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Just Read readathon wrap up: what I read

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Me in later life (image by Steve Bailey/Flickr).

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 readathonJustRead – 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.)

UBB-TheArgonautsbyMaggieNelsonThe 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!

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4 thoughts on “Just Read readathon wrap up: what I read

  1. Lovely! And what a grand amount to have raised, that is splendid:)
    This is a great cause, but I could not have joined in as a reader, not with the reading commitments I already have not to mention going overseas (and then having to come back early to deal with The Aged Parent Crisis). However I have sponsored Maamje who is going to read a book from Ghana that she chose. (We ‘met’ through my review of A Wrong Turn at the Office of Manmade Lists, isn’t that nice?) Anyway I scouted around on her blog and she has read some fascinating books many of which are now on my wishlist… LOL the TBR never gets any smaller, does it?
    I’m intrigued by what you say about your friends’ choices of books. “Maybe everyone’s reading books like this right now, or maybe my friends just think I should be”. It made me wonder if my friends think I should be reading certain kinds of books instead of reading in my own wilful idiosyncratic way, and that in turn made me wonder about the passion with which we read our favourite kinds of books. I mean, no one would hint that you ought to eat differently, or play a certain sport because it appeals to them, or wear a certain style of dress because it looks so good on them. But when we love a book, oh how we love that book, and we want everyone else to read it too. Sometimes we just have to read a book that someone is passionate about even though it is so NOT our kind of book.
    (I read my way through Bertrand Russell’s entire oeuvre of popular philosophy books when The Spouse and I were courting because he’s a member of the BR Society, the things we do for love, eh? Mind you, it was a pleasant experience. I used to arrive at his flat after work, he would make a cocktail and cook dinner, while I romped through the book. By the time we had worked our way through every kind of daiquiri there is – including a lychee version, I had read the lot.)
    This post of yours has made me feel vaguely tempted to ask my readers what they think I should read… but I think I am not quite brave enough to do it!

    1. I love the story of your BR-and-cocktail-fuelled romance – what a wonderful way to get to know one another. And certainly the best way to tackle Bertrand.
      You could ask, but not promise to read, just so you could find out. Or you could ask and promise to read the three most compellingly argued suggestions.
      I think there’s some merit in reading the books other people think you should, particularly when the people know you (it’s different to reading books that people think EVERYONE should read, which often don’t grab me). And if my prescribed reading had been spread over a year rather than crammed into a few weeks (bringing on a little resentment about my lack of freedom) I think I would have got a lot more out of it.

  2. Hmm, I’ll think about it…
    Usually my blogging friends do an EOY wrap up of their best books, and you know, I have added so many of these to my TBR over the years, I should read them first.
    But it’s tempting, yeah…

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