A classic? A contemporary? A quirky, commercial crossover? The conundrum of what to read next…

Only between drafts (as purist literary lore declaims) may the writer glance up from the paper or screen and catch up on some reading. In this downtime between drafts (the lore states) the writer may read the work of others and it will, well, less likely influence one’s own writing. Hmm.

So where to begin? A classic, a contemporary, a quirky commercial crossover?

A classic

A safe bet for many of us is to plunder ‘the Western Canon’. Here’s a (massively) long list that is helpful since it provides ample links to free downloads. Of course such reading lists may not suit our time-poor lifestyles. Nevertheless I’ve currently got Conrad and Shelley on tap…

A contemporary

Some of today’s books are tomorrow’s classics, right? If you are unsure, simply pop online and let yourself be engulfed by the swirling twister of 24-7 noise making about the book game. You’ll find an endless carousel of contemporary cheerleaders, ‘artsy’ hacks and critics alike, all caught in a claptrap over the latest and soon-to-be greatest. Altogether now, let’s chant the key incantation of summer 2016: Ei-mear Mc-Bride (repeat to fade). There, you see, as well as being unashamedly old fashioned I’m completely new-fangled.

For any readers who want to join me here’s a topical short list courtesy of the Man Booker Prize 2016.

Even better, why not read the opening pages of each potential Booker Prize winner and see if any hook you in for more.

Like me, you could go the extra mile and plunder the recent archives of HanDongCaptureThe Man Asian Booker Prize (2007-2012) that has latterly fragmented into various Asian literary prizes alongside The Man Booker International Prize. Plenty of interesting reads are spied in such lists, including one of my favourites from previous posts, Han Dong (pictured left).

A quirky, commercial crossover?

Whoosh…

Google conjured up tens of thousands of results in less than a second.

As a long-time fan of the Shelleys, this link caught my eye: “Frankenstein in Baghdad”. That may sound like a crummy commercial title – and apparently it is being ruined, I mean ‘adapted’ in Hollywood for a future big screen release – but apparently this is a quirky, darkly humorous take on the hellish contemporary context of Iraq.ahmed-saadawi-source-the-bangkok-post

For sure, this interview with the author Ahmed Saadawi (pictured right) has intrigue. Take this pull-out quote:

“The novelist should have the journalist’s aptitude to look for stories first… venture into reality to capture details.”

Ah, a man after my own heart.

Saadawi has written in his native Arabic. Quite beyond me. And the French translation would suffer from my childlike French skills. So I shall have to ebb and flow, via writing drafts and downtime reads, until the English translation comes out in 2017…

Saadawi could be worth the wait. ‘Quirky, commercial crossover’ or not, any author who can say this, below, of their work has to be doing something write on the written page:

“Some friends have removed me from Facebook, some have made me a god, others sent me pictures of themselves burning my book.”


So I’m curious to know, what will you be reading next? A classic, a contemporary, a quirky, commercial crossover, or something else?

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