Review: Tim Parks – Where I’m Reading From (Vintage, 2014)

Having written lots of fiction and non-fiction books, Tim Parks is certainly up to the task writing a book about reading. Where I’m Reading From is a collection of his essays for the New York Review of Books from 2010 to 2014 that sets out to get the reader thinking about their page-turning hobby.

There may be several questions on the book’s back cover that appear different in nature, but all the essay topics stem from three over-arching subjects: communication, language and globalisation.

Each part of reading explored in the essays differ from each other enough so the content never feels repetitive, and any repetition there is only helps strengthen the argument each essay makes.

All of these essays are asking questions about reading and writing in wider contexts. The author’s personal experience is sometimes included, but this rarely feels self-indulgent and isn’t distracting from the ideas shared.

While the topics discussed are fairly easy-going, some word choices feel a bit big and boastful. This gets worse when theses words contradict the arguments, particularly in essays about the accessibility of language.

The contents itself is book-ended by confusing moments. The opening notes on assigning gender to action, which a hammering point is made out of, is ignored in a lot of the essays, and in the final chapters the autobiographical elements start to get excessive.

But these are just a couple of hitches in an otherwise absorbing pile of texts that are made for re-reading and making multiple conclusions of.

In short

Where I’m Reading From’s backbone is made up of three core identifiers that make for a variety of fun musings on reading. Using personal experience to its advantage (mostly), this collection of essays invites the reader to drawn on their own time spent reading and to ask where this fits in greater literary spectrums.

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