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?