I hadn’t really thought about reading outside of my comfort zone this year, but there have, over the years, been a number of books I’ve thought about reading but haven’t, because, if I’m honest with myself, I’m a little scared of them. And I’m not even sure what I mean by scared.
I’m talking about books that look interesting but feel like they might be … tough reads.
A little while ago I came across this Stephen King quote: “I sometimes think that people don’t challenge themselves very hard to read stuff that’s a little bit more textured or nuanced.” And I thought to myself, Oh, wait! That’s me.
And then I thought, what’s wrong with a more challenging book, one that’s more textured, more nuanced? Nothing. I just don’t read them.
So I thought maybe I would, this year.
First author I’m tackling? Haruki Murakami. Mainly because when Ti writes about any of his works, I immediately think to myself, ooh, I’ve got to read that book. She makes him sound so good: strange and quirky, and the thing is, I like strange and quirky.
As Ti puts it, she’s a Murakami groupie, and she’s very good at it. Very good indeed. A couple of years ago she had a readalong of Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and I’ve always kicked myself for not joining in back then. I really wanted to, but something held me back.
I have one of Murakami’s short story collections, and have read a few of the stories in it, but I’ve never taken on an entire novel of his before. Thankfully, Ti has promised she will be there for me if I get stuck in any of Murakami’s books. She recommended I start with After Dark and while I was on my library’s website, I decided to put a hold on The Strange Library as well, since that’s his newest book (although I think it might be a better idea to buy my copies of Murakami, so I can mark them up and indulge in all the marginalia I want).
The Strange Library arrived first – I picked it up from the library on Friday. My husband and I are trying this thing where we’re going to start doing some of the things that the other is interested in. So that means I’ll be going to more concerts and music things, and he’s going to read more. We were sitting at my desk, trying to pick a book, and he saw The Strange Library and decided he’d like to give it a try, too.
So he read it this morning. Which meant, of course, that I had to read it sooner rather than later. So I did. (It helped that The Strange Library is really a novella. Plus it has illustrations.)
And I liked it! It was strange and quirky and best of all, highly readable. I even wrote down a quote from it that I liked (since I couldn’t mark it up, it being a library copy and all). I put it on an index card because I’m trying this index card note-taking system I found online. So it’s my first card.
“At the same time, my anxiety had turned into an anxiety quite lacking in anxiousness. And any anxiety that is not especially anxious is, in the end, an anxiety hardly worth mentioning.”
I really love that line.
The ending, though – there were so many different ways to read that ending. It made me think. I reread it several times. There it was, in its small font (while the rest of the story was done in a much larger font) and so even the choice of font size could have so many meanings. And ultimately, there’s a lot of fun in letting your mind bring up all these possible connections. Even though there’s no way you can really know whether any of those connections are “the” one.
As for my husband? He’s not much of a fiction reader, so this might not have been the best choice for him to start our “book club of two”. He thought it was okay. He says if he’d read it in university, he might have gotten excited about it, because he’d be trying to find all these themes in it. And he thought there were cultural aspects to it that were thought-provoking. But mostly he thought it was just okay. He’s not too keen on reading another Murakami, though.
He’s reading Trigger Warning now. Which is definitely not a book that’s out of MY comfort zone. I’m looking forward to seeing what he thinks of Neil Gaiman’s short story writing.
And I’m looking forward to reading After Dark. More Murakami!
Do you try to read out of your comfort zone?