A Longlist of Reading

the_gustav_sonataIn 2014 I made a crazy decision on a whim that I was going to read the entire longlist of the Man Booker Prize. When the longlist was announced I’d not yet read any of the books, in fact I hadn’t heard of most of them. I didn’t put much thought into why I was doing it.

I have taken every opportunity since then to tell people what a massive mistake it was. How I wouldn’t recommend it. How it’s the stupidest thing in the world to force yourself to read a lot of books very quickly that you didn’t real have any interest in reading in the first place. I like some of them, I hated some of them, and I felt indifferent about a lot.
This year I made a crazy decision on a whim that I was going to read the entire longlist of the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction.

How did we get here again?

Do I never learn?

What is wrong with me?

Except this time, I put a bit more effort into the thinking of the reasons why it was a good idea.

Even though I’ve not had great experiences in the past with longlist reading, I think I now have a better understanding of why it’s a good idea, and that actually helps me enjoy the books more.

  • It makes me pick up books I wouldn’t have looked twice at (don’t judge a book by its cover)
  • It makes me read authors I’ve tried before and given up on (I’m a firm believer in trying again, because maybe the last time just wasn’t the right time to try)
  • It makes me read books on a topic I don’t have any interest in, and maybe I could, not necessarily gain an interest, but see what other people find interesting (err, horse racing, what?)
  • But the most important thing is, it makes me read a book that several other people have said is good. Not just good, but one of the best in the past 12 months. It makes me look at it critically. What is it about this book that everyone loves? What has grabbed people? What has drawn them in and made them love it?hag-seed

So far I’ve read 5 books on the 16 book longlist, and this tactic is mostly working. There are some I’ve loved, one I’ve hated, but several that I’ve been able to say “it isn’t really my kinda thing, but I totally get why it’s getting a lot of love.”

I hope this makes me a better reader, but what do you think? Do you regularly do longlist reading? Would you never try it? Let me know your thoughts.

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