part-time musings

Tag: reading


My etymologically-enterprising friends at Macmillan dictionaries have a wonderful* feature this month discussing favourite words in online English. My contribution is a short musing on the word and phenomenon, autoincorrect, in which I struggle to find an accurate and not unflattering way of describing Reading, and which you can read here:

*featuring me


Just words…

We read so much all the time, but it is rare that one reads something that is so beautifully written it stops you in your tracks. Today I started reading ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Françoise Sagan, and the opening lines did exactly that to me- jolted me with a profound sentiment – recognition I think – that I haven’t felt since reading Proust. Here they are:
“A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness. In the past the idea of sadness always appealed to me, now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I had known boredom, regret, and at times remorse, but never sadness. Today something envelopes me like a silken web, enervating and soft, which isolates me.”

How do you recommend a book?

I read a thought-provoking article by Laura Miller in Salon a couple of days ago on ‘The Fine Art of Recommending Books’, in which she describes how difficult the process can be. It’s essentially a compromise between the reviewer’s knowledge of books, and their understanding of the tastes and preferences of the person the book is meant for. I put this to the test in my own wholly unscientific experiment in which I asked my friends to recommend a book that everyone would like. Immediately most of them wanted to know if the recommendation was for me.  See, their first instinct was to find out more about the person the book was for. When I told them that it wasn’t really for me, that I was looking for a book that they thought EVERYONE would like, here’s what they came up with:

Gregory David Roberts Shantaram

David Mitchell Black Swan Green

Three people recommended anything by Neil Gaiman, but especially American Gods

Sarah Dunant The Birth of Venus

Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart

Miranda July No-One Belongs Here More Than You

Mitch Albom Five People You Meet in Heaven

I wonder if this tells you something about me, or my friends, or the that I’m the sort of person who has friends that like books like this?  Anyway, I was surprised that there were a few titles and even authors I hadn’t heard of, so this list is forming the starting point for my summer reading list this year.

By the way, I’d recommend Laura Miller’s article (