Prompted by Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously, I’ve just finished Dickens’ Bleak House. I’d had a nagging voice in my head for a while, pointing out that I wasn’t really reading books any more – just Twitter, Facebook, email, RSS feed on constant rotation – and those I had read hadn’t been great: too many unsatisfactory musicians’ memoirs and self-deprecating travelogues by men warily approaching their middle age. Like Miller, I have a self-perception of being someone who reads books – as a child I read constantly – but a combination of work, commuting, family, commuting, playing the guitar, family, work – and all those digital distractions – meant it had been a while since I’d read a proper book. A while possibly measured in years (though, unlike Miller, I hadn’t – thank Christ – sunk as low as doing Sudoku).
So I read Under Milk Wood (it seemed a bit ridiculous to be more familiar with the – brilliant – dub version than the original text, and I kept seeing it referenced all over the place). That didn’t take long (though I feel it’d be worth reading it again soon); next I got stuck into Bleak House. A slow slog at first, and then – gradually – a feeling I’d not had for a while: looking forward to getting on the train to work to have a chance to do some reading; then a feeling of giddiness as I could see the end approaching, wanting to know what happens and how does it end? When I finished it last night I felt a great sense of satisfaction (maybe – ahem – even smugness) at having achieved something: now I’m the sort of person who reads Dickens, and maybe relief that my brain’s not actually too Twitter-addled to read a long, wordy book. More importantly I want to read some more Dickens, and soon. I feel more invigorated by the whole experience than in many ways I feel I ought to – after all, I’ve always known that reading was A Very Good Thing. I just got out of the habit for a while. Here’s to more reading.