Books, Non-Fiction, Reviews

Book Review: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

In what is there more joy than reading books about books? This is the third book I have read this year, previously Macbeth and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (which is also a book about books, fictionally). The idea of reading and learning about someone’s bookish life is fascinating to me. I discovered The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller by going through a fellow blogger’s blog on a cold, wintry night of last month and just by looking at the cover, it had my attention. I made sure, before my life melds on with the daily routine, to finish this book before the holiday mood ends up.

It’s an autobiographical piece and can be closely related to Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life although, they are not related to each other. Andy Miller worked as an editor at the time of writing this book and found himself only reading for work. On impulse he picked up a copy of  and something just clicked for him. He set out to read ten books, which he called The List of Betterment, which consisted of books he has once lied about reading or felt he should read. This list obviously expanded over the course of the year but it was his starting point into rediscovering a passion for reading.

The first and foremost part of the book that hooked me so well that I decided to read this book entirely was one in the preface in which he offers a elucidation of what makes a great book:

Every book is a sort of machine and this one is no exception. You have to read it to find out how it works. 

What makes a great book? That depends both on the book and the operator… We must acknowledge that greatness recalibrates itself from person to person and book to book. To one reader, “great” may denote unbridled cultural excellence, e.g. the greatness of Tolstoy or Flaubert; to another, it is an exclamation of pleasure, e.g. “One Day by David Nicholls: what a great book!” It may be that when we speak of “a great book” we are referring to a pillar of the Western canon: a classic, in other words. “Great books” of this kind may be important but they are not always straightforward or entertaining. Some, such as Under the Volcano or Ulysses, may require other great books to help make sense of them. Difficulty in a book constitutes a sort of unappealing literary masochism to some; to others it is a measure of artistic genius. Either way, a great book does not have to be a good read to be a great book. Some books become great because the public embraces them en masse; others are judged great by the critical establishment despite public apathy — or even because of it.

Andy discusses his some of the books he read in more details than others, some he struggles with and then amazingly goes back and reads again, some he doesn’t get at all and others he finds to be the greatest works of our time. I like Miller’s writing style,  it’s very easy to explore along with him about some of the well-renowned titles like George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Among the 50 titles that Andy read in that one year time were, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Post Office by Charles Bulowski, The Sea The Sea by Iris Murdoch, War and Peace Tolstoy, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, Anna Kerenina by Leo Tolstpy, and Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky by Patrick Hamilton.

This book will easily grabs one attention from page one, and of you are in the reading business (that is, if you love reading books), then this one is worth reading. However, the concept of the book is not new. Best specimen is Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life.

3.5 out of 5!


More books about books:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller”

  1. Thank you! I just picked up Why I Read, by Wendy Lesser, at the library, and was thinking there’s a burgeoning literature out there–writers on reading. I’m looking forward to reading andy Miller!

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  2. Thanks for the recommendation (The Books in My Life) and yeah Andy Miller’s one is one that I put on my TBR list in the beginning of the year because the whole idea of a book about books – about the reading experience – appeals to me (as it should). 😀

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  3. What a wonderful idea for a book! I’ve heard good things about this book, so I will definitely check it out 🙂
    Some other books that might interest you are “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” by Pierre Bayard and “Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books” by Tim Parks 🙂

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