The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two not so Great Ones) Saved My Life, Andy Miller, 2014
The more you read, the more you learn. This was a book that I vowed to quit at least 20 times during its early pages, but I stuck with it and ended up enjoying it very much. Miller is a 30-something, former editor, father of a young son, and a former major reader as a child, who vowed to stop saying he had read great books and to actually read them. His list of 50 books (followed by 100 more that he intends to read) has some of the standard repertoire (Anna Karenina, Of Human Bondage, Middlemarch, Moby Dick, The Odyssey, etc) but also some very off-beat items like Julian Cope’s book about German contemporary music. At the beginning, I wasn’t that interested in what Miller was reading because I wasn’t that interested in Miller, but that changed with his chapters on book groups (he doesn’t like them either), the internet (the world’s biggest library but they’ve taken down the ‘no talking’ signs), his references to some of my favorite authors (though he doesn’t like Nabokov!), and some wonderful quotes. He quotes Savage on Cope who approaches everything he does with ‘a curious kind of ludicrous rigor’. He quotes Samuel Johnson who asked why anyone would write if he wasn’t being paid to do it. He quotes Graham Greene who criticizes ‘completists’ (me again?) and perhaps most eloquently, he refers to reading Houellebecq for the comedy, the horror and the poetry of our day to day existence .” He goes on to say that ‘We are creatures made as much by art as by experience and what we read in books is the sum of both….If life always breaks your heart, art is the equal and opposite reaction to that inevitable heartbreak.” Finally, he quotes Schopenhauer “We remember our lives a little less well than a novel we once read.” This is a book worth reading, not so much for the list as for the observations and introductions to some new authors.