An editor and writer's vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, chronicle of his year-long adventure with fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones)—a true story about reading that reminds us why we should all make time in our lives for books.
Nearing his fortieth birthday, author and critic Andy Miller realized he's not nearly as well read as he'd like to be. A devout book lover who somehow fell out of the habit of reading, he began to ponder the power of books to change an individual life—including his own—and to the define the sort of person he would like to be. Beginning with a copy of Bulgakov's Master and Margarita that he happens to find one day in a bookstore, he embarks on a literary odyssey of mindful reading and wry introspection. From Middlemarch to Anna Karenina to A Confederacy of Dunces, these are books Miller felt he should read; books he'd always wanted to read; books he'd previously started but hadn't finished; and books he'd lied about having read to impress people.
Combining memoir and literary criticism, The Year of Reading Dangerously is Miller's heartfelt, humorous, and honest examination of what it means to be a reader. Passionately believing that books deserve to be read, enjoyed, and debated in the real world, Miller documents his reading experiences and how they resonated in his daily life and ultimately his very sense of self. The result is a witty and insightful journey of discovery and soul-searching that celebrates the abiding miracle of the book and the power of reading.
In his fanciful, endearing account of his experiences tackling classic works of fiction, Miller (Tilting at Windmills: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Sport) conveys his love of reading, though the book is light on literary criticism. At age 40, Miller is married, with a young child, a boring job as an editor, and a deeply stultifying daily routine; he takes his cue for this project from another Miller's work, written 50 years ago Henry Miller's The Books in My Life, in which the author explores his life through an account of the books that influenced him. Here, Miller sets for himself an ambitious reading regimen 50 pages per day and begins with Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which he found inscrutable but enchanting. He plows through works such as George Eliot's Middlemarch and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage, which he had previously began reading but didn't finish (he doesn't find them much easier to get through the second time around). Both of these made their way onto his "List of Betterment," along with Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Colin MacInnes's Absolute Beginners ("It spoke to me when I was 16"), musician Julian Cope's Krautrocksampler, and others. There is plenty of hilarity in Miller's intimate literary memoir, including an idiosyncratic comparison between Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.