Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Reading What Writers Recommend

The ways we decide what to read are various and complicated. As I have written before, I generally decide what to read based on a. seeing that one of my favorite authors has just published a new book; or b. reading a review of a new book that piques my interest. Occasionally I read something because it was recommended by a friend or by an author I respect and like. As examples of the latter: in the last couple of days, I have looked for books because they were mentioned by authors I like. First, author Caroline Leavitt posted on Facebook a link to her blogpost on why she reads Joan Didion. This reminded me of how much I have liked Didion's work over the years, despite its frequent bleakness. I have read most of her fiction and nonfiction, most recently "Blue Nights" (which I posted about on 1/17/12). I have also gone back to some of her earlier work, such as "Play It As It Lays" (see my post of 3/23/11). Leavitt's reminder made me go back again to more of Didion's earlier work -- "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and "The White Album" -- which I have just obtained and will soon read. Second, I read an interview with the great short story writer Alice Munro (whom I have written about here several times) on The New Yorker online (11/20/12), in which she spoke of Eudora Welty as a writer she admired; she spoke of "The Golden Apples" in particular. This led me to request "The Golden Apples" at my local library, and I look forward to re-reading it as well. I read all three of these books many, many years ago; re-reading them after all these years will be a different experience than the original reading. This reminds me of something else about my reading, and that of many readers: We read many new books, but we also revisit books we have read and liked in the past, in a sort of dancing loop. Both are essential parts of our ongoing complex relationship with the books in our lives.

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