Some time ago I decided that I would try to write a little on this website about every book I read. This was a very good idea: adding a sense of obligation to something you enjoy can only ever make the joys sweeter. The idea did not last long, and I reap the rewards of dropping it to this day. For example: would someone who has committed themselves to posting publicly about every book they read choose to read Crime and Punishment? Of course not. I do not need the feeling of exposure that comes from having to voice opinions about ‘important’ books. I had my fill of that at university.

In fact, I am a person who feels quite exposed just revealing what he is reading. It is sure to show me up as in some way inadequate. The world, I have no doubt, is split neatly into people who think I’m showing off by reading Crime and Punishment and people who think it’s embarrassing that I hadn’t read it before. I am as certain of this as I am certain that it is ridiculous to believe it. Such dichotomies are available for any book I might read, and indeed any part of my personality I might reveal.

Never mind that nobody whose opinion I might care about would ever think like this, or that Crime and Punishment is (at least in Pevear & Volokhonsky’s translation) a pretty accessible book well overdue a Netflix series that only feels complicated because everyone has seventeen different names. The books we choose to read say something about us, and we don’t get to control what that something is, and that’s scary to me. I can try to hedge by saying that actually Crime and Punishment is a pretty accessible book well overdue a Netflix series, but what if people think I’m bragging about not finding it difficult? I can dodge the issue by writing a post that isn’t really about Crime and Punishment at all, but won’t people think that’s awfully self-involved of me?

These are not the contortions of a wise or healthy mind. I don’t think you have to be an extraordinary person to step across the obstacle of social approval and have thoughts and feelings. I’m trying not to be so worried about what people think of me. I need that like I need an axe in the head.

I read Crime and Punishment and I enjoyed it. These are small and normal things to do, and I am unlikely to be sentenced to hard labour for them. Thank you for letting me share them with you.

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