17 December 2014

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Summary from Goodreads:

A working father whose life no longer feels like his own discovers the transforming powers of great (and downright terrible) literature in this laugh-out-loud memoir.

Andy Miller had a job he quite liked, a family he loved, and no time at all for reading. Or so he kept telling himself. But, no matter how busy or tired he was, something kept niggling at him. Books. Books he'd always wanted to read. Books he'd said he'd read that he actually hadn't. Books that whispered the promise of escape from the daily grind. And so, with the turn of a page, Andy began a year of reading that was to transform his life completely.

This book is Andy's inspirational and very funny account of his expedition through literature: classic, cult, and everything in between. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, this is a heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader, and a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.

If you want to know one of my "reading kryptonites", it's books about someone's reading life.  Was it a project? So many books in one year? A particular genre? Books they read as a child?  Sold.  So I jumped all over an email from HarperPerennial offering an advance copy of Andy Miller's The Year of Reading Dangerously.

Miller, at the time in his life depicted in The Year of Reading Dangerously, was in his mid-to-late thirties, a father, husband, editor, and writer.  He was busy, but he wished he could read books.  To clarify, read books for pleasure, since he read plenty for work.  He even had a work commute by train that would be long enough to allow him to read but he didn't take advantage of the opportunity.  So Miller decided that he would create a "List of Betterment" - 50 "great books" (and possibly not great) books that he ought to read or re-read.  He blogged under the pseudonym Leonard Bast, which was kind of hilarious, and even though he didn't turn into a prolific blogger he did keep reading book from his List, starting with Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which I've read (in fact, I've read most of the books Miller put on his list).

This was a very fun book to read.  We all read - or don't read - for very different reasons.  What Miller did was take that perennial complaint of "I wish I read more books" and do something about it.  He read on his commute instead of dinking around or doing a crossword or working.  He read with his wife.  He even read a few things I would not have put on anyone's "reading betterment" list.  Like A Confederacy of Dunces, which I read cover to cover and honestly cannot determine why people love it (Ignacious T. Reilly is gross and when he takes his girlfriend's braid in his "paw" and smells it....ugggggghhhhhhhhh). 

Although The Year of Reading Dangerously is not a prescriptive for the reader's reading life (even though my store inexplicably chooses to shelve this in "Self Improvement" - I'm giving the buyer a side-eye on that one), Miller makes some changes based on what he realized about himself over the course of his reading project. There's some light-hearted fun and excellent footnotes.

Dear FTC: I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher.

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