On The Reading Horizon…

Now that we are back from a week away in the Netherlands, metaphorically, I thought we could all have a little catch up about our ‘Reading Horizon’s’. On The Readers podcast Gavin and I used to do a section called ‘What We Have Read, Are Reading and Want To Read Next’, which was a bit of a mouthful, and I thought I might do the now and next with you as a) I am reading an absolute chunkster at the moment and so thought a nice short post while I crack on with that might be an idea b) I always want to hear what you have been reading and this seems like a nice post to do irregularly regularly from now on. My current reading horizon looks like this…

Reading Horizon

No, that isn’t a delightfully attired breeze blog in front of you, it is indeed Eleanor Catton’s currently Man Booker shortlisted second novel ‘The Luminaries’ (which I embarrassingly spent weeks calling The Illuminaries, oops) with the Women’s Prize Fiction 2013 winner, A.M. Homes’ ‘May We Be Forgiven’, sedately waiting in the shadows to follow it up. It is only now that I have realised my reading would look to a stranger as being a bit ‘prize’ driven and that I am following the herd, they would be slightly right but also slightly wrong.

I wish I could remember who called ‘The Luminaries’ a modern authors version of a sensation novel, because whoever it was is the person who saved it from being given to a friend who loves loooooong books more than anything, ever – well, maybe with the exception of cake, which is why we are friends. It was that comparison that made me sit back and think ‘well, I have to bloody read that don’t I? And I must read it right now!’ Alas, right now might not have been the best time as with finishing my contract at Culture Liverpool (which I am really sad to be leaving, even though it looks like I have a very exciting work project coming in the autumn, as the people and the events have been amazing) and the final few events have not been ideal for getting into a mammoth book. I am about 150 pages and characters and possible plot lines, as it is a mystery, were still being introduced and despite notebooks I wasn’t keeping up even though it is written BRILLIANTLY. So I have had a break but am getting back to it now.

Question… If you are starting a massive book (and I am planning on reading Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ on a long trip to London in a few weeks so this will be very helpful) do you read it in little bits, possibly keeping notes, or do you need big hour or longer reading sessions to gulp it down and get a real handle on it? I would love to know. I am definitely in the latter category, which helps with ‘The Luminaries’ also as the chapters are quite long too – it is a book in proportion, ha.

The other book, almost quite literally waiting in the shadow of ‘The Luminaries’ , is A.M Homes latest novel which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year. This is actually a re-read for my book group and one I am really looking forward to because the first time I read it, for The Green Carnation Prize last year, I had a ‘loved it and also hated it’ reading experience so I am looking forward to going back and then chatting about it all over again. After those two I think it might be time for a crime novel.

So that is what I have on my reading horizon, have you read either or these and if so what did you think? More importantly, what is on yours, what have you been reading, what are you reading and what might you most likely read next? Let me know, oh and also share your habits when starting a really, really long book too please, little reading bursts or big reading gulps?

27 Comments

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27 responses to “On The Reading Horizon…

  1. Kateg

    Ugh!! I am in a total reading funk. I keep picking books up and putting them down. I had finished 2 great books a couple of weeks ago and everything has paled in comparison. I am not sure what is next, but I think the second SJ Bolton or maybe I will download an Agatha Raisin onto my evil machine. As far as big books, I usually start off reading short bits and then as I go on I read longer and longer chunks. Right now I am reading The Portrait of a Lady with a read along group and as the chapters are brief I can read 1 or 2 a day making it less daunting.

  2. When a chunky novel breaks naturally into two or more sections, I do tend to have a break or two (as I’m doing with From Here to Eternity which is five books and over 950 pages). But if it doesn’t have a natural break – I keep reading until it’s done.

  3. I definitely have to read a longer book in bigger chunks otherwise I get lost and then very cross. I read The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell on holiday recently and found it difficult to get into – might have given up if I’d been reading a couple of pages every night! But I ended up being completely hooked instead. I don’t really want to make notes – that makes it seem a bit workish. Saving Bolano’s 2666 for my next holiday!

    • Louise Trolle

      I’ve read the first “book” of The Alexandria Quartet, and it’s been lying on my nightstand for ½ year – when did you get hooked? (I’ve been puzzling wehter to abandon it or pull myself together and finish it!)

  4. David

    I loved the Homes when I read it earlier in the year. I keep putting off ‘The Luminaries’ due to its whoppingness but I’m going to try and get to it soon (you mention it has long chapters and one of the things that intrigues me about it is that the chapters – or maybe sections, I can’t quite remember – apparently get shorter and shorter as the book progresses as structurally it is meant to mimic a spiral with the pace getting ever faster towards the end).

    Anyway… my last read was Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ which I enjoyed immensely, and yet I couldn’t help feeling it was all a little too slickly perfect and not that different from many other American family sagas I’ve read, whilst as a book about the immigrant experience I’ve read several that have more depth and ambition. And yet it’s such a stonkingly good read… I suspect this is what Philip Hensher meant when he described it as having an ‘American airport bestseller style’!

