Reading Revolution

I love to read, I really do.  Anything.  Everything.  I read every day. Emails, newspapers, other peoples blogs, posts on facebook.  Do you know, I sometimes even read books.

In fact, these days I’m reading a lot more books than I used to.

One of my favourite things about our holidays is the bit at the airport when we go to Waterstones or Smiths and choose three books each to take with us. Just light stuff, nothing deep and meaningful like you’re supposed to read. Even, dare I say it, chicklit sometimes.  In the past though, this would be the one time of the year when I allowed myself to fork out for the luxury of books.

If ever I had any money given to me for birthdays or Christmas, it would usually go on books too. Better ones.  ‘Literary fiction’ that requires some time and thought rather than the throwaway holiday reads.

But often there would be a lean period where I was half-heartedly perusing our bulging bookshelves for something worth reading a second time, or to search for one that I’d half read but didn’t enjoy, to find out if it was any better second time around.

So yes, often I have been without an open book for months at a time.  But things have changed.  Oh yes sirree!

I got myself a Kindle. (other ereaders are available!!)

Now, I know ebooks are not everyone’s cup of tea.  You’ll hear loads of people sniffily say

‘I prefer the heft of a real book’.

Well so do I, except when I’m in bed trying to hold a heavy tome up with a tired arm, or trying to fit it in my handbag to read on the train, or carting it about while it takes up valuable space in my hand luggage.

The ebook is a revelation to me.  The choice is wide and varied and I can peruse the ‘book shop’ at my leisure.  There are some free ones (which frankly, I’ve learned to avoid, since on the whole, they seem to be a load of tosh, even to me), but even the ones you pay for are cheaper than the paper variety.

So now, I read a chapter or two every day.  I’ve read things I wouldn’t have dreamed of buying if I’d seen them in a conventional bookshop.  In fact, I probably wouldn’t have discovered them since I tend to only go to the shelves loaded with my preferred authors or genres.  I’ve been re-reading, or discovering for the first time, some of the classics too.  At the moment I’m reading ‘Cider with Rosie’ and I’ve got half a dozen other books already downloaded and waiting in the wings.  With its built in backlight I can even read at night without disturbing my husband, who lies right beside me snoring in the depths of dreams.

It’s not only me either.  My mother (whom, if you’ve been reading my blog, you’re well acquainted with by now) has her own kindle which she loves.   She is an avid reader, but since having a stroke was finding holding large books, and their varying type sizes, difficult.  With the ereader she can enjoy any sized book, and change the font quickly and easily.

Ereaders will never replace real books, nor should they.  If (when) electricity does finally run out, and the internet fizzes to a halt, this wonderful, sharing and illuminating world we’re enjoying will no longer exist, it will be the libraries full of dusty books that will remain to tell the stories.

In the meantime, come on everybody, lets just appreciate the words however we choose to read them!

Written in response to the daily post ‘Readers block’

Preaching to the converted

Dunno if I have mentioned previously that I bought my mum a kindle for her 90th birthday last year.  They’re great for older people who have trouble holding bigger books or reading the small print, and it’s been a stonking success with her.

Mind you, she doesn’t feel confident enough to order her books herself either through the device or through her laptop, so I have to choose for her.  If I say so myself I’m getting quite adept, and actually enjoy the challenge of choosing books that she might like, but I know I would absolutely loath…all the potboiler romances, the stuff about ‘the old days’.  She doesn’t like anything based abroad preferring descriptions of places she recognises, which is a bit limiting, but you’d be amazed at just how many of the ‘she was a poor girl, who fell under the spell of  evil Lord Whatsismame who imprisoned her in the cellar of his mansion where she found love through the soot covered coal merchant who had his own secrets…..’  (blimey that’s good –  I could positively write ’em myself!) genre there is.

Every now and then I sneak in something unexpected, and have pushed her to read things she wouldn’t have considered before.  Consequently she is now an avid Agatha Christie fan, and enjoys the odd biography.

She did do requests, but that has stopped since she insisted on getting, and then reading, Fifty Shades of Grey.  I’ve not read it myself (really not my cup of tea, prefer more eloquent and elegant writing) I did warn her.  I did – robustly, but still she insisted I download it for her.  Her response

‘eugh, do people really do that? Made me feel sick!’  needless to say she didn’t want the next two instalments.

What this exercise has reminded me though, is that, although we all may like different things, books can be compelling for everyone, if they take the trouble to find the right ones. You have to be prepared to be disappointed occasionally by dreadful, unfathomable plotlines, or irritating writing styles.  You have to expose yourself to genre’s that you may think you have no interest in – for instance  sci-fi may not be an obvious choice for us all, but they are just as likely to contain romance and mystery as the next book, and often the authors can employ unusual, creative, improbable, but thoroughly entertaining storylines to keep you engaged all the way through.

I’m the opposite of my mum.  I like to escape into a different world, whether that may be contemporary, historical or futuristic.  I want to really live with the characters, believe in them, and understand them and their motives.  Although there are many books I love, and am happy to reread, probably my favourite is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.  Its a long book, a saga if you like, but I feel like I’ve visited the people in their homes, I know them.  I know the heat, smells, noise of the places they frequent.  I’m sad when I get to the end, even though I’ve read it several times now.  That’s what I want from a book.  Oh, it doesn’t have to be long, or heavy, I enjoy a good beach book as much as the next man, but only as long as the author can use language in a convincing, entertaining, emotional and readable way.

If I’m honest, there are one or two exceptions.  Despite the quite dreadful writing style which I found distracting, I did enjoy The Da Vinci Code, but couldn’t be doing with the other books in the series at all, I did give Angels and Demons a go…gave up after a couple of chapters though.

It is, of course, all a matter of taste. All I would say to anyone is Read.  Read a lot.  Read anything you fancy, and some things you don’t.  Life will be all the richer for exploring other worlds and ideas.

‘course…you’re reading this, so you know all that already (especially the read anything bit), so well done you, and spread the word!