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!