The Sunday Salon: My Best-laid Plan has Gone Astray

Well, what can I say?  Three books into my January book stack, I careened off in a different direction.  I rang in the new year reading Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle, which was a delightful way to begin her centenary year (here’s my review).  I also started The Progress of Love by Alice Munro, my first book for this year’s short story project.  I’ve enjoyed reading the stories at bedtime, a bit here and there — it’s better than tackling them all at once.

Then I began the third book on my stack, Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose Novels.  I have an omnibus edition of  four novels, and originally planned to read only the first, Never Mind.  But it was short, and intriguing.  The storyline was difficult, so I can’t say I liked it exactly, but I wasn’t ready to move on to something else, either.  So I kept going.

And then a weird thing happened:  I looked at the other books I planned to read — all Orange Prize nominees from a decade ago — and couldn’t get excited about any of them.  This is very strange, because the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize) is one of my favorite literary prizes!  I’ve selectively worked my way through the back list, but I’m wondering if I’ve reached a point of diminishing marginal returns with those older works?  In any case, my lack of enthusiasm caused me to abandon Orange January for the first time.  I feel bad about that, but I blame it on poor planning and a lack of research into the titles I’d chosen.   I’m determined to return to my lovely Oranges in July, and this time I’ll probably choose more recent books.

So there I was reading the second Patrick Melrose novel, Bad News, when I listened to a Guardian Books podcast which included a preview of books to be released in 2013. I got really excited about new releases from Kate Atkinson, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Margaret Atwood.  Atwood’s novel, MaddAddam, is a third in a trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake.  Now, I read Oryx and Crake last year, and bought a copy of The Year of the Flood at about the same time, but then allowed it to languish on my shelves.  Suddenly I had to read it right away, so after finishing Bad News I picked up The Year of the Flood.  It’s an interesting book, one I wish I’d read immediately after Oryx and Crake because I think the connections between the two would be more obvious.  But I’m still enjoying it, and I’ll return to Patrick Melrose when I’ve finished. 

I’m actually rather pleased with myself for deviating from my plan.   Back in the days when I was doing a lot of reading challenges, I planned my reads months in advance to make sure I met my goals.  It’s taken me a couple of years to develop a more spontaneous approach, choosing books that fit my mood.  So while I feel bad about abandoning a favorite literary prize, I’ve loved reading more on a whim.  I hope this becomes a trend!

Have you had any unexpected reading experiences this week?

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14 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: My Best-laid Plan has Gone Astray

  1. Well done for reading on a whim! I’ve been doing just the same this month and I think I’ve enjoyed my reading more for doing so. For instance, I’d just been sidetracked by George Orwell Day tomorrow so shall be reading something of his instead of what I was planning. That’s the joy of books, imho!

  2. I have thought about joining some challenges that focus on prize winners only to look at some titles going way back and think, ugh what a chore, I don’t want to pin myself down. I know the feeling of looking at a stack and thinking I don’t want to read any of these — or worse reading and not enjoying anything. The structure of challenges is helpful when it is helpful — and I am apprehensively and excitedly taking on my first challenge — the Europa Editions challenge. I know full well spontaneity and sidetracking are more suited to my reading nature.

    • Hi Barbara, thanks for visiting! I agree “the structure of challenges is helpful when it’s helpful.” I went overboard my first two years of blogging and had to quit cold turkey :) The Europa Editions are lovely though and I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading them, challenge or no!

  3. I haven’t really kept to my plans this month either but I’ve learnt to be gentler with myself if I don’t stick to my plans. After all, they’re only my plans and I’d rather abandon my plans than not enjoy something because I’ve forced myself to read it. It seems unfair to the book in a way. Planning can be fun but so can reading on a whim :-)

  4. I love reading on a whim! I’ve pretty much forgotten about the Orange Prize this month but I’m only hoping to read one or two books from the longlist. I had my reading pile planned last week only to throw those same plans away once I saw the trailer for Beautiful Creatures. :-) I ended up reading the book in a day! Enjoy your week.

  5. Sometimes there’s nothing better than feeling — and indulging — in an overwhelming desire to devour a book right that moment. A lot of what I’m reading at the moment is university/research related, so I’m trying to read according to whim when I get the time for pleasure reading.

    • Diana, if you are doing a lot of academic reading then you certainly deserve to go where your mood takes you whenever you have the opportunity! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I have been pretty good on my reading next what I planned on reading next but truly, it’s rare when I do so. Good for you! I do, however, hope to get to Orange winner The Song of Achilles soon. And I’m now wanting to read Year of the Flood before I let too much more time get between it and O&C.

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