The thing with writing about books is the difficulty of taking your initial reaction to a book (“I liked it”) and spinning it like wool; turning it, teasing it and twisting it around and around upon itself until it’s something more refined.
You can consider this post unspun, still warm from the shearing shed. Which allows me to say – it’s been an absolute shit of a year. well, for me, at least. It’s not that I’m being overly dramatic, or too harsh on myself. 2013 has been something else entirely. Quite simply, a shit of a year.
I really wanted to write one of those Best Of 2013 lists that everyone else is doing, but I’m not sure I’ve read enough. According to Goodreads, I’ve read a miserable total of twenty-two books in 2013. And that figure includes at least five novellas. Oh dear.
What’s missing from Goodreads, however, is the number of books I’ve re-read this year.
So much of this year’s reading has been comfort reading.
Earlier this month (but already, it feels like such a long time ago) on a Sunday afternoon, I found myself packing my bag for a trip to my hometown in Victoria. Not to go home for Christmas, but for a much sadder occasion – my lovely grandmother’s funeral.
After I took my black dress from the wardrobe, I went straight to my bookshelf to select a few books to take with me. Books that might provide some kind of solace, or even just distract me for a few hours. My choices were almost entirely books I’ve already read.
I’ve been back in Sydney for just over a week now. I’m still, slowly, thinking things through, trying to prevent falling back into the rhythm of work and Christmas and expectations. To that effect, I’ve just finished re-reading Howards End, and it really is absolute perfection. It’s every bit the book I remember: not only a cracker of a novel but a guidebook to life and how to live it properly.
The thing with comfort reading when you’re vulnerable is that you know exactly what you’re going to get. There’s less chance of something unexpected sneaking up on you and breaking your heart into pieces. So often this year, the book that’s found its way onto my bedside table has been one with an already-creased spine and dog-eared pages. A trusted old friend.
It’s nice having old friends to turn to when I need them. But it’s about time I pushed my shyness aside and made some new friends, too.
Next year, I’m going back to where I left off and reviewing books from the twentieth century again. I’m not quite sure how I’ll manage juggling reviews of recently-published books with reviews of books published in the sixties and seventies…but it’ll be fun finding out.
2014 will be a year of trying new things. New approaches to writing, new ideas, new places, new people…and new books.
A new year. I’m looking forward to it. Are you?
Here’s wishing you the happiest of happy new years.