    My current read is Michael Winter’s ‘Minister Without Portfolio’ (currently on the Giller Prize longlist) and it is an absolute corker. His writing has that feeling of being hewn from rock or struggled against high tides and gales for (if that makes any sense at all!) – it has a beauty and grace that is somehow elemental and almost every sentence surprises with some insight or truth. Example of the writing: “He spoke of Henry as if he were an old shed built with found wood. Which he was. Which we all are.”

    Coming up for me: hopefully I’ll get to the end of the Booker shortlist (just Catton and Bulawayo to go) before the winner is announced, but I’m also trying to read my was through more of the Giller longlist so I reckon either Craig Davidson’s ‘Cataract City’ or Joseph Boyden’s ‘The Orenda’ will be next.

  5. kaggsysbookishramblings

    It kind of depends on the book really. I like to do a chunkster in one go and preferably in long reads – have just embarked upon The Brothers Karamazov which is nearly 900 pages. However, the chapters are relatively short and it’s split into sections so somehow this makes it easier. And it’s proving surprisingly easy to read. But I have to be in the right mood for a long book and it’s taken me a little while to get going on this one. I think you have to read a good number of pages in one go as you started one of these big volumes so that you can at least feel like you’ve got well into it. Good luck with your chunksters!

  6. I like to at least start with a big section of a doorstopper otherwise I become discouraged. After reading 1Q84, I think I prefer hefty numbers spread across several volumes. Much easier to read in bed. On my reading horizon is Monsieur le Commandant and The Library of Unrequited Love, both the antithesis of a chunkster (lovely word!). Good luck, particularly with A Suitable Boy – A Suitable Girl is in the offing next year, I believe.

  7. I haven’t read eitherof those books, but i will be very interested in hearing what you think of The Luminaries.
    I have just read a book with a masssive title – The thoughts and happenings of Wilfred Price purveyor of superior funerals – it’s charming and light – ish, I needed something light- and I liked it – but didn’t love it. I am now reading Crampton Hodnet by Barbara Pym.
    When it comes to long books I tend to read them when on holiday from work, when I can devote big chunks of time to them.

  8. I read A Suitable Boy recently and reading it in short bits just wasn’t an option- it was too addicting to put down. At one point I thought I would try to write down the plot lines as I went, but that just ended up making me feel stressed and overwhelmed by the number of interacting threads. Whereas if I just let all the threads coexist in my head I found I could keep track of them just fine.

  9. So jealous when I saw your picture. I’m dying to read The Luminaries and quite a lot of other things too. I’m waiting for it to be delivered from the States for my birthday, which is tomorrow. I received an Amazon gift card from the States that I promptly used. I’m also waiting for The Lowland and The Goldfinch. At the moment I’m reading We Need New Names which is really well written and interesting but tragic. As for my reading habits, I’m a longer reading session girl myself, but I always carry my books with me and sneak in a few pages here and there when I can. I can’t help it. It’s a habit from when I was very young. Happy reading!

  10. writerdsnelson

    I’m also reading The Luminaries and I want to read Harvest, which is also on the Man Booker list. I also have some books to read on voodoo and Haiti for researching my next Blake Hetherington mystery. Plenty to keep me busy. I’ll look forward to reading your review of The Luminaries. Happy reading :o)

  11. Sounds like a good book – I’d be interested to know what you thought of The Shining Girls too. I really enjoyed it but did feel like I wanted to read it again once I’d finished to make sure I didn’t miss anything with all the time changes.
    I’m reading SImon Armitage’s Walking Home at the moment, non-fiction. It’s great though, just like someone chatting to you via the page.

  12. I’ve just finished the experimental novel (indeed a prize winning novel) “How to Break Article Noun” by Carolyn Chun. Quite poetic and certainly a challenge! A book lent to me by Dr Chun, when I mentioned my love of the poetry of Sappho and which I am slowly making my way through, is the very erudite “Eros the bittersweet” by Anne Carson. More on that perhaps when I have finished it.

  13. I remember reading A Suitable Boy years ago – it’s a wonderful book but I think you have to invest some chunks of time in it or else it takes too long to read and you lose the flavour. Really interested to hear what you think of it!

  14. I find I have to really plan a time when I’m confident I can finish a long book without losing the plot, I used to make notes but found it interrupts the flow too much, I suppose the highlight function on the Kindle is the modern way. so glad your going to read ‘a suitable boy’ it’s truly a sumptuous wonder of a read. I’ve got a quote on the cover of mine which is ‘make time for this book, for it will keep you company for the rest of your life’ which is so true. A suitable girl will be out next year so it’s a good time to read it. I’ve just finished one of your recommended reads which was the thriller ‘Alex’ I loved it so thanks for the tip. I’m after something light at the moment so am dipping into a bit of P.G. Wodehouse.

