In which I unveil the theme for my upcoming year’s reading

I’m in Mumbai right now. Both of my parents grew up here, so it’s kind of the motherland. I’m also still reading Les Miserables. As such, I have no recent books to blog about, so I will instead post scattered thoughts

  • I just renewed my membership in SFWA. I know that when I first qualified for it, I blogged about how I wasn’t sure if it was worth the money, but I think I’ve gotten my $80 worth. It was through SFWA that I got to participate in the Baltimore Book Festival and get profiled by the Baltimore Sun and meet Cat Rambo and Sarah Pinsker and a bunch of cool Baltimore Science Fiction Society guys. And there’ve been a few other interesting opportunities, like the SFWA banquet in New York, that I had to pass up the first time around but will definitely avail myself of in the coming year.
  • I’ve been seeing a bunch of awards recommendation posts lately, and I have to say: I don’t know how anyone manages to vote in the best-novel category. I’ve read exactly three novels that were originally published in 2011: John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, and Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman. And, while I enjoyed all of them, I certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable nominating any of them for an award—I literally have no idea what books came out in the last year. How many people have actually read more than twenty novels that came out in the last year?
  • Also, why would you want to read so many recent novels? I guess there’s something to be said for being in touch with the zeitgeist, but I can’t help but feel like that would entail reading a lot of mediocre novels.
  • My Daily SF story: “We Planted the Sad Child, and Watched”) is one of 256 stories on Tangent Online’s recommendations for stories published in 2012.
  • I see so much buzz for N.K. Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed’s novels and I am sure that all of it is well-deserved…but I have no desire to read them. It really is just a prejudice against the format. I don’t think I can ever again read another fantasy trilogy.
  • For that matter, I actually don’t think I’ve read a published secondary-world fantasy novel in years. I guess maybe Nabokov’s Ada? But…er…that doesn’t really count, does it? Nowadays I tend to avoid anything with swords in it. I don’t know why that is: until well into my twenties, I read tons of that stuff. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get back into it eventually.
  • Normally, I give myself a theme for each year, to guide my reading. In 2010, it was Russian Literature. In 2011, it was Proust. And in 2012, it was the Victorians. This year, I considered reading the Modernists but…in the end…I decided to stick with 19th century literature for another year. Sorry everyone, there’s just so much of it and I like it so much. There’s still tons of Trollope, Eliot, Dickens, Zola, Flaubert, Balzac, Hugo, and Dostoyevsky that I haven’t read. And, honestly, Modernism doesn’t excite me. I am sure I will love it someday, but someday is not today…
  • Other themes I considered:
    • The Ancients – Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, etc.
    • The 18th century – Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift
    • Eastern Classical Novels – The Story of the Stone, Journey To The West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (I kind of already made a big start on this one by reading The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book)
    • Medieval and Renaissance Literature – Montaigne’s Essays, Pascal’s Pensees, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, The Canterbury Tales, etc.
  • But no, I am sticking with the 19th century. Sometimes you just got to go with what makes you happy.
  • I especially want to read more Eliot. The more I think about them, the more Middlemarch and the Mill On The Floss grow in my mind. Those were two truly excellent reading experiences. She doesn’t have the bagginess of so many Victorians: pretty much every page was good. Are any of her other books similarly interesting? I am thinking of reading Daniel Deronda.
In addition to being one of the English language's top novelists, George Eliot was also a total badass--all the movies that've been made about Jane Austen's (rather tepid) personal life should instead be about about GE. She is an inspiration to late-bloomers everywhere.
In addition to being one of the English language’s top novelists, George Eliot was also a total badass–all the movies that’ve been made about Jane Austen’s (rather tepid) personal life should instead be about about GE. She is an inspiration to late-bloomers everywhere.

4 thoughts on “In which I unveil the theme for my upcoming year’s reading

  1. Ben Godby

    There are lots of things in this post that gladden me (not sure if “gladden” is a real word, but I’m using it anyway), but since I have to run off to something, this one is best: themed yearly reading. Damn, man. You know when people say, “You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar,” and how it’s usually not really true? Well, you really are a gentleman and a scholar, and I think I may be a thief and an imitator and attempt to apply that practice eventually. I’ll claim that this year is “the year of actually reading short fiction markets to whom I submit,” but 2014… in 2014, I’m going to be a damn scholar.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Reading the markets that you submit to is kind of overrated. You’re not really trying to write a story that’s like the ones they’ve bought; you’re trying to write the story they don’t know they want to buy.

        1. R. H. Kanakia

          Haha, I tweeted / facebooked that and two editors liked / retweeted it. Shocking! I think all writers submit to places they don’t read. You just need to keep it ambiguous re: _which_ magazines you don’t read.

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