Monday, 15 February 2010

Better dead than red

When I was younger I used to read a lot but my reading habits were maybe typical of someone with Asperger's Syndrome. Almost exclusively, I read non-fiction. The rare times I did read fiction it was something that was about whatever I was interested in at the time. I used to think that reading a fiction book was a waste of time. Why invest all that time in something purely for pleasure when you could be educating yourself and learning instead?

Now that I'm older I have to admit I've all but stopped reading books, and even the rare books that I do read are fiction. Oh, the irony. I'm not sure what caused this change. I think maybe I realised that when you read a non-fictional book about something you're only really getting one person's view of the facts with selective evidence to back it up. I think also when I was younger I didn't appreciate that the language that makes up the book can be art itself, the art was not just the finished product.

It's been a while since I read any books so I recently made a decision to make myself better read. I'm not sure if I'll find anything that will change my life, or even anything I'd want to read more than once (the concept of reading a book more than once is something I don't think I'll ever understand). On the other hand I do expect to read a lot of crap that I have to struggle through then curse that I ever wasted the time.

One of the reasons I want to be better read is because I want "in". I want to see what it is about these books that everyone talks about. I want to experience something that is an important piece of people's lives, and an important artifact of our collective culture. If I'm honest, though, a little piece of me wants to read these books because I'm a snob and I think reading books will make me a "better" person.

I want to concentrate on "classics" and have few books in mind already and I know some people who know some people who read some books so I'll seek to get recommendations too. I'm currently reading "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. It's a bit of a cheat first book and I know I'm easing myself into this exercise as I know the story very well (I've read Will Self's "Dorian" and I've seen the movies too) and it is something that piques my interest. Couple to that Wilde's famous wit, of which I have enjoyed and admired many of his quips, and I think it's a good book to start with.

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