How to chose what to read?

“Our experience also lies in what we read, in the intelligence of things” (Duras 9)

Conrad once said that writing is (as hard) as the work of a coal miner. Finding a good read is also very hard. Sometimes, it is an expensive endeavor — at least for me. Because I read in order to learn about who I am. If I commit myself to a certain book, I must know that it will somehow enrich me. Lately, I learn about the books, that I will be married to for few days, from interviews with other writers. It might be that (by reading an interview) I learn from the author about how writing style should become very personal. How one writes is a reflection of one’s inner self. So, it could happen, that some author directs me to other writers. Other writers might had influenced them, and if that is true, maybe, I too can learn something from those scribes. 

Mining for good reads can be expensive. First, I need to find the mine. Is there a potential for discovering a precious vein? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then I must acquire that mine. I do it by either getting a subscription to a website, which offers quality interviews with quality authors — for example: Paris Review, Washington Post, or New Yorker — or by purchasing a printed version of a book, which offers the interviews. 

One such book, a collection of in-person interviews with 37 authors (on almost 700 pages), just landed on my lap. I learned about the existence of From Many Bookshelves (this is my English translation of the book’s Polish title) by Michał Nogaś, after seeing a YouTube interview with the author (Nogaś), conducted on a YouTube Channel, to which I subscribe. I promptly ordered the book. Reading the interviews conducted by Nogaś, I am convinced that I will stumble upon a name of a writer, or two, that I have not heard before. If the writers who were interviewed in the book convince me that they think the same way I do, we will become friends. And, if they are also able to offer some good “recommendations,” as far as what a good read it, in return, I can become their mentor, advocate, and even buyer of their books. The book also includes interviews with writers whose work I either know or am familiar with (Tokarczuk, Krall, Atwood, Pamuk, or Knausgard). In such case, we might become better friends. Let’s take Karl Ove Knausgård. Interview with this Norwegian author made me go back to my bookshelves and dig out a Polish author (Witold Gombrowicz) whose books have been collecting dust for years.

Every day, I am amazed — and at the same time a little disappointed with myself — about how much amazing literature is out there that I have not read, yet. I get as excited about reading a classic, must-read, works as I am about unearthing new authors. Why, you might ask? Because there is a magic in unearthing a new author who speaks to us in the voice we can understand and dig! It doesn’t have to be Hemingway or Faulkner, it could be Gombrowicz… It could be something more elemental, like “Maybe, it is the matter of a strange presence of someone who had written the text?” (Karl Ove Knausgård in Nogaś 423).

Works Cited

Duras, Marguerite. “Me & Other Writings.” Dorothy, A Publishing Project, 2019.

Nogaś, Michał. “From Many Bookshelves. Interviews.” Wydawnictwo Agora. Warszawa, 2020.