22 January, 2008

Reading block

So, I have only read one and two halves books so far this year. I have a weekend away this coming weekend, which involves ten hours on trains in total, so I may get some decent reading done then... although I also have a cardigan sleeve and a half to finish knitting, so, hmm.

I find reading blocks very difficult to deal with. I have successfully managed half of Barbara Trapido's Brother of the more famous Jack since yesterday, so I may be emerging from this one, but I have spent most of January feeling antsy and not-right. Partly this has been because I have been in an essay swamp (this evening I hand in To what extent did the fascination with the ‘new woman’ reflect social realities in Weimar Germany? Woo!) and haven't been able to settle to anything without guiltily worrying that I should be reading essay stuff. Then the chicklit novel I started to celebrate my emergence from the essay swamp turned out to be terrible, overly arch and full of anachronisms, so I've laid it aside. (I'm working on my new 'Life's too short to read crap' rule. It is too short. I don't need to finish a book before I judge it unworthy of me.)

Also, due to the aforementioned essay swamp, I haven't had time to tidy or clean the house, or to do any of my other projects (knitting, sewing, cleaning out my wardrobe) so I haven't got to the point where after a busy day I reward myself by sitting down with a book. And bus journeys have been spent staring into space and making mental lists of all the things I need to do rather than reading. Do any of my readers ever get reading blocks, and how do you get out of them?

16 January, 2008

More Christmas books

Bought with my book token for Skoob, a lovely present from J and E. Thank you!

03 January, 2008

Resolutions for 2008

- read 100 books
- read more in French
- update this blog more regularly, and try to write a bit more about the books I read
- keep my new blog going
- read more poetry
- read some Proust

02 January, 2008

On with the new year

So the new year starts well: I received a twenty pound book token for Skoob books as a Christmas present. Not sure yet what I'll spend it on.

I need to update this blog more regularly, although as I'm planning on starting another blog about clothes, this may require some dedication. Giving up the threads (again) should help with this aim.

I'll try and carry on reading more French and German stuff until June, when I'll graduate, at which point I want to rediscover all the science I've forgotten, and read lots of Russian stuff. Read more poetry, and maybe have a go at Proust, I think.

Happy New Year to all my readers.

European poetry - and the last books of the year

Some of the first poetry I read as an adult was from the handful of Penguin Modern European Poets that my dad had - I remember Yehuda Amichai, Miroslav Holub, Alexandr Blok, Zbigniew Herbert, Paul Celan. They had wonderful sixties covers and were just the right size to carry around. I've just finished very slowly reading two fantastic anthologies which cover a lot of the same writers: The poetry of survival: post-war poets of Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Daniel Weissbort, and Against forgetting: twentieth century poetry of witness, edited by Carolyn Forché. Both borrowed from the wonderful Poetry Library at the Royal Festival Hall. [85] [86]

Other Christmas reading included my wonderful Christmas present of Nigel Slater's Kitchen diaries (a really beautiful book as well as a great read), and the Tales of Hoffmann, which entirely by accident turned out to be the most fantastic Christmas reading: spooky and gripping. I also finished a history book about twentieth century Germany - my German courses this year are on the Weimar republic, and Germany 1945-reunification; a children's book about 1940s Vienna and Nazi persecution called Emil and Karl; and Stefan Zweig's Confusion, a brilliant, sad short novel about closet homosexuality. [87] [88] [89] [90] [91]

So, 91 books this year, which is better than last year, and my best ever, I think. The discipline of trying to read a certain number of books is good for me, discouraging me from re-reading things I have read a million times before, and making me think about what I really want to read rather than just picking things up from the library at random. I haven't really been successful at most of my 2007 resolutions, although I've read more in French, and more modern German stuff.

Ten best books of the year, in no particular order:

Life and fate, Vladimir Grossman
Germinal and Nana, Émile Zola (really two books)
Civilisation and its discontents, Sigmund Freud
How I live now, Meg Rosoff
Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann
Death in Rome, Wolfgang Koeppen
The bloody chamber, Angela Carter
A literature of their own, Elaine Showalter
Flight without end, Joseph Roth
Le chat du rabbin, Joann Sfar

There ought to be some poetry in there, as I've read a fair bit of poetry this year, but it always seems to be individual poems I really love, rather than collections or anthologies. Honourable mentions to John Cornwell, Billy Collins, Paul Celan and Keith Douglas.