Saturday 30 May 2020

My List of Betterment

One of the things that I have committed myself to doing during lockdown, is reading as much as possible. As I have no current required reading for my English degree and am now living a strange limbo between second and third year, I am extremely aware of the fact that for the rest of my degree, I will never again have the same chance to read as much or as widely in a number of periods and styles as I have now. Of course, university is educating me very rigorously in a variety of periods and styles, but for every 'university book' I read, there will be 2, 3, 4+ other books that I should also read, but that university has not required me to do so.

I have just finished reading Andy Miller's The Year of Reading Dangerously, in which Miller discusses the 50 brilliant (and the 2 not so brilliant) books that he dedicated himself to reading over a year. Miller, an editor working in London, decided to read these books having reflected on the fact that reading had lost its place in his life; there were plenty of books he wanted to read, as well as many that he only pretended to others he had read. From this birthed Miller's List of Betterment, compiling a selection of some of the books he felt he ought to read, in order to better himself. Whilst The Year of Reading Dangerously is certainly not the most riveting book I have ever read, for I am much more of a lover of plot-driven fiction (but this is all part of my challenge - reading new genres and styles!!), I am enjoying it. Although I have never pretended to have read a book I have never even opened, I feel I can relate to a lot of what Miller feels about his own reading habits, for reasons discussed above. Before I knew this book existed, I had unintentionally created my own List of Betterment by dedicating my spare time to reading as much as possible before beginning my third year of university. And so as my own experience has now intersected with Miller's, I felt that this was the perfect time to put forward my own List of Betterment, which begins with the beginning of lockdown, and has not ended yet.

There are so many ways in which I could have annotated and subdivided my List of Betterment; e.g., most thought-provoking, most easily readable, most boring, but to avoid unnecessary complications, I felt that the following four categories were the most important: 
  • (gp) = Guilty pleasure, rather than aimed at bettering. There are some other titles in this list that are not particulary 'literary', but if I enjoyed them, then I think they have contributed to my betterment.
  • (dt) = Degree text. I cannot take full credit for my List of Betterment; though books 1-3, 5, and 6 have bettered my reading, they were not my own personal choices. These are texts from my English degree that were either missed due to the sudden closure of term due to covid-19, or from weeks earlier in the year, during which lecturers were striking.
  • ** = Top 7 favourites from my List of Betterment. I decided that 5 favourites was not enough, but 10 was too many.
  • :( = A book I thought would be 'bettering', but sadly was not. Steer clear of it altogether. 

*Rosie's List Of Betterment (plus 5 university texts, 3 guilty pleasures, and 1 book that I thought would better me, but it did not).
1. The Child in Time, Ian McEwan (dt)
2. The Adoption Papers, Jackie Kay (dt) (a collection of poetry rather than a novel)
3. Zone One, Colson Whitehead (dt)
4. Keep You Close, Lucie Whitehouse
5. She, H. Rider Haggard (dt)
6. Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (dt)
7. Queenie, Candice-Carty Williams **
8. The Secret History, Donna Tartt **
9. Lady Chatterley's Lover, D. H. Lawrence
12. The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker
11. Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
12. The Skeleton Cupboard, Tanya Byron **
13. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
14. Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens **
15. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
16. Normal People, Sally Rooney (gp)
17. The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood **
18. Delirium, Lauren Oliver (gp)
19. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni-Eddo Lodge **
20. The Blank Wall, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
21. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant **
22. The Greek Myths: Stories of the Greek Gods and Heroes Vividly Retold, Robin Waterfield and Kathryn Waterfield :(
23. Autumn, Ali Smith
24. The Year of Reading Dangerously, Andy Miller
25. CURRENTLY READING: Pandemonium, Lauren Oliver (gp)

Other titles I intend to read to better myself include Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. If you wish to keep up with my future reading, or would like to know what else I have read since January, you can keep up with me on Good Reads!

Despite the fact that I was a typical bookworm child growing up, I can't remember the last time I read this many books over a given period of time. I set myself a challenge back in January to read 100 books this year, but I certainly didn't think that by now I would be on track and exceeding the target. The Year of Reading Dangerously was my 46th book of the year, and now I am on my 47th - only 53 more to go!

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