How many adults, especially teachers and parents, discuss their own reading or passion for literature with children? How much reading for professional or personal pleasure do adults actually do? How central is reading to their busy days?
Every year, especially as I witness the growth and development of my own daughters’ ‘imaginary lives’, reading seems the most important but neglected activity amongst Australian children and adults. I am not certain that data supports this assertion (or at least I will not be quoting from booksellers, libraries or the ABS in this post) but my personal observations, over many years, does.
One antidote, during The National Year of Reading, has been for all of us to talk more about what we read, especially with children. I know at our house, my 6 and 9 year olds have finished both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (audiobook) in preparation for Peter Jackson’s film version opening here on Boxing Day and there is much arcane chat about Middle-earth enchanting our days. While I was marking exams I told them this story about why JRR Tolkien had a ‘hopeless’ student, who had left his exam paper blank, to thank for his development of the story.
I also read to the kids the first couple of books in (“Tolkien’s friend”) CS Lewis’ Narnia series. I never read these myself so enjoyed making some connections, previously unrecognised, to the brilliant books by Lev Grossman, The Magicians and The Magician King…but I digress.
The tags above provide a good overview of my reading interests generally, and for the year. In fact ‘reading’ seems to be a key topic for my blog as there are 114 posts listed when I search that tag. Reading is so central to my inner life that I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have an internal monologue that is constantly reflecting on the words of others and what that means for ‘me’ and ‘us’. Making connections seems to give humans pleasure and we know that learning relies on meaning-making of this kind. The less a student reads, especially in that period from 5-15 years of age, the harder it is to make sense of our rich culture. The harder it is to connect it all and the less likely we are to have a green and growing civil society based on shared understandings.
Here’s my complete list of books for 2012 via my shelf at Shelfari. I always read a great deal of nonfiction – especially about history, photography, politics, technology, popular or contemporary culture and learning or education – with a healthy dose of literature. Historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction and novels set in contemporary times are always favourites. The amount of young adult fiction I finish has dropped markedly but often I read in this genre as well. It is the English teacher in me as much as anything else. Here’s the fiction I finished in the last 12 months:
My reading patterns have changed in recent years as I read by listening much more nowadays to audiobooks while I walk and commute, do domestic chores or relax. I often suggest this option to students and show them how the local libraries can assist them with stories that can be played on their mobile devices. Some books I read and then listen too, or vice-versa – if they are favs. For example, the seminal Francis Fukuyama work I blogged about here and was the ‘best book’ I read this year and was seriously worth re-reading.
Other favourites in 2012 have been Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel which I was looking forward to so much it led me to re-read Wolf Hall in preparation for returning to Tudor England. Other fiction delights included The Map and the Territory, by the controversial French author, Michel Houellbecq and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (I am currently two thirds through his epic Infinite Jest). I have mentioned Lev Grossman already this post but if you have not read his ‘magicians’ books I highly recommend them.
I am currently reading very popular The Book Thief , by Australian author Marcus Zusak, which has the potential to become an all-time favourite.
Here is the link to my Shelfari site. Do you make any kind of online or other note about what you read for the year? What were your best reads of 2013?