30 June 2010

The rare pursuit of something called leisure reading.

Among the things I try to accomplish over the summer is to read some books that aren't in my area, as in books that I can't directly connect to any sort of "work reading." Since my area is American literature, I see anything written by an American as potential "work reading" -- and of course sometimes pleasure reading does double duty, such as the time I decided I wanted to read some Russell Banks.

However, more often than not, I try to go outside the United States. I'm currently reading Balzac's The Chouans. For me, at least, reading Balzac raises so many questions: I find myself taking breaks to look up information on the time (in this case, 1799) and place (Brittany), which of course leads on to biography of other figures and the French Revolution in general.

I've got several other books waiting for me, which is good, because I'm nearly done with this one. I haven't read any Jeanette Winterson in a long time (since The Powerbook, but I've read absolutely everything up to that point), so I might pick up her latest (not latest children's book -- and she's a very good children's novelist: I've read Tanglewreck), The Stone Gods, although the prospect of it possibly being science fiction doesn't excite me.


Washington Cube said...

For me, part of the joy of reading comes within the footnotes, or the bibliography, or just my own curiosity at the mention of something.

I've been plowing through people this year. "All of..." The complete works of ...." Last year I re-read all of Ian Fleming. The books are so much more interesting than the movies. I was checking my book list for this year, to see if I had anything I'd highly recommend (and on any given year, it's rare...maybe 1 or 2.)

Oh. I re-read Somerset Maugham this year. I have no idea why. Have you read any fiction by Henry Porter? He's good. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. I re-read all of Patricia Highsmith this year, as well. I know she's highly rated. Eh. I still don't thrill. I also just read all of Olen Steinhauer.

Yeah. I read a lot. Sigh. I am just now starting a new biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt. I've also got a General Grant bio lined up. And there you go about literary trails. I was reading a ton about Iraq and Afghanistan and military strategy and General Petraeus, and Petraeus quoted Grant in an interesting way, so that lead me to....

Good luck with your summer reading.

Washington Cube said...

Postscript: If you want to feel really intelligent as you read, and that's you've learned a ton--read anything by Simon Winchester. I've been recommending/giving his books for years, and everyone loves them/him. I see he has a new one coming out in November that I will DEVOUR: Atlantic: Biography of an Ocean. I don't know if you ever read non-fiction, for pleasure, but I can't say enough about this man's wisdom and his writing.

cs said...

Cube, you read much more than I do, I think. I read a good deal within a very narrow field, but I can often take three or four weeks on a book if it isn't directly related to my work. I think I'll look into this Winchester fellow, especially as I have a beach trip coming up in early August.