‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’ by Andy Miller reminds me of the great game in David Lodge’s brilliant comic novel ‘Changing Places’ – Humiliation. It’s a game played by English Literature academics – you name a work of literature you haven’t read and get a point for everyone else who has. It’s ages since I read it but I do remember an eminent professor getting into trouble when, in an attempt to win one such game, he owns up to never having read ‘Hamlet’.
We all have great books that we have yet to read and we have all at some time probably claimed to have read ones that we haven’t. Andy Miller uses this as his starting point, chronicling his ‘year of betterment’ in which he sets about reading fifty great (and some not so great) novels. The result is a witty, winning and very entertaining combination of autobiography and reflections on the significance of reading (and Neil Young) in all our lives.
‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’ is one of the books that had most impact on me in 2014. It is also responsible for another of my 2015 resolutions – if not to read more dangerously, at least to read more. The time for excuses is over. It’s time to do more of what I urge my students to do, time to watch less televised football, time to read somewhere other than in bed so that I don’t fall asleep after a couple of minutes, time (despite my continued sense that many books are longer than they need to be) to finish more of the books I start, time to realise how easily I could win any game of Humiliation. It’s time, to borrow Andy Miller’s phrase, to ‘read myself fitter’.