For several years now, my reading plans have been minimal. I’ve wanted to be able to follow my instinct, without being weighed down by lists that tell me what I ‘should’ be reading. Such a strategy is doubtless very sensible, and you certainly can’t go wrong with it, but this year I feel completely different. I want to be reading as a writer, to coin Francine Prose’s term, reading for excellence and experimentation, and reading for the kind of things that I might want to write.
I’ve been creating a list of what might be called modern classics I’d like to read over the course of the year:
Karen Blixen (Isac Dinesen) – Out of Africa
L. P. Hartley – The Go-Between
Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr Ripley
Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin
Ian McEwan – Atonement
Wallace Stegner – Angle of Repose
Grace Metalious – Peyton Place
Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
Haruki Murakami – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
I also have a stack of contemporary novels and review copies I want to get to soon:
Liza Klaussmann – Tigers in Red Weather
Attica Locke – The Cutting Season
Michael Frayn – Skios
Jacqueline Raoul-Duval – Kafka in Love
Gabriel Josipovici – Infinity; The Story of a Moment
Beatrice Hitchman – Petite Mort
Fabrice Humbert – Sila’s Fortune
Lucy Ellmann – Mimi
I refer you to this list I wrote a while back, and add to it The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock, as well as Heroines by Kate Zambreno which seems to be taking the blog world by storm.
This is the trickiest section and one I’d welcome recommendations for. I think the essay is where a lot of interesting things are beginning to happen lately, and I’m keen to read any essays that work as crossovers between personal memoir and something else, anything else. This is what I have already:
Findings – Kathleen Jamie
Artful – Ali Smith
Mama PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life – ed. Miriam B. Peskowitz, Elrena Evans and Caroline Grant
Mentors, Muses and Monsters – ed. Elizabeth Benedict
And Mr Litlove gave me these for Christmas, a gorgeous box set of novella-length essays from Notting Hill Editions who specialise in them.
I have heard that The Art of the Personal Essay edited by Philip Lopate is very good and am expecting to cave in soon and order a copy. (We all know this will happen.)
So that’s what’s on my list so far. Given I usually read 100-120 books a year, this represents a third of what I might expect to get through in 2013. Leaving two-thirds of my book choices open to the inspiration of the moment sounds about right to me.