Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Reading Matter

 Every now and then I come up against a bit of a crisis when it comes to my choice of reading matter. I look at my bookshelves