National Year of Reading 2008

Kate Hardy has blogged today about the 100 books, nicked from Michelle Styles, as part of their National Year of Reading 2008’s writers in residence programme.

The idea is:
1) Look at the list of 100 titles and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.


I will not repeat the list from Kate’s blog but here is My score:


Read? =63

Love? =4- A town like Alice, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Heart of Darkness

Intend to Read? =3.  That’s right, 3. Otherwise I would have already read them J


Overall Conclusion?


No doubt an excellent and learned, well meaning and best intentioned committee came up with this list of books.


Time for a Reallity Check.


Some people might think it is terrific to encourage others to read something they have not tried before – and they may love. And they would be right.

Some people might think it is an insult that they should be told what to read, and the ‘though police’ are back in force. And they would also be right.



I consider myself quite well read. I have been reading prolifically since age 4. 

And I scored 63%.


I think that there is a great danger in creating lists like this, since they could make the occasional fiction reader feel inadequate and possibly even second rate- as though they were not worthy to read ‘the posh books’ as someone said to me once in a bookshop.


Over the last year or two I have had several – sometimes heated – discussions with intelligent people about why I love commercial genre fiction over literary fiction.

We know the criticism about romance – you should hear what they say about crime and thrillers!

Trashy books.

Beach books.


This is elitism and must be stamped out.


But it has an impact.


And sorry, but MOST – not all by any means– of the books on this list would not be considered by the vast majority of folk as commercial genre fiction, which most people read for pleasure and are willing to hand over their hard earned cash to buy.

I know, I know, many are totally brilliant.

Other the other hand..

Unless you are studying English Literature at school for exams or at a higher level, why would anyone want to read Shakespeare? These are plays – and I always enjoyed them better on the stage.

Same with most of the 19th and 20th century literature.


Why would someone spend their money on these books?


What relevance do they have in people’s lives in 2008 when money is getting tighter?


Worse. Reading Groups and Book Clubs tend to favour these books.

I know from personal experience that to many people the idea of a reading group is STILL a party for clichéd middle class females gathering over chardonnay and nibbles to talk about Alice Sebold and other [and I quite directly from a work colleague] ‘Boring’ books.

Oh dear.

Many of these books are classed under than banner = and it is going to be mighty hard to drag them out into the fresh air and sunshine and convince readers to try them.


And the biggest problem/challenge? My person opinion?

To most people under 30 today, their storytelling experience has come from Television and movies.

We all know quotes from our favourite TV shows and films.

We have our favourite characters and themes.

Screenwriting and TV writing is the new storytelling. And it is often brilliant. It is designed to be compelling and entertaining.


I am so old that I was introduced to books BEFORE our family had a TV.

How many can say the same today?



1.TV/DVDs/ Cinema OR

2.Books readers will have to work hard to read, no matter how entertaining they may be, and how wonderful the storytelling.


Yes, I know that we do both, but not everyone does.


Reading habits are changing. Several surveys have shown that adults read in bed for 20 to 40 min sessions, or while travelling. Are they going to do that with Joyce?


Example. Yesterday evening I watched ‘StarDust’ on DVD – then read the final chapters of my Mills and Boon before lights out.


That is the world in 2008.


I greatly admire anyone involved in the National Year of Reading campaign – it is a brilliant cause. Because they are going to have their work cut out for them.


[Here endeth the lesson and rant. Sorry.]