Firsty, for those of you looking in for a review of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters as promised at the end of my last post, well, there has been a change of plan. Rather than a review, this post is more of an update about what’s been going on with my reading life over the past few weeks.
A little over a month ago I began a new job and happily anticipated poring over the pages of Wives and Daughters during my new rather heftier commute. My intentions were good. After the first couple of weeks of work, it became abundantly clear to me that Wives and Daughters was not a book I was going to especially enjoy reading. Within two chapters I was forced to acknowledge to myself that I was, well…bored. Never mind, I thought, I’ll soldier on, I’ve done it before with other books. Then my attitude began to shift. This, I think, is where I began to draw a distinction between reading at home in my armchair, and reading at bus stops and on buses.
After a long day at work I found myself looking forward to that peaceful moment of putting my earphones in to drown out the traffic and immersing myself in the wonderful world of fiction. I needed to be fulfilled by my commuter-reading, far more so than by my less-anticipated armchair reading. And so, after several weeks and several dull chapters further I assigned Wives and Daughters to my small pile of ‘I’ve given up on you’ books. I have recently moved on to a book recommended to me by both my brother and mother, Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
At first I felt a little guilty about having wavered from my intentions and guiltier still about having to give up on a book by the author of North and South which I so much enjoyed. As the first week of reading Eragon passed by and I became engrossed by Paolini’s story-world, I became more confident in my conviction that I had done the right thing. Reading for pleasure is, I think, a very different beast to studying literature (as I did at school and later at University) and I think I have always found it difficult to make that distinction. I’ve always felt that because I have raised my mind to the idea of reading a certain book, that I must accomplish the task, whether or not enjoyment is part of the bargain. I think it’s time I stopped this. From now on, as a non-academic reader, I intend to read books that grip me and books that I enjoy. It probably seems obvious to most of you; but having spent years of my life studying literature and reading books that I would never have chosen for myself, I think it’s been a hard habit to break. The mantra of ‘I’ve bought/borrowed this book, so I WILL read it’ is one that I’ve clung to like the crutch I no longer needed. From now on, if I’m not enjoying a book, I’ll be putting it down and moving on. Suffice to say, I feel a little liberated.
So, as you may have gathered amongst my inane babbling, I have moved on to reading Eragon the first book in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series. So far, I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’ll keep you posted.