Cherry picking parts of my reading development is always going to be a bitty bit of business but also stimulating, allowing me to make connections between books whose impact had previously and unconsciously passed me by. With each book read it means that my thoughts and viewpoints are constantly in flux:
Nothing beats the feeling of reading something like Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and feeling a huge buzz. A buzz of learning things, understanding the world that little bit better and knowing that I can go read anything, especially the challenging books, be they intellectually or just size wise. Which is why I went straight onto War and Peace, 1500 pages of pure awesomeness which really brings home the tiny details of this experience we label as reality,
Two parts of WaP have stayed with me since I read it six or so years ago…the image of sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree at a funeral and also a ride under the stars, neither were key events in the plot but both were delicately described and made me reread the words again . It’s rare I get that in a book, other than Márquez, I tend not to get the urge to reread passages at length but certain ones just highlight how little we view the simple beautiful things in life.
It was somewhere around this time that the idea of blogging came to me, of talking to like minded bibliophiles and keeping a list of all the books I have read and what I thought of them (in case there is a test later on in life). The act of blogging seemed simple…write thoughts in a generally coherent way and then launch it out into the great shout fest that is the internet. It took me a few months to realise that it’s much more complex than that. It’s a craft, to read, form an opinion and write a post, to put aside time to read the hard work of others..and especially to try to not obsess over the number of visitors per day.
Even my guilty pleasures – Guy N. Smiths crabs series and Leo Kessler Wotan books par examplé which, even though I know time is short and I really have to squeeze all the great books into just one life – take a long time to really get into and understand what the books are trying to say. Or if not to sift through for something original thoughts on the text.
I have given a lot of books away unread in the past three years simply due to a worry about my mortality and wanting at least 85% of the books I read to have an effect on me, the other 15% being light books to allow me to dwell on the big questions whilst keeping up my reading. Perhaps this makes me a snob, I don’t know.
I owe a lot to the sadly gone Radio Five book review show. I remember getting in the bath every Thursday evening with the downloaded podcast to discover such amazing books as Fire in the Blood, The Mysterious Inventions of Hugo Cabret, The Raw Shark Texts and never Admit to Beige, amongst others. I stopped listening when it became a show almost exclusively about historical fiction because I craved choice and quirkyness.
My trusty book collection helped out there, discovering Calum’s Road a real life account about a man who built his own road on a Scottish island to encourage business and visitors and the raucous Three Men in a Boat which remains my favourite English comedy, although the ending does slightly lack. The Solitaire Mystery as well was a wonderfully inventive book and reads as a story, within a story within a story.
Umberto Eco furthered my eclectic discoveries, such a wonderfully imaginative writer with such fantastic works as Baudolino and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana…in fact, all the books of his I have read – seven to date – only The Island of the Day before was a struggle although I enjoyed the book it was tough for me at the time. Proof that perseverance can yield something good. Bang goes the 100 page rule I used to enforce on myself like some sort of one man police state with one prole who was also ‘The Man’, it was all very confusing.
For some reason I became obsessed a few years ago with achieving something bookish…for one year I didn’t buy a book, just to prove I could go cold turkey, then I read 100 in a year which culminated in a scramble to read Wolf Hall before I hit my 30th year…I made it although I believe it was hand-picked to be sadistic as I had to wade through it like some extra sticky treacle. It was on the 30th birthday that I was fortunate to not only be surrounded by a great bunch of friends but also to be given many excellent gifts including Wasa Wasa, God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations For Modern Science, The Rights of Man, Knowledge of Angels and the never to be recommended What Every Woman Wants.
after all the effort of reading and honing my writing style to something akin to fair and critical I was given, quite out of the blue the tremendous opportunity of reviewing Up in the Bronx from fellow blogger Stephen Baum. This unlooked for request had me hyped for weeks and a little nervous as this was the first book by a ‘real person’ by which I mean an author who actually would read my opinion. It was an exhilarating challenge and I believe pushed me on to be a better and more confident writer.
Now I strive to be a more complete writer by pushing my comfort zone of genre and author style as well as doing the sadly (at the moment) neglected creative writing and whimsical observational pieces. Having said that my local area Mansfield it not all that conducive to to positivity, although there is a post about that on the horizon. As usual I have probably rambled on for far to long but before I go, honourable mentions go to: The Big Sleep, King Solomon’s Mines, Mountains of the mind, The orange Girl, The Rebel and The old Man and the Sea.