Newberys Read This Year: 2
Newberys Left for Goal: 13
Newberys Left for Total: 27
Book: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller
Apparently, I am not a middle-aged British man, either.
I don’t know if I would have to be in order to enjoy this book, but I have to admit I, a middle-aged American woman, was quite disappointed in it. I daresay the author would likely agree with the points I am about to make, but believing that he and I share similar opinions is not going to change how I feel about his book.
It started out well enough. Mr. Miller had created a List of Betterment—a list of books he fashioned out of a sense that he was approaching middle age and needed to do something worthwhile. That something turned out to be reading books he was ashamed that he had not read. The list originally consisted of 10 books, then expanded to 13, and eventually to 50. I liked Mr. Miller’s honesty about how he chose his books, and I liked his honesty in discussing them. As you might be able to tell, his honesty is one of the strongest features of his book. It is unfortunately that honesty that eventually made me eager to be done with it.
I’m not talking about the books he selected. I was familiar only with 28 titles on his list, so it’s safe to say that my List of Betterment would differ significantly from his. I’m totally fine with that. Everyone has their own taste, their own idea of what makes a book great, and what makes a book something one should read. No, his honest list wasn’t my problem.
I’m not talking about his opinions of the books he selected. Out of the 28 titles with which I was familiar, I can’t say I’ve read many of them, so I don’t really know how often our opinions would be similar. I do know that he and I are poles apart on two books that are rather significant to me. He admired Jane Eyre, a book I despise. I not only loathe the work itself, I am also appalled at the fact that so many people (especially women) seem to love it. He did not admire Pride and Prejudice. I don’t think I need to say anything else about that. But I respect our dissimilar opinions on these two books. I am perfectly willing to agree to disagree. No, his honest opinions weren’t my problem.
I give Mr. Miller credit for being a very honest writer. In being so honest, he revealed much about himself. This is where I had the problem.
Since this is ultimately a memoir, Mr. Miller is the main character. I am a very character-driven reader. And eventually, I came to dislike Mr. Miller as a character. This is where I had the problem.
He certainly seemed nice enough at first. He’s British, with a British sense of humor. He loves both books and reading. He has worked in a bookstore and a publishing house. He is devoted to his wife and son. These are all good things and points in his favor. But as I read on, more of his personality, his true self, was revealed, not only in his book choices and his opinions, but in the way he expressed them. His character was also revealed when he related some stories from his youth or young adulthood, and when he shared his thoughts about a variety of subjects (all related to his working his way through the List of Betterment). And the further I got on, I more I kept having a rather disturbing thought: Dude, you’re a, well, let’s just say the word that kept coming to mind was a nickname for 3 British kings and one American president. It’s kind of hard to like someone like that, and even harder for me to like a book someone like that has written about himself.
I also want to say that I don’t believe that Mr. Miller was dishonest at the beginning of the book, because I liked him then and grew to dislike him. Rather, the more time I spent with him (in a literary sense) the more I got to know him better; the more I got to know his true self, good points as well as characteristics I don’t care for.
To be honest, if I were to say my abovementioned disturbing thought (complete with the word I chose to be euphemistic about) to Mr. Miller, he would likely not be offended. He would also likely agree with me. That might make me like him more, but it does not make me dislike him less. I can appreciate the journey he took going through these 50 books, I can appreciate the challenge he took on to write about it, but I cannot appreciate him or this particular book. I suffer no Richards.