On this dreary November morning, I was having a hard time coming up with a topic to write about. You see, I've been in a book rut again, for both audiobooks and physical books. After finishing The Ash Garden, I've tried reading The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg (not as engaging as Old City Hall), The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (too slow), The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey (too dated), Q: a (timeless) love story by Evan Mandery (too youthful and "fluffy"), The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman (I may still go back to that one), Bombproof by Michael Robotham (I always enjoy his works, but this one didn't grab me), Pitch Dark by Steven Sidor (too supernatural and horror-ish) and Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (too plot-driven and dated). All of this in the last 6 days! And for audiobooks, I tried Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, The Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell. I'm now listening to Fatal by Michael Palmer, but I may not stick it out to the end. Making satisfying reading selections is clearly an ongoing challenge for me! I started wondering why I've had such a hard time finding something interesting lately, and the only reason I can come up with is that, for the past four years, I have been a part-time student as well as working full-time, and so I had less time to read. During that time, I opted to reread all of Peter Robinson's books, the "Alan Banks" series, in order. Since I owned all of these books, most as mass market paperbacks, they were accessible and easy to carry around to work, to class, on the bus, etc. So aside from my book club selections, I really had almost no book decisions to make. Now I have so much free time, I need a constant stream of good books to keep me busy, as I can get through so many more books so much more quickly. Thank goodness I work at a library or I'd be in real trouble! Or maybe not... is this an instance of the paradox of choice? I have so much to choose from that I can't choose at all? Some of the books that I've listed above have been Advanced Reading Copies, not even books I've chosen off the shelf, so I'm not surprised they didn't work for me. I'll just pass them on to someone else and hope they find a good home!
I think I will either read the next book in the "Inspector Lynley" series by Elizabeth George, the new book by Anne Enright that is sitting on my desk at work but that I haven't yet read (I think it's The Forgotten Waltz), or Italo Calvino's book If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, which I may or may not have read before. If I've read it already, it was so long ago that I don't remember it. Which is interesting, since in the opening chapter of this book, Calvino addresses the reader directly and, on page five of my copy, lists types of books that readers encounter, including but not limited to:
Books you mean to read but there are others you must read first
Books you've been planning to read for ages
Books dealing with something you're working on at the moment
Books you want to own so they'll be handy just in case
Books you could put aside maybe to read this summer
Books you need to go with other books on your shelves
Books that everybody has read so it's as if you had read them, too
Books read long ago which it's now time to reread, and
Books you've pretended to read and now it's time to really sit down and read them
I have all of these types of books on my bookshelves, and sometimes it's difficult to make a choice. I thought I wanted something now that is fast-paced and plot-driven, something that will "grab" me, since that last few books I've read have been character-driven and so a bit on the "slow" side (The Bell Jar, The Ash Garden, Notes on a Scandal). Ah well, I will persevere until I find the perfect book to suit my needs - I will not settle!
Just briefly, my book group enjoyed The Ash Garden. We discussed the war experience, and how that could cloud the judgment of those affected by it, directly or indirectly, making them act in uncharacteristic ways. We talked about guilt and responsibility, about love and relationships, about causes and effects. We discussed the responsibilities of government during wartime, and how these responsibilities may not always be as clear as they seem. We discussed the ways language is used by writers, and the ways readers respond to this. It was a great discussion, and we all agreed that this was an excellent, but not necessarily uplifting, book.
I think that's it for this morning. I'm going to get myself another cup of chai tea, and try to get into a new book.
Bye for now!