Review: The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life

by Rachel Baker on May 9, 2014

Here is a well written review by Claire Harman for the Guardian on The Year of reading Dangerously by Andy Miller.

The premise is contrived and frankly quite daft: Andy Miller, a writer, editor and former bookseller, decided that he hadn’t read anywhere near the number of great books that he habitually claimed to have read and needed to redress the balance. A heroic stance was adopted: “to integrate books – to reintegrate them – into an ordinary day-to-day existence”. A List of Betterment was drawn up, a dosage worked out (50 pages a day) and soon his long commute to work was spent wrestling not with sudoku but Bukowski, Tolstoy and Lampedusa.

Miller’s list – which started with a dozen titles but swelled to 50 – included a number of great Unreads such as Don Quixote, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Communist Manifesto and Beowulf – all bursting with potential for Betterment – and a lot of what one might call unread Greats: Jane Eyre, War and Peace, Middlemarch, Frankenstein, books that fit Alan Bennett’s definition of a classic, “a book that everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have”. What was it like to force-read these cultural heavyweights? Miller kept a blog so that he might notice: “I persevered … I showered some books with superlatives and others with brickbats” and as the 6.44 shuttled back and forth from Whitstable to London he progressed down the list awarding ticks and crosses, delighted by how good Middlemarch was, surprised by how easy (and good) he found War and Peace, appalled by The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart.

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