An editor and writer's vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, memoir — a true story 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 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.
©2014 Andy Miller (P)2014 Audible Studios
"Andy Miller writes so well he could make shopping at Sainsbury’s sound amusing." (The Independent)
"An eye for comic detail worthy of the young Evelyn Waugh." (The Observer)
"Fresh, joyfully uncynical and, above all, very funny." (Time Out)
I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!
The book takes the form of a sort of diary-blog-journal of a year in the life of a middle-aged Englishman from Middle-England. He parodies his own suburban middleness with a lot of wit and engaging humour, poking fun at his rat-trap, 9 to 5, 1.8-children lifestyle and the fact that he no longer has time to pursue his passion, reading books (although he is an editor at a London Publishing Company and had written 2 books before this one, so it isn’t as if he is totally disengaged from literature).
In order to remedy this situation (and also to provide the premise for writing this book), he decides to read 50 books that he has either always wanted to read, or feels that he ought to have read. They are all works of fiction. Some of the books are difficult to read, such as Middlemarch, Moby Dick and Of Human Bondage. Others are more popular and accessible, such as The Da Vinci Code, Pride and Prejudice and Absolute Beginners.
The book is definitely interesting from start to finish, and he certainly gives tips about what not to read and a few ideas about books that are worth a try (although, as he is a somewhat eccentric character, I do have some doubts about whether I would enjoy his favourite picks as much as he does). At times, he drifts off on a bit of a tangent and you want him to get back on course, and also, he doesn’t review a significant number (half perhaps?) of the books, he just tells you that he read them.
Despite these shortcomings, it's a good entertaining, worthwhile read, excellently narrated by the author himself. Unfortunately, his absolute-number-one-must-read pick of all the books is Atomised (aka The Elementary Particles) by Michel Houellebecq, which I sadly could not find on an Audible search - and so maybe I will have to find and read an old-fashioned 'dead-tree' version of this book.
A very honest memoir of a reader gone astray rediscovering books. There were several laugh-out-loud moments. The struggle is very nerdy, very real.
Andy Miller is very fond of going on tangents, even including a long letter that he never intended to send to an author that felt more like a page-filler than actual content. I was never quite sure when his train of thought would end. He never did explain how books saved his life. He had a goal of reading two bad books, and only got around to reading one of them. As far as I can tell, Chekhov's gun is still sitting on the mantel.
In need of inspiration to get back into reading, I found this book. It has inspired me and reminded me of why I read. I felt giddy every time he referenced a book I had read. The reader gave a performance that made me laugh out loud. I recommend it!
Blogger of accidental discoveries through books
I've added this one to my absolute favourites. I found the book interesting, entertaining and inspiring. I enjoyed the audiobook so much that I've purchased the print version so I can dip into it whenever I want. Anyone who loves books about books must read this one. The author's narration is perfect, full of passion and self effacing humour, very British. Loved it!
I think the problem with The Year of Reading Dangerously is that it doesn't know what it wanted to be when it grows up. Does it want to be a memoir about someone's relationship with books or does it want to be a book of literary criticism or critic. The problem I had with the book is, that though the author performed his book in an entertaining manner, I found that there wasn't a coherent structure to bind the whole thing together. What I thought I was getting was a brief commentary on all the 52 books Mr. Miller had read in his year of reading, but that is not what I got--I got a hodge podge of personal reminiscences sprinkled with pompous intellectualism and peculiar assertions about men and reading and the role of a husband. He was good at blathering on about obscure, contemporary books and out of print biographies of a particular type of German rock music and didn't say a word about important books that he'd read like Jane Eyre and Frankenstein. On a whole I feel that Mr. Millers book was more an exercise of mental masturbation than something truly meaningful about the books he's read--what he said was meaningful to him--but he didn't seem particularly concerned about whether the reader, his audience got anything out of it, in fact he encouraged us to skip an entire chapter dealing with a scathing fan letter he never sent to some French author.
