Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reading the backlist

Midnight the evening of my last blog posting I remembered what I had originally intended to post about, because that's how my memory functions or doesn't function as of late. A thought gets dropped somewhere, I spend time looking for it, and then once I've decided to leave it lost... I trip over it. Or it comes back and whispers its idea to me as I'm trying to fall asleep.

I read books for many reasons, but ultimately because I enjoy reading. (Sometimes, given part of what I do as my job, I read books that I don't enjoy but need to be aware of.) When I find a book that I love, I want to read everything the author has written. I've always been this way, but trial and error and years of being this way have taught me that there's a difference between a favourite book and a favourite author. There are books I adore, but I don't have any interest in reading the complete works of its author. There are authors whom I don't unequivocally love everything they write, but I would read it regardless because I enjoy the way they write and construct stories.

Usually, there's one author each year who I go and read through her/his backlist. Previously, I had done so in an unwise way and read exclusively through that backlist in a short period of time. It's a great way to burn out on an author—read nothing but their work and see only the things they do again and again.

Last year, I tried something different. I was introduced to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas by a friend. I was so impressed by it. Enthralled by its structure and the very language that was used to write it. I then read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet—less impressed by the story, but still very much enthralled by its words. I've also read number9dream and recently finished Ghostwritten. Just have Black Swan Green to go.

There's this section in number9dream called "The Language of the Mountains is Rain," and it's possibly my most favourite thing he's written. It's beautiful and mythic and dream-drenched. Out of the context of the book it's in, is still beautiful, but it's likely the reason that number9dream—an imperfect second book has impressed me more than his more recent The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. (Also, I'm less of a historical fiction fan.)

But I would recommend reading David Mitchell in publishing order. He does things with characters walking in and out of books, and I didn't see it as clearly because I read them by interest instead of by chronology.

As I'm almost finished the David Mitchell backlist, it's time to pick a new author. This year it's going to be John Green. I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, so much that I forgave it being somewhat manipulative. I've had Will Grayson, Will Grayson (co-written with David Leviathan) for a year now, and Brunch Book Club is doing An Abundance of Katherines for March. Someone else asked if I'd Paper Towns with them. And I always meant to read Looking For Alaska, and Let It Snow will keep until this winter season. So the stars align, and it also accomplishes my goal to read more contemporary titles this year.


Lesliejm said...

I'm requesting some David Mitchell novels from the library immediately, and look forward to reading them with this as a recommendation.

I loved The Fault in Our Stars, though I was pregnant when I read it, which I hear makes you sappier. I've also read Looking for Alaska, but none of John Green's other work. I may have to look up some of this other novels as well. You know, once I have lots of time to read again because my children go to sleep at night. Sigh.

Chelsey said...

Woooo! John Green backlist! The only author I had (up until recently) read the entire backlist of, was Cecelia Ahern ..whom I have a serious soft spot for. Yet, I think John Green will be the next!
Am I the Paper Towns person you talked about reading this with? If so, I AM STILL IN! If not, can I join? I was thinking of starting one of his backlist soon. I own all except Let It Snow, which, like you, I will leave until next winter.