Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Year in Books

Yesterday I went for my annual eye exam, and much to my surprise, my eyesight has improved.  We tried a variety of combinations to see what would get me the best reading and the best distance vision.  I am thrilled with my multifocal contacts, which means I don't have to use reading glasses, and I can still see street signs.

I've had that type of lens for 2 years, and I know that I'm living on borrowed time with this vision that can be corrected with multifocal lenses. 

I celebrated my vision by reading, of course.  I'm also lucky in that I can read most print easily without my contacts in--reading the computer screen is more difficult.

I am making my way through Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed, which is a retelling of The Tempest.  I've been wondering if I should have reread the Shakespeare play first.  My Hindu writer friend tells me that Shakespeare is part of me, so no need to reread.  But I'm thinking of how much more I enjoyed Michael Cunningham's The Hours when I had Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway fresh in my brain.

Well, I'm halfway through, so I won't be doing that.  But these ruminations have made me think of my reading experiences of 2017; a year ago, I'd be starting Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad.  But even though that book might be one of the more inventive ones I read, it's not my favorite of 2017--is it?

In terms of fiction, the best book I read in 2017 might have been American War by Omar El Akkad.  My list of books read includes this insight:  "Like The Sympathizer and The Underground Railroad, it (American War) contains torture that’s more graphically depicted than I’m used to."

But 2017 was also the year I revisited authors that were important to me in my younger years--and I discovered that they are still just as vital to me.  I went back to reread Margaret Drabble, Margaret Atwood, and Marge Piercy.

As I look back over my list, I'm struck by the presence of books I didn't finish, despite giving them over 100 pages to capture my attention.  There's only a few, but reading time is so precious that I'm always irritated when these books don't work for me--they often end up on my reading list because others speak highly of them.

As I look at my list, I'm struck by the absence of spiritual books, the meaty work by N.T. Wright or Eugene Peterson that I used to read.  I did read some Henri Nouwen, but I'd like to do more.

That's the message of all of my reading lists--if only I could do more.  So many wonderful books, and so little time to read them--and when I do have time, I often nod off over my reading, as I did last night.

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