The bottom line is if you want to read about that says meaningful things about famous works of literature, this isn't for you. If you want and clouded, muddled, and somewhat infuriating book about the authors strange and unconventional life, then have at it and have fun. Now that I have completed it, in spite of Mr. Miller said I needed to read the book 2-3 times to really "get it" I have other books I'd rather read and get more out of. I am even contemplating hitting the delete button and depositing it in the recycle bin. Good luck, if you've already bought this title--you'll need it.
Fantastic! One of the best books I've read, Passionate, inspirational and down to earth.
Did not agree with the author about some books, but I did in his view of things, mostly.
He and I are more or less the same generation so many events and names were familiar avenues in my memory,(of course I'm a latin american and he is british.) What I want to say is that I can understand what he's talking about (sort of, I'm not trying to sound pretentious, believe me!)
It is a great book about great books, As A. M. says: Many we have read and many not, and our opinions are different, but that is OK.
Love the analysis of the books although as I said did not agree with some. Wanted to hear his opinion of others I've read that were in his list and he did not comment. I wonder if no opinion is an opinion... Anyway, had some effects on me. Firstly, It kind of killed my pleasure in mere entertainment (I sort of resent that) on the other hand it awoke my interest (long, long ago asleep) for some classics. L. Tolstoy WAR AND PEACE and ANNA KARENINA are my next challenges. I've read them as a teenager and of course don't remember anything but that they were looooong and tedious but I'm looking already for a copy. There are some that I just won't, like MOBY DICK , so you get the gist.
But these comments are absolutely superficial really, What strike me most is how A. M: with raw honesty describes the effects of some of the books in his life, and more importantly to me how it spoke to me in a common, maybe even share language, mind to mind and heart to heart (sorry, sounds corny, I know,but it really did!)
I leave you with the encouragement to read this book.
Being this an Audiobook review, it is crucial the narration, so let me tell you that it is indeed VERY, VERY GOOD
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
After much soul searching, I forgive Andy Miller for not much liking "Pride and Prejudice." His book about books is completely inspiring, absolutely entertaining, and seriously funny.
Not many writers of such books admit to lying about what they have actually read! As a bookseller and editor, he even confesses to recommending volumes he has never personally opened. Early in "The Year of ...," it's clear that this will not be a pretentious, academic exercise in proving how much more learned and smart Andy Miller is than you, the lowly reader.
Why else did I love it so much? Well, 1) Andy Miller is OK with his Mom liking the books of Jean Plaidy and Philippa Gregory and a childhood home which did not boast an extensive library of "great books"; 2) "The Code of the Woosters;" 3) he does not necessarily recommend his own top 50 to others and agrees that tastes vary; and 4) the "Notes for Reading Groups" [listen until the end so you won't miss it!] are right-on and priceless!
The narration is a perfect combination of love and respect for the subject matter and tongue-in-cheek self abasement.
If you have even the slightest interest in such "list" books, get this one. It's serious about books and a joy of a listen, even considering the Jane Austen thing!
The title of the book grabbed my attention and I am glad that I listened to it it motivated me to start reading a lot more than what already do I wish I could take one year off and read 52 books and a lot of them would be from Andy's recommendations.
Say something about yourself!
Book lovers and those who wonder what all the fuss is about will both find this an enjoyable and inspiring listen. The author's voice and candor are fun and at times quite humerous.
Yes. Andy Millers coverage and conversations of some of the top titles of our time is engaging listening.
I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on the books. I had hoped that some of the titles would engage me but his list of books was so deep and hard literacy reading that I am not sure if that was accomplished.
Andy Miller has a wonderful sense of humor and a great accent. He grabs your attention right from the delightful prologue.
For those looking at reading some of the greats, this is a wonderful listen to either add to your own personal list or cross off some from your list. :)
"A Great Concept and a Funny and Fascinating Listen"
With Gogglebox (a TV show where you sit at home watching people sitting at home watching TV shows) being a big thing at the moment and perfectly acceptable viewing, the idea of reading a book about someone reading books isn't as peculiar a concept as it may have been a few years ago. Fortunately, this is far more enjoyable than how that might sound (it's also - I'm very pleased to confirm - far more enjoyable than the aforementioned TV show).
