Brighten Youth Education Centre



Dangerous books revitalise tired minds


There are periods in our lives when we just don’t feel like thinking. Maybe we’re working long hours and doing a lot of commuting. Maybe we have a new baby and are getting very little sleep. Maybe we’re in the middle of a heavy period of exams and don’t feels as though there is any extra room in our head for ideas beyond those we have to know. At such moments, were certainly don’t feel the need for classic literature, yet this is the time when we probably need it most.

This is the premise behind Andy Miller’s The Year of Reading Dangerously (2014). Miller loved books and had always loved them. However, Miller also had a full-time job, a long commute and a small son to bring up, so he didn’t have a lot of free time and wasn’t getting much sleep. He also realised that reading, something he adored, had disappeared from his life. Sure, he read stuff on the Internet, or free newspapers on the train, but books were nowhere to be found. However, his house seemed to be full of them, piles of classic titles and recommended works he had purchased over the years but had never read. He then understood that he had been shopping, not reading.

So he decided to create for himself a “List of Betterment”, filled with fifteen titles he had always planned to read (and sometimes even pretended to have read), but had never actually gotten around to. Some of the titles were predictable (Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), some were slightly more abstract (Samuel Beckett’s The Unnameable), but all were challenging. Sometimes a book would take off; sometimes Miller would force himself to adhere to a fifty-pages-a-day target in order to finish the work. Slowly, Miller found he was back to the joy of reading, but also back to the importance of books in his life. We read for different reasons, and one of those reasons is to obtain guidance when facing life’s myriad challenges. When Miller had finished his first fifteen books, he found that he didn’t want to stop. The “List of Betterment” grew to include fifty titles. Now it is perpetual, and Miller continues to make his way, undaunted, though the heaviest of tomes.

The Year of Reading Dangerously sets a wonderful example, and reminds us of the important function of books. Yes, they guide us and they entertain, they give us information and advice, they create an emotional connection, but they also give us hope and allow us, when we choose the right book, to be in the presence of truly great art. Miller’s book is a fantastic reminder of the joy that daily reading brings, enriching our lives and nurturing our souls.


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