The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life

by Andy Miller

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An editor and writer's vivaciously entertaining, and often moving, chronicle of his year-long adventure with fifty great books (and two not-so-great ones)—a true story about reading 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 the 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In his fanciful, endearing account of his experiences tackling classic works of fiction, Miller (Tilting at Windmills: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Sport) conveys his love of reading, though the book is light on literary criticism. At age 40, Miller is married, with a young child, a boring job as an editor, and a deeply stultifying daily routine; he takes his cue for this project from another Miller’s work, written 50 years ago—Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life, in which the author explores his life through an account of the books that influenced him. Here, Miller sets for himself an ambitious reading regimen—50 pages per day—and begins with Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which he found inscrutable but enchanting. He plows through works such as George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, which he had previously began reading but didn’t finish (he doesn’t find them much easier to get through the second time around). Both of these made their way onto his “List of Betterment,” along with Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners (“It spoke to me when I was 16”), musician Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler, and others. There is plenty of hilarity in Miller’s intimate literary memoir, including an idiosyncratic comparison between Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. (Dec.)

Absorbing….I found myself turning pages in the addictive way some folks eat barbecue potato chips (crisps to one from Miller’s culture)…. This is one…book that you can dare (dangerously!) to get for your favorite people instead of the ubiquitous gift card. Trust me on that.

Maria Popova

wonderfully elevating and entertaining…. A delightful read in its totality.

Daily Telegraph (London)

A delightfully irreverent account of reading 50 classic books…. Often very funny….His thesis is universal…we can all be enriched by losing ourselves among the bookshelves.

Boston Globe

an affecting tale of the rediscovery of great books...[by] a friendly, funny Brit.

The Times (London)

Amiable, circumstantial, amusing, charming…. [Miller’s] style owes something…in its love of footnotes, literary paraphernalia and ephemera to Joe Brainard and David Foster Wallace.

The Independent (London)

[A] readable, often funny account.... It’s not so much the content of the books that brings rewards, but the process of reading them and the thought this inspires.

Matt Haig

Andy Miller is a very funny writer. And this hymn to reading is a delight. The chapter on Herman Melville and Dan Brown had me howling with pleasure. PS. It will also make you feel a bit well-read.

Library Journal

For some, facing a midlife crisis means buying a motorcycle or contemplating Botox. But for Miller (Tilting at Windmills), who is nearing his 40th birthday, it means reading—specifically books that he has always meant to read or, in some cases, has already claimed to have read. Over a year, Miller clears his conscience by trudging through each title on his "List of Betterment," which includes literary Everests such Herman Melville's Moby Dick and George Eliot's Middlemarch. In the same spirit as Nina Sankovitch's Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Miller meditates on how books have sustained him through life's more painful experiences—the premature death of his father, heartache, a soul-crushing job, and, now, aging. But Miller differs and stands apart by focusing almost entirely on literary works, and with a wry, offbeat sense of humor he reveals the pleasures of such slow, disciplined reading—how it encourages quiet contemplation and stimulates insight. VERDICT This is a book about books, a memoir, and also an argument for the irreplaceableness of literature in our lives—not in spite of this hurried age of digital distraction but because of it. It is also the perfect way to begin a new year of reading.—Meagan Lacy, Guttman Community Coll., CUNY

Kirkus Reviews

Is there life after Dan Brown? That was the question worrying Miller (Tilting at Windmills: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Sport, 2003), who had a midlife crisis of confidence after realizing it had been years since he had picked up anything heavier than The Da Vinci Code. Bent on getting back into reading shape, he devised a "List of Betterment," comprised of 50 books he "had succeeded in dodging during an otherwise fairly literate thirty-seven years on Earth." Middlemarch, The Master and Margarita, and Moby-Dick tested his resolve but were worth the struggle; Anna Karenina, The Diary of a Nobody and The Code of the Woosters involved no struggle at all. (Neither did War and Peace, which proved as good as it is long.) Miller stuck with his 50-pages-per-day reading plan through thick and thin, suffering through Of Human Bondage, Pride and Prejudice and One Hundred Years of Solitude even if he had to drag himself to the finish line. He discovered that Patrick Hamilton is best read on a train. The author doesn't just stay in the past; he loved Hilary Mantel and Toni Morrison and fell so hard for Michel Houellebecq that he wrote him a fan letter. Along the way, Miller remembers his bookish youth, his (kinda boring) love for rocker Julian Cope's obscure Krautrocksampler and his unashamed lifelong affection for the late Douglas Adams. Miller also joined an insufferably egalitarian book club, which reminded him that books really are best enjoyed alone ("…[I]f all opinions carry equal weight and everyone is entitled to a wrong opinion, what is the use of being right? The best that one can hope for is a happy medium"). Funny and engaging throughout and, for all the author's self-deprecation, perfectly erudite.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062100627
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/09/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 667,884
File size: 4 MB

Customer Reviews