This isn't one man's critique of a bunch of books he'd been meaning to read but never got round to (although there is a bit of that involved). What it is, is a fascinating, funny and charming memoir of how finally taking the time to select and read these books (rather than just pretending to have read them) changed his way of looking at all manner of different things. It's a simple concept and something that many of us could've done, but this man actually did it and he shares his experiences in a highly entertaining way.
I particularly enjoyed Andy recounting his experiences of his daily travels on a packed commuter train. I think many of us can relate to '...the "tsss tsss tsss tsss" of crappy white earbuds, a wailing baby, the post-pub drone of football bores, the honking of a comedy ringtone, the repetitive strain of the slow rolling refreshments trolley ("teas, coffees, light snacks") and the snoring of the occupant of the seat next to yours.' - or as Andy puts it - 'The combined cretinous cacophony of a contemporary confederacy of dunces.'
The humour and personal touches are fab and having the author narrate his own book makes you feel like he's telling you his story directly. I also found that I learned a lot about the books he read during his year of reading dangerously, many of which I had no previous desire to read, but now do. And I couldn't help wonder which 50 books I might choose, should I embark on a similar journey.
I really enjoyed this audiobook and fully intend to listen to it again. It's the perfect antidote to dull car journeys and covers so much interesting subject matter that it practically insists on repeat listens.
"How One Great Book Made My Life Much Better."
Witty, humane, clear-sighted, smart, and funny. Andrew Miller takes a long, hard look at The Canon of Western Lit, discusses why we should attend to it, and why we shouldn't be in awe of it, or weighed down by it, or scared of it. Thank you, Mr. Miller.
"Rediscover the magic of reading!"
Andy Miller describes how he with the help of his Betterment list rediscovers the magic and danger of reading books - it will change you...
"'People will read again!'"
Superb book- initially wanted to see what the list was, but listened along and found myself drawn into Andy's life- which is embarrasingly similar to mine in a lot of ways, yet distant in others. Though I've never lied about reading a book, I have thought I should be better read.... Above everything, you reminded me that it's Ok to love something that speaks to you. Cheers Andy.
And in reference to the book notes... Yeah, a pint sounds good.
"Since when was "quirky" a bad thing?"
My happiest listening experience. High-, middle- and low-brow, just as it should be.
"Not just me then..."
Thank you, among other things, for explaining bookclubs and what I like about Douglas Adams.
"Loved this, quirky and informative"
It is up there with some of the better ones.
I really enjoyed listening to this. I found it funny and really interesting, more so than i had expected. I found his description of the books i have also ready to be great and i have a few books from it i now want to read.
It made me laugh a lot. It was lovely hearing him discuss his home life knowing this was actually his thoughts and not just a narrator
I read this as part of one of my bookclub choices and it was a really good one to discuss
""Now go and read something else""
Inspiring encouragement from an ordinary bloke to read more. I love the idea of the 'List of Betterment' and am inspired to go and do the same. A clever and funny review of lots of great books that we *should* have read. He's right! So off I go to 'read so trying else'!
"a list provides backdrop to views on 'books'"
I found there was something about the edit that made it uncomfortable (or dangerous maybe?). Confusingly long asides are introduced which can refer to different books - and the plot goes off on baffling tangents.
I'm fairly sure some of the books are never mentioned except in the list at the end - whilst others are mentioned again and again and again seemingly to demonstrate different points (or the same point in different parts of the book).
The plot ends with an hour to go - filled with an epilogue (another long aside), 7 mins listing the books, 7 mins on acknowledging help - including bookshops etc, 12 mins of bibliography references (why in this version?) and finally a 'thank you' - almost as if we are expected to listen to this point.
"Lighthearted literary fun."
I had already decided to try and read some more 'worthy' stuff (and less of my favourite genre) so this naturally took my interest. Andy Miller yarns his way through a year of 'Betterment.' I enjoyed listening to him talk about the things he knew he should have been reading and it has encouraged me to crack on with my own backlog of unread books.
He made me laugh, quite a lot.
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