Notes from a small reader

01 Dec

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Notes from a Small Island marks an interesting change of pace. For one thing, it’s the first (maybe the only? I’ll have to check) non-fiction book on my list. It’s light-hearted, fun, silly, witty, and rather reminds me of my uncle’s travelogues.

It does seem to be a recurring theme with this list of works of literary merit that they’re often tiring to read. I can think of several reasons why that might be, but I have no definite conclusions. So, without further ado, my surmisations:

  1. Many of them were written a long time ago, and the antiquated language is harder to follow.
  2. Great works affect you on an emotional level, which is tiring (as compared to “popcorn” entertainments).
  3. They ask more of you in terms of story complications – I remember reading an article sometime in the last year or so that suggested great literary works expect you to cope with more complex knowledge of the “John believes that Mary thinks that Edward knows that …” variety.
  4. They’re less about plot and more about character development.
  5. All of the above.

In other news, someone has noticed me, and is following my example. Which is pretty neat (“I’m not the only one crazy enough to do this!”). I just hope I’m a good example.


Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Notes from a Small Island


3 responses to “Notes from a small reader

  1. T. Edmund Jenkin

    December 3, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Always a relief to know you’re not the only one!

  2. rainymondaymorning

    December 3, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    I’d also add in issues with pacing, as well as the heavy topics which are in most of the books. I mean, it’s not just “who killed who and how and why?” but “what is life? What is existence? How about that giant War which is rolling across Europe towards us?”

    It’s not just effecting you on an emotional level, it’s getting you on quite an intellectual level too.

    Enjoy Notes from a Small Island – I quite enjoyed it when I read it, but I get rather annoyed about how Bryson just tends to wander around places, often doubling back. I mean, I know that’s what happens when you travel, but it seems to happen rather a lot with him. I prefer books to actually have a structure and an end point (possibly why I get really annoyed with modern Japanese literature).

    • knightowl

      December 5, 2010 at 8:56 am

      Agreed on both counts (intellectual rigour, and Bryson’s meanderings).

      Actually, quite a bit of “literature” seems to have a sense of “where are we going?”, with frequent doubling-back and seemingly random choices about it. Probably what makes Notes from a Small Island an appropriate selection for the list. 🙂


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