Saturday, April 23, 2005

An Encouraging Scheme

Doug Merrill at A Fistful of Euros today writes some reviews of novels he has recently read. What is most interesting about his selection is that they were all recommended to him through the Süddeutsche Zeitung and a scheme they ran last year, listing 50 great novels of the 20th Century (if you don't understand the site, go and learn some German). Advocating one novel a week, they also arranged some kind of cheap publishing deal where they sold copies for €4,90.

Most encouragingly, Merrill wrote last year about how simply carrying a copy of the book with you was a great conversation starter. This seems to be testament to the popularity of the scheme, and furthermore underlines the enjoyment that one can gain from reading great books.

The scheme seems to be even greater than just sparking off a whole new social scene, though. As Merrill himself states, the list did not attempt to be categorical. A welcome move away from cheap publicity-seeking. Furthermore, the attempt to encourage people to read a book a week meant that they sought out shorter novels - firstly, taking away the daunting size of many books, and secondly, encouraging people to read the lesser-known novels of great authors.

When I consider the Harry Potter craze in this country alongside the Süddeutsche Zeitung's effort, I am left in awe at our continental counterparts. To many young people, it must seem like Harry Potter is the only thing worth reading. I don't want to discourage youngsters from reading, but I do get depressed when books seem to be equated with one series only. Even now, my local Borders is advertising the launch date of the next book, which isn't until July.
The list is full of books like these, not the heavyweights you would expect from the 50 greatest novels of the 20th century, but the delights you can find when you’re just looking for 50 great novels.

I could scarcely have put it better myself. A popular scheme which shows off all the delights of reading. I can't wait to get finals out of the way and embark on many of them myself.