Admit it, we've all lied about reading books we never have at some point in our lives. Perhaps it's a classic or the latest raved about read, but we've all done it. Andy Miller had a whole house filled with books that he'd claimed to have read. A publishing editor and a writer by trade, Andy realised that he's not quite as well-read as he thought and needs to make time for reading.
It starts off with a short list that he entitles "the list of betterment." These books claim to have changed lives. The big beefy classics with important themes and messages. The most acclaimed and celebrated books were all on there. After successfully tackling some of the more difficult reads, Andy has gets the reading bug and soon sets off to read fifty books in a year.
Andy has a great writing style, which at times was eloquent, funny and knowledgeable. It was obvious that he had spent a long time researching each novel and its author. There was a lot of background information given about the context of the novel and personal attributes that would have influenced the writer. However, the frequent footnotes often seemed to break up the flow of the text and were often unneeded.
You learn a lot about Andy's life as well as each book he attempts to read. It was really lovely reading about days out with his wife and young son. I particularly enjoyed learning about his early love of books. However, that's where most of the positivity about his personal life ends.
During the time of writing, it was clear that Andy was going through a bit of a tough time, he disliked his job and felt constrained by his daily responsibilities. And although there were some weak links back to the books, it often felt like I was reading his dairy, which would be all well and good if I had chosen to do so, but I was ready to hear about the books, and that sometimes fell a little short.
He doesn't discuss all of the books that he read in the year. Obviously 300 pages is a limited space, however, I think that if he had spent less time delving into his personal life and his past, it would have freed up a lot of space to discuss the books. Some novels were analysed in full detail whereas Catch 22 and American Psycho were skimmed over. If fact, we learn nothing more about those books other than the fact that he had read them. Annoyingly, those were the two books that I wanted to hear about the most!
However, it was great to read about somebody falling back in love with books. There was quite a few books that he discusses that I now desperatly want to read, including The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch and Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes. Towards the end of the book we discover that his quest altered his perspective on life and helped to shape his future plans. It's very uplifting and shows the power a great book.