The Man Booker Prize Shortlist and My Reading Guilt
The winner of the Man Booker prize will be announced on the 14th of October. This year the shortlist is diverse (the prize is open to all novels written in English for the first time), challenging and intriguing.
It's a list I want to read, so much so that I decided that this was the year I would read them all before the winner was announced. Last year I had just managed to read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton by the time it was announced as the Booker winner, and earlier this year read Read All About IT; My year of falling in love with literature again by Paul Cuddihy, and I was feeling inspired to tackle some literary big guns.
I have to date managed to read one and a third of the shortlist. I started with To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris, a story about a disaffected dentist who finds that someone has misappropriated his online identity to mysterious ends. I have to admit that although the book’s core questions of faith and identity were interesting, I was so irritated by the central character that finishing took effort.
I am currently enjoying The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, but am dragging my feet at making the half day’s dedicated reading time I need to really become absorbed in it.
And this is the problem: I suffer from Book Moodiness. As soon as I have to read a book, or list of books, I immediately lose interest in doing so, particularly if there is some kind of deadline involved. It doesn’t seem to matter if I was really looking forward to reading them beforehand. Now, I am no longer in the mood. Reading has become a chore, even if it is a self-imposed one.
Book Moodiness is one of a number of reading ailments. A short, totally unscientific, poll of the SBT team threw up the following:
Either the feeling that you should have read a particular book and being guilty that you haven’t because it makes you less well read than you ought to be. Or feeling that you should have loved a particular book and feeling guilty because you absolutely hated it!
Book Group Stubbornness
This is the lovechild of Book Guilt and Book Moodiness: failing to read a book for your book group because you don’t like having to and then not attending the book group meeting because you feel guilty about not having read the book.
Book Recommendation Blindness
Closely related book moodiness. The refusal to read something that has been recommended to you, just because your friend uttered the words “You have to read this!”
Secretly enjoying a book that you suspect might be the mental equivalent of popping candy, all fizz and bang with no actual nutritional content.
Of course as far as reading for pleasure is concerned at least, guilt is a pointless emotion – approach everything you read with enthusiasm and don’t be scared to toss aside anything you aren’t enjoying. I’m told it's liberating!
Do you suffer from reading guilt? Have you read the Man Booker Shortlist this year? Let us know your thoughts below!