sad for this author for not having finished it!

The other case for me came in my sci-fi library. One of my favorite novellas, Cascade Point, where I discovered how much I love Timothy Zahn came as a double book, where the paperback flipped over to another author. In this case Greg Bear's Hardfought. I had the book for almost two decades. Every few years I would reread cascade point and enjoy it all over again, and then I'd give Bear's book another shot and my eyes would glaze over. It was too alien, too oddly formed. I couldn't digest it. Eventually I stopped trying until I mentioned it to a friend. He surprised me by suggesting I keep trying. Then last year something happened and I was able to enter the story through its difficult to open airlock and all of a sudden I got it. It wasn't the best story I ever read but it was good meat for the mind, about wars of innumerable ages fought far from any soils by persons who were engineered to live in space in many iterations of themselves and seemingly repeat their fates without end to the iterations, sent into battles that were their reason for existence which took their whole lives or generations longer to even arrive on the scene of fought against beings that didn't have any easily comparable physiology to their enemies, and who could not conceive of communicating.

Once I finally accessed the story and digested it, I realized that I was able to part with the copy. I had other copies containing Cascade Point, but all these years I had been holding on to that one because when the student was ready, the book would be there.

Few people I know are holding on to a sci-fi novella they find difficult to read though, and that's another bit of advice that Well Read Life metes out from the beginning. Your to-read list is yours alone. Don't let other tastes or heavy handed best books lists persuade you away from what you want to gnaw on in literature and non-fiction. Don't even be hemmed in by your own lists- let them change and grow and lose lines. Create multiple topics or styles to read from, read narrowly and broadly, read at your own pace, give audio books a chance, but the best advice of all, read purposefully, not just waiting for it to happen.

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