How to read great books during the National Year of Reading

In a recent article in The Guardian, bibliophile Rick Gekoski asked What’s the definition of a great book? And in this National Year of Reading 2012 what better time to read as many great books as you can.

And how to do that? By picking up books and reading and reading and reading and reading. Here’s Rick Gekoski’s advice :

What is a masterpiece? Crime and Punishment. Hamlet. To His Coy Mistress. Ulysses. Madame Bovary. How does one know this? By having read a hell of a lot. Something only stands out from a crowd when there is a crowd to stand out from. This is one of many reasons to read as widely as you can: not only is it more fun and more edifying, it helps you to make distinctions between the quality, and the qualities, of one thing when you set it against another. One element of our experience of reading is inescapably comparative.

So, you might encounter some duds on your way, like your Library staff did last year, but they will also inform you better about great books. And if you’ve borrowed those books (or audio books or DVDs or music) from the Library those duds won’t matter.

A reminder of the National Year of Reading monthly themes: 

  •  January: The amazing read
  • February : Laugh
  • March : Think
  • April : Feel
  • May : Escape
  • June : Dream
  •  July : Discover
  • August : Question
  • September : Grow
  • October : Explore
  • November : Cry
  • December : Love2read

So let’s get started. January’s theme is The Amazing Read

The children of our community have already got on board with The Amazing Read Summer Reading Challenge. The Summer Reading Challenge has been in full swing since the 1st December but if you have little ones you can sign them up and get them reading during the summer holidays – much better than watching TV or playing computer games.

We are asking the children to sign up to read at least 20 library books and record which ones they have read on a log sheet. Upon joining the Challenge each child gets a pcack with a Library bag, book mark andother goodies. For each log sheet handed in the children will receive a $5 book voucher to spend at either the Turning Page book shop in Springwood or Megalong Books in Leura (thank you to both these businesses which support the Library in numerous ways). There’s no lower age limit – I personally have signed up an 8 week old baby and children up to the age of 16 can join in.

All the library branches are in hot competition to be the one which enrols the most number of children in the programme – support your local branch and do your kids a big favour. The Summer Reading Challenge will run until January 31st, 2012.

Adults can start their own reading challenge and promise themselves to read at least one book based on the National Year of Reading themes. The themes are pretty broad so it shouldn’t be difficult to make something you read fit.

So treat yourself and read something Amazing this January. Anything that has wowed you because of it’s beauty, because it’s surprised you, taught you something you didn’t know or caught your breath in any way will count. Use the Comments facility to let us know how you go.

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3 Responses to How to read great books during the National Year of Reading

  1. Readers in the Mist is an exemplary blog and provides a model for other library’s social media personnel. (I’ve heard it mentioned in glowing terms on Twitter.)

    However, the last time I was in Katoomba library, the link to the blog was down. I was looking for recommendations for books by contemporary Australian women and having difficulty locating titles. Unfortunately, the weekend staff weren’t able to name more than a couple of well-known authors (such as Elizabeth Jolley).

    The more I looked into it, the more obvious it became that local library and bookshop staff weren’t up on contemporary Australian Women Writers (nor was I, but I’d expected there to be a list, or something!). As a result, I went on to Twitter and asked for recommendations. I found many fantastic Australian female authors, many of whose books have attracted glowing reviews.

    Among these were my “amazing reads” for 2011: Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, Caroline Overington’s Matilda is Missing, Kalinda Ashton’s The Danger Game and Gail Jones’ Dreams of Speaking. I also enjoyed Leah Giarratano’s Black Ice, and can personally recommend Jaye Ford’s Beyond Fear and Christine Stinson’s It Takes a Village.

    I’m looking forward to discovering many more amazing reads for 2012 and have on my “to be read” pile other books by Australian women: Claire Corbett’s When We Have Wings, Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows, Anna Funder’s All that I am, Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, PM Newton’s The Old School, Gillian Meare’s A Foal’s Bread, Gail Jones’ Five Bells, Jaye Ford’s Scared Yet (forthcoming), Nicole Watson’s The Boundary, Melanie Joosten’s Berlin Syndrome, Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts (forthcoming(, Kirsten Tranter’s A Common Loss, Honey Brown’s The Good Daughter, Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Fiona McGregor’s Indelible Ink, Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle, Paddy O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust, Helene Young’s The Shattered Sky, Angela Savage’s The Half-Child and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Reign of Beasts (forthcoming).

    Most of these books were published in 2011 and so far I’ve managed to find a good selection in Katoomba library, but only after a lot of effort on my part.

    As a result of my experience, I decided to create a 2012 Reading & Reviewing “challenge” for the National Year of Reading. For this challenge, I’ve compiled (with help) lists of books, both fiction and nonfiction, by Australian women, including prize-winning and reader-recommended titles. These titles appear on the different “tabs” on the website/blog. I hope your staff will use this resource if they’re asked for recommendations in future.

    Have the BMCC librarians decided on their reading lists for 2012? Would anyone be available to join the Australian Women Writers’ NYR12 challenge to read and review a self-determined number of books by Australian women throughout 2012 (and, hopefully, not only books for children)?

    If so, please sign up at http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html

    I hope you’ll enjoy this challenge and help spread the word.

    Happy new year, and happy reading!

    • Sorry you had difficulties finding female Australian authors. We do not make the distinction between male and female authors. Your best bet would have been to use the search term Australian Fiction. Novels which are both written by Australian authors and which are set in Australia also have the kangaroo genre sticker on the spine of the book. HC

  2. Thanks for your response. I wasn’t expecting things to be categorised as such, but I was disappointed (but not really surprised, given my own former biases) at the lack of knowledge about Australian women writers among the weekend staff. One very helpful staff membeer did alert me to the kangaroo on the spine and I have borrowed excellent books at the library since then.

    With help from other bookbloggers, writers and librarians, I’ve created lists of Australian women writers on the AWW blog mentioned above not only as a resource tool, but also to highlight the issues of intenalised gender bias that have been discussed in the media, most recently by author Jane Sullivan in this weekend’s The Age and online SMH Entertainment sections: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/a-womans-place-20120113-1pyoa.html

    The AWW reading & reviewing challenge has attracted over 200 particpants and already links to 75 reviews of books by Australian women. Several libraries and bookshops have indicated their support via their blogs, and I’ve recently been liaising with a librarian in Perth via Twitter, networking authors to come to her library and speak as part of the National Year of Reading. I’m hoping some Blue Mountains readers or library staff will also particpate.

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