It’s not the end of July, but I’m calling a halt to my sponsored reading and taking a look at what I’ve learned.
You may already know that a few months ago I set up a readathon – JustRead – to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Reading and sponsoring happens during June and July, and as of today the 30 brave readers have raised $4811.44. Let’s hope we make it $5000 by the end of July (if you’d like to help make that happen, why not sponsor a reader?)
To lure in sponsors, I offered to read any book on earth, provided the sponsor gave $30 or more. Consequently, since June 1 I’ve read:
- Sunset song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (sponsored by Ryan O’Neill)
- The wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis (sponsored by Wendy Smith)
- Fat, forty and fired by Nigel Marsh (sponsored by Sinead Quinn-Biskup)
- A death in the family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (sponsored by Misha Ketchell)
- The argonauts by Maggie Nelson (sponsored by James Tierney)
- The blazing world by Siri Hustvedt (sponsored by Megan Clement)
- Ash Road by Ivan Southall (sponsored by Dani Valent)
- Speedboat by Renata Adler (sponsored by Gillian Terzis)
- Novel on yellow paper by Stevie Smith (sponsored by Reema Rattan)
- The Petrov poems by Lesley Lebkowicz (sponsored by Sue aka Whispering Gums)
(My ‘reviews’ of each are here.)
The weirdest combination was reading Fat, forty and fired followed by A death in the family: two blokes in their 40s in the midst of a mid-life crisis, struggling with being fathers and with the competing pull of art versus making money, each sit down to write a book. The results could not be more different (predictably, I’m going to have to say Karl Ove did a better job. I hadn’t expected to like the Knausgaard, but I was bewitched).
Another major theme was ‘being a woman in a world run by men’, which came out strongly in Sunset song, The wife of Martin Guerre, and The argonauts, hugely in The blazing world and partially in Speedboat, Novel on yellow paper and The Petrov poems.
But the thing I was most struck by was how many of these books were kind-of-a-novel-kind-of-a-memoir constructed out of a series of vignettes: A death in the family, The argonauts, Speedboat and Novel on yellow paper, which seems like an awful lot of books from such a little genre. (While I was doing Just Read I also snuck in a read of Luke Carman’s An elegant young man, which turned out to be another ‘maybe it’s a novel maybe it’s a memoir here’s a bunch of vignettes’ book.) Maybe everyone’s reading books like this right now, or maybe my friends just think I should be.
So should I always get other people to choose my reading? I reckon no. I mostly liked most of the books, but I seem to pick more books I really like when left to my own devices. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have read Knausgaard without Just Read and I’m glad I did. But even more so I might never have heard of Maggie Nelson if James Tierney hadn’t chosen The argonauts, and that would have been terrible: no book has blown my mind like that one for a very long time.
Thank you so much to everyone who sponsored me, and to everyone who signed up to read. Push on, you’re nearly there!