Yesterday, searching for the name of a book I read in the early 70s, I dug out the little notebook where I listed every book I read from 1961 to 1974 – from ages 14 to 27.
As pure self indulgence – after all, what’s a blog for? – here is most of 1964:
It was my last year of high school so I didn’t read a lot. It’s interesting to notice that before heading off to boarding school I read science fiction, crime, and a coulpe of James Bonds. After that, it’s religious books (I was on my way to being a member of a Catholic religious order), Charlotte Bronte (but not Jane Eyre), Goodbye Mr Chips, some Belloc, some Chesterton and some Paul Gallico. I know I also read Wuthering Heights and Macbeth, both more than once – evidently I didn’t count study texts as reading material for the purposes of this notebook.
By 1974, now 27, I had abandoned my unfinished MA thesis in Aust Lit and was working at Currency Press, publisher of Australian plays.
In June – 40 years ago this month – I read 10 books and went to the theatre once. Religion had been replaced by C G Jung: I read two books about him, and one on the I Ching (which he sometimes used to diagnose children and others). There were two novels by Herman Hesse, which I don’t remember at all. Kind of work-related, I read some Sophocles, some Patrick White and some Peter Handke. (I’m surprised to find I read the Peter Handke eight months or so before I saw Peter Wherett’s brilliant production at the Nimrod in Belvoir Street with Kate Fitxzpatrick and Peter Carroll.) I went to Melbourne to see a Jack Hibberd play, at the Pram Factory with Bill Garner and the fabulous Evelyn Krape. I also began reading a history of North Queensland, which a note says I took more than a year to finish. And there’s a book each from Bruce Beaver and Robert Adamson. Nothing by women.
I stopped making a note of my reading in my late 20s, so I’ll skip to 2004, just 10 years ago, when I was keeping a blog, the precursor of the one whose entries now appear in the right-hand column here. It turns out in June 2004 I read an amazing 25 books, almost all of them for my work at The School Magazine. So I was paid to read fabulous novels by Terry Pratchett, Geraldine McCaughrean, Allan Baillie, Susan Cooper and Gillian Cross, picture books by Julius Lester & Jerry Pinkney, Alan Ahlberg & Peter Bailey, Colin & Jacqui Hawkins, and Anna & Barbara Fienberg & Kim Gamble, and poetry by Myra Cohn Livingston. Good work and I was lucky to get it!
On my own 10 cents in June 2004, I read three volumes of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman epic, and – some suffering is self-induced – The Da Vinci Code.
So here I am in June 2014, two books read and three on the go. My recent excursion into self-improvement with Alain de Botton is perhaps an equivalent of the religious texts of 1964 and Jung in 1974. I’m still reading weighty Australian novels, poetry (this time from China as well as Australia), history, and comics artists.
Maybe by 2024 I’ll have kicked the addiction.