the reading project for 2021 (and perhaps 2022)

For the past few years, I have set myself a reading project. The first was The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night, translated by Sir Richard Burton, largely, solely perhaps for the reason that it had been sitting on my shelf for years, asking me to spend some time with it. The second was the complete works, novels and short stories, of Kurt Vonnegut. Both of these I completed, though Vonnegut took a bit longer than a year.

The third, a project that in retrospect was far too vast in its scope, was to read humanity from the beginning. I have spent the past couple of years wandering through ancient Sumer, and I will spend more years there still. Sumer is a fascinating place, and one that’s captured me.

But I will never read all of Sumer, and so the project of reading humanity from the beginning is a project that made sense only because I didn’t understand how many of our early stories have been travelled through time to us, even knowing that the recorded stories are but a small part of the stories that were told, in front of hearths and in public fora.

And so I need a new reading project, one that I can actually complete, if not in one year then in two.

The (moderately) recent Time Magazine list of the best 100 Fantasy Novels recently came to my attention. Two things struck me. One was how few of its books I’d read. The other is how many of its authors I recognized. And so this becomes the project. A century of novels in a single year is a lot, two a week, and that might well be beyond what I can do, particularly given that some of them are properly long. Even giving myself two years, and removing those I’ve already read, will be a stretch, but let’s give it a shot.

One of the things that Vonnegut taught me during our year (and a half) together is that it can be difficult to focus attention on one author, one voice, however entertaining and captivating that voice might be. Two thirds of the way in, there comes the desire for a bit of variety, a voice that’s a bit different. This was less of an issue with Burton and his Nights, a collection of tales brought together by the whim of this old Victorian.

Let the journey begin.

~ by Jim Anderson on 7 December 2020.

2 Responses to “the reading project for 2021 (and perhaps 2022)”

  1. […] and projects waiting to be considered. I’ve written about the various projects, like the annual reading project and indeed projects in […]

  2. […] are getting rather deep into 2021 and I am still working through the first book of the 2021 reading project. I’ll admit that Malory is (a bit) longer than I’d thought, but it’s an interesting journey […]

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