  15. I found that reading really fat novels in small chunks made the whole process seem never ending. I do like to see that bookmark moving a little each day. My mistake with A Suitable Boy was not spending enough quality reading time with it so I lost track of all the characters. I think I read somewhere that the Luminaries chapters get shorter as you progress.As for current reading, I finished another Booker long lister last night (Five Star Billionaire) and am about to open Jim Crace’s Harvest

  16. I find I need chunks of time for longer novels. I love Dickens, but I find in short bursts of time I don’t “get into” the novel. That book looks lusciously thick, much like a delicious piece of cake.

  17. Wow, the finished copy of The Luminaries is stunning (and heavy looking!). I’m so anxious to read it, but every time I’m about to start I get a little nervous…it’s just such a big commitment and there are so many other books. I’m going to tackle it over the next few weeks, though.

    I just started Margaret Drabble’s The Pure Gold Baby and though I haven’t gotten far enough to give a great opinion on the story itself, I’m totally awed by her writing as always.

  18. Ruthiella

    With longer books, I try to read a chapter at a time, if not more. I had no idea The Luminaries is a sensation novel. Now I am interested too!

    I have read May We Be Forgiven and lean more towards the hate it side than the love it. A lot of the book came off as very offensive, but couldn’t figure out if that was intentional or not.

    I just finished Crusoe’s Daughter by Jane Gardam for the Cornflower Book Group, I am currently reading Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope and I am considering going Sci-Fi/Fantasy for my next read – either The Warded Man (the Painted Man in the UK) by Peter V. Brett which a friend recommended to me or Fahrenheit 451 because it has been on my TBR for ages.

  19. sharkell

    I have recently started A Suitable Boy and plan on reading it in sections over the next 12 months. I have never read a book like this before and I am a bit nervous. I’m already having trouble picking it up again after a break after Part 1 (I shouldn’t have put it down because Part 1 was actually quite short!). Having said that, it is a really enjoyable read and I look forward to sharing thoughts with you when you read it. I usually save long books for holidays so I can devote chunks of time to them and read them straight through. I am just finishing Eugenia, a true crime book about a woman who lived as a man, married two women, and was then tried for the murder of her first wife. It is a truly fascinating read, written by a QC who not only tells the story but analyses the trial and her representation at the trial.

  20. I have read a Suitable Boy and love it. The story just pulls you…
    I find with thick books it helps if you get a good bit of reading done at once so that you get the gist of what is happening.

  21. How I read a chunkster all depends on the book. Some I have been able to plow through, and others (like Infinite Jest) I had to take my time with and read in short bursts.

    I am currently reading HHhH, Doctor Sleep, and The Historian. Up next will be Seven for a Secret, and The Girl You Left Behind.

  22. Louise Trolle

    My life doens’t allow much space for “long reading gulps”, except with audiobooks (I’m in the car, no kids, no tv and no computer🙂
    So long books take me a month or two to read usually.
    I’m finishing “Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon” by Jorge Amado, and next up are “The Pure in heart” by Susan Hill and “Maidenhair ” by Mikhail Shishkin

  23. Adam Stone

    I hope that you do not mind but I have nominated you for the Shine On award. Take a look at what its all about.

    http://adammstone.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/shine-on-award/

  24. Col

    The Luminaries is on my shelf waiting! But it’s so bloody big I can’t see over it so at the moment I can’t see my Reading Horizon!

  25. Oh no – I had no idea The Luminaries was so big. *Sigh*. Because of work, etc, my slow reading habits rarely change so, although I adore historical sensation novels, it will take me forever to finish. I know what I need…..a Christmas break!
    The Manchester Book Group are reading ‘In the Time of the Butterflies’ by Julia Alvarez at the moment which I’ve really enjoyed so if you see it lingering in a bookshop one day do give it a try. The fact that it’s a novelised version of a true story I knew nothing about (and should have done) makes it all the better🙂

  26. Hello, just stumbled over your blog, it’s very nice and interesting.
    I used to love to read really long books, 500 pages and more, but I find myself kind of impatient now, whether it’s getting older or the www-culture that gets one to being a hop-on-hop-off-reader for only small texts, I don’t know.
    I am also a multiple reader and always have too many books on my nightstand, reading 2,3 simultaneously. Just now it’s “Palimpsest”, which gives me a very hard time, it’s beautifully written, so dense in language, but it’s the first time, I wish I could read it in my own language (German), because I have to look up so many words. But I can highly recommand it- very intriguing story.
    I also read “London Observed” by Doris Lessing, because I will travel to London in 2 weeks. And I’ve just finished “Just kids” by Patti Smith, which was a real joy.
    Also on my nightstand “New selected poems” by Mark Strand and “Counting one’s blessings”, the letters of Queen Mum.
    Greetings from the Baltic Sea!

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