It has been another slow week of reading for me, though for different reasons than last week. On the *plus* side, I’m excited to have finally finished reading a book that was languishing on my “currently reading” list for the last month.
What are you currently reading?
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. It jumped to the head of the queue this week for my new reading challenge, When Are You Reading? Though I read almost exclusively on my Nook GlowLight Plus, I have the paperback edition of this book. (It’s a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title, so two reading challenges addressed in one go). It’s the bilingual edition, the left side in the original and the right side in Heaney’s modern translation. Even though I can’t read the original, I like having it there.
Reading it is reminding me how much I miss holding paper books in my hands. I can’t read it everywhere I go because of eye restrictions, so I’m not getting through it as quickly as I’d like. But I am valuing the meditative experience of reading a poem more than 1,000 years old AND reading it on paper.
I’m also listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling on my walks to the beach. I’ve only a few chapters to go, so things are about to get very dark.
What did you recently finish reading?
Surprise! More than a month after starting it, I finished The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan. If you don’t know the book, it was inspired by Morgan’s blog project to read a book from every country in the world. The idea came to her (a Londoner) in 2012, when her home city hosted the Olympics. She encountered challenges from the start, including how do you decide what counts as a country? She went with UN designations that she later finds problematic. (I wonder why she didn’t pick the countries represented in the Olympics, or maybe she addressed that, and I’ve forgotten.)
Overall, the book is an earnest effort to provide an overview of the international book publishing industry. Readers who are interested in this subject will find a rich and varied bibliography from which to cull further reading.
Though the project poses some obvious structural challenges, the idea seemed rich with possibilities for connecting with human experience. I eagerly anticipated this book because I thought it was going to be about the author’s experiences reading books from around the world. It turned out to be … not that. It was overwhelmingly a pastiche of citations from theorists, cultural critics, and research on the international publishing industry threaded together by her commentary and thoughts. These were often engaging and thoughtful. The problem, for me as a reader, is the abundance of issues covered loosely, inevitable in a 336-page book (including a very long bibliography). That’s why I call it an overview. It’s impossible to cover every topic she addresses comprehensively in a book of this length. Each chapter could have been a book of its own.
Of the books she read, there are scant mentions of what they invited her to think about, how they challenged her, and how they opened her mind and heart. For me, that would have been a more interesting read. It would also have been a more personal journey, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to write about that. After finishing the book, I visited her blog to see how she wrote about the books themselves. The pieces I read had a Kirkus Reviews vibe, assuming the posture of objective critic. This isn’t the kind of criticism I’m drawn to, leading me to think I probably should have read her blog before reading her book.
This is an excellent book if you want to learn more about international book publishing and its challenges. If you’re expecting a memoir of reading, you won’t find much of that here.
What do you think you’ll read next?
A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman. It’s my book club’s pick, and we’re meeting Monday to discuss it. A dear friend who is in my book club emailed me that it’s breaking her heart in the best way possible, and she believes I will enjoy it. I trust her judgment and am looking forward to reading it!
What’s on your read, currently reading, and to read list this week?