I don’t know about you but when I go out for a meal, be it at an Italian, Indian, Chinese etc, I find that I invariably order the same thing. Odd because in my head I am really adventurous and like to try anything and everything, but that really only happens on holiday or if I am at a buffet or tasting evening or event for work. What has all this food got to do with books? Well, since you asked so nicely, let me tell you… I think I have started to do the same thing with the books I read.
Out of the twenty-six books that I have read this year I have worked out that only five of them aren’t middle class white writers, most of them female and that the stories on the whole apart from six or seven have a middle class setting even if they range from Victorian England to 1930’s America and the present day in both countries. Also, only three of them have been in translation. And I wonder why I have been getting into reading funks a lot this year.
I don’t think it is intentional though, I think somewhere along the line – like ordering the same favourite meals without realising it – it has simply become the case. Though I have now spotted it and I am thinking that it is time to address it as, dare I say it, I have been getting harder on the books I am reading and more likely to give up on them or see faults in them (though the next two book reviews you will see are of the vein I am talking and were absolute corkers). It is not that I am getting bored, I guess it is just that if you eat the same things all the time you forget why you liked them so much in the first place. They lose their special qualities and you lose your appetite. I have actually just remembered Kim of Reading Matters mentioned, when we recorded an episode of the Readers, that she used to be on a firm diet of American literature and suddenly the form she loved she was getting a bit let down by too often, so she mixed it up.
Mixing it up is very much what I am about to do. After all that is what I did as a kid, I would simply mooch around libraries and bookshops with my mum and take risks, sometimes admittedly based on the cover. Also the oh-so-slow (I have been doing it since January the 1st) clearing out of my TBR is going to get a rocket propelled wriggle on today and tomorrow, they are now overflowing the hardback shelves and paperback storage boxes and appearing in piles all over the floors/tables of varying rooms. So I will be looking for as many non white middle class books, and books in translation, as I can find and popping them high up the TBR – this will nicely link in with the fact that I am off to a round the world buffet restaurant where I have now decided I will be as adventurous as possible (whilst still scoffing on an old ‘safe’ choice now and again).
Do you ever feel your reading diet has become a little structured, bland or routine? How did you break it once you know you’re in it? What books would you recommend to me that will send me away from what I know and off to distant places all around the world meeting all walks of life?