The books I read. With the ones I didn’t in the background…
- Which hour was most daunting for you? Well, I fell asleep at about 3am, so let’s go with that.
- Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I think ‘The Machine’ is probably my pick for readathon reading. Other recent reads that would work well include ‘Night Film’ by Marisha Pessl (though perhaps a bit long…), and ‘The Land of Decoration’ by Grace McLeen.
- Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? It would be great if the start times rotated (1pm to 1pm is pretty brutal)
- What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The cheerleaders were amazing! And I loved the twitter community
- How many books did you read? Four
- What were the names of the books you read? ‘The View on the Way Down’ by Rebecca Wait, ‘The Machine’ by James Smythe, ‘The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.’ by Adelle Waldman, and ‘Wool. Part One’ by Hugh Howey.
- Which book did you enjoy most? Either ‘The Machine’ or ‘The View on the Way Down’. Both fantastic but in very different ways.
- Which did you enjoy least? Nathaniel P. Still enjoyed it, just not as much as the others!
- If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? NA
- How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I can’t wait! I didn’t engage much with the challenges this time, so perhaps that should be my goal for the next one?
‘There was no one moment when the universe shifted. It wasn’t a sudden, brutal quake in the night. It was a slow drifting of the landscape so that for ages things hardly appeared any different, and then one day you look around and realize that the world has altered cataclysmically whilst your attention was elsewhere’
This was a great book to read immediately after The Machine. Whilst The Machine is almost claustrophobic in its focus, tightly written, almost encouraging a fast first read (followed by a slower, more careful, reread), The View on the Way Down is very different. It’s slower, the language simple but precise. It’s a beautiful examination of grief, memory, and family. As the tragedy at the heart of the book is gradually revealed, we’re lead through the different responses found in each family member. The mother’s denial, the father’s anger, Emma’s innocence, and Jamie’s guilt. Each is completely isolated from the others, time seemingly at a standstill whilst the world rushes on around them. The fragile thread that holds them together is Kit’s death, the memories of which none of them want to re-examine. Wait succeeds in making each of these very different characters believable. Their regrets are felt sharply, but you’re left with the feeling that there really was no other way any of them could have reacted. The story of Kit himself is carefully handled, a compassionate and yet still raw and truthful account of despair. It had me in tears by the end.
It’s now hour twenty-three of the readathon (I confess, I gave up and went to bed for a few hours at around 3am). I doubt I’ll manage to finish another book before the end, but I’ll try and get started on something for the last couple of hours.
That’s book two of the readathon finished. I’m not sure how to begin reviewing The Machine without ruining it by giving away central plot features. What I can say is that this is an incredible book. As I’ve now come to expect from Smythe’s books, it seems that the story you read is not the story that is written. Or perhaps there are at least two stories running parallel throughout. It’s a book that demands to be reread, leaving you questioning what you had originally taken for granted. Thoroughly recommended. Alan reviewed this a while back, and now I’ve finally read it I think I’m going to take a little reading break so we can compare notes.
It’s now hour eleven of the readathon, so here’s a self-portrait for the mini challenge . I’m starting to get a little sleepy, but I’m going to make myself some tea and try and push on for a few more hours. Maybe another book? I think I might give Building Stories by Chris Ware a go next. A bit of a change might be good. Alternatively, I’ve got Wool on my pile, which looking pretty tempting.
“I feel like you want to think what you’re feeling is really deep, like some seriously profound existential shit. But to me, it looks like the most tired, average thing in the world, the guy who is all interested in a woman until the very moment when it dawns on him he has her. Wanting only what you can’t have. The affliction of shallow morons everywhere”
It’s hard to work out what to make of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. On the one hand, it’s an acutely observed, spot-on description of a certain kind of man who is self-absorbed but utterly lacking in self-awareness. On the other hand, the central character is so irritating and unlikable that at times it’s hard to engage with. Of course, the fact that he’s so unlikable only goes to demonstrate how good the writing is.
Nate spends his time cultivating a hip intellectual image, cruelly criticising all those who fail to live up to his impossible criteria. He critically assesses the women he meets, picking them apart, seeing if they manage to meet his checkbox list of what a woman must be in order to qualify to be his partner. His inability to see women (and indeed other men, for he is just as cruel to his friends) as people, rather than merely object-like beings that may or may not serve some purpose in his life, becomes increasingly grating. It took me a while to get into this book, simply because I found I not only didn’t care about Nate, but I didn’t want to care about him. But in the end it is a well-written book, and the voices found in it felt very real. It’s that tension – the dislike I felt for Nate, but the appreciation I had for a writer who could so accurately capture a person like this without reducing him to a 2-d caricature – that kept it interesting.
That’s book one of the readathon finished. Next up: The Machine.
The snacks are ready, the coffee is brewing, and the cats haven’t yet knocked over my pile of books. It’s time to go!
I’m going to be starting with The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. I’m already half way through and enjoying it, so it seems a good one to begin with (is that cheating? Beginning with a book you’ve already started?). Ah well. Here’s the introductory quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? England!
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Machine by James Smythe
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Antipasti! Yum yum.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’ve spent the last four years researching depression. I’m now looking forward to reading happier things…
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’m looking forward to curling up on the sofa and doing nothing but reading.
I haven’t picked up a book since submitting my phd thesis two weeks ago. Okay, that’s not quite true. The day after submitting I carried a whole suitcase filled with books back to the library. But I haven’t read a book since submitting. And I can’t even remember the last time I read a novel. Given this, the idea of spending 24 hours doing nothing but reading (and probably some sleeping. Because sleep) sounds both wonderful and terrifying. But mostly it sounds like a fantastic way to get back into reading and finally make a start on all those books that have been taunting me during the writing up process.
So today I signed up to Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon and spent the rest of the day making preparations for the event. I’ve bought a huge amount of snacks, made sure we have plenty of tea and coffee in the house and, well, started this blog. I’ve put together a pile of books that I’ve been meaning to read (seen above, being inspected by Ianto the cat). I think I’ve got a good range – enough to keep my attention over the day. Obviously I won’t be able to read them all, but it should give me plenty of choice. My husband (who blogs at Words of Mercury) is going to be keeping me company in the readathon and I’m already eyeing up his pile of books (he’s got Stefan Zweig’s Chess, which I’m pretty sure I’m going to steal).
The readathon starts in the UK at 1pm tomorrow (oh, how I wish I lived in the US so could start in the morning…). I haven’t yet decided whether to aim for the full 24 hours, or to take a break and sleep overnight (let’s face it, I’m probably going to sleep). Either way, I hope this will kickstart me back into reading again. Wish me luck!