“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King
I liked the quote because according to it, if I want to be a writer then I’m already half-way there! I’ve always read a lot. My mother is a librarian and so books have always featured heavily in my up-bringing, I think that for her making sure that I was a reader and that I enjoyed books was a really important part of bringing me up. Part of my bedtime ritual as a child was reading – I can remember reading in bed myself, but I’m sure that before that I was read to regularly before sleeping.
At school I enjoyed English and went on to study it at A level and for my degree at University. Years of reading literature from a curriculum meant that I didn’t always enjoy what I was reading and some authors still give me the shivers today (Jane Austen). Some things that I read at 18 were lost on me, the poems of Phillip Larkin for example meant very little to me at that stage of my life and everyone in my class thought he was just a miserable old sod. Coming back to his poems later in life I could appreciate them much more.
My reading habits are pretty uniform, I read one book at a time and from cover to cover. It’s very seldom that I don’t finish a book, even if I’m not enjoying it that much. In fact, the only book that I can name that I started and never finished was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I like to be able to read books more than once, you get more out of a good book on the second, third or even fourth read – a different perspective, different emotional responses or nuances that you missed the first time around. Some books I will return to time and time again, like old friends. I can remember being quite shocked when I met someone that only ever read books once!
I like to think that I have very broad tastes when it comes to reading, but in fact this isn’t really true. I have very broad tastes in fiction, but for me that’s where reading stops. I‘ve tried to read biographies, autobiographies, self-help books, and even travel books, but they largely feel like a chore. For me, non-fiction is purely for reference, and I’m slightly ashamed to say that these days I am more likely to go to the internet for my information than to a book. Not that it isn’t great to know how to find information in books. One thing that my mum taught me and which has always stuck with me is that what you know doesn’t matter, it’s knowing how to find the information you want that’s important (spoken like a true librarian).
I thought that in this post I would share a few books that I love. It’s just a selection, chosen at random and not a definitive list, they’re in no particular order and don’t represent any particular type of book. I’m not going to try to review or précis them (but I will put in links to them on Amazon). Here goes:
|Collected Poems – Philip Larkin||The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas|
|His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman||Neuromancer – William Gibson|
|South American Trilogy – Louis de Bernières||Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte|
|One Day – David Nicholls||Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig|
|The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenberger||Catch 22 – Joseph Heller|
|Great Apes – Will Self||number9dream – David Mitchell|
|Saturday – Ian McEwan|
Unfortunately, this week my ‘post a week’ is a day overdue, so I definitely need to improve on the ‘writing a lot’ part of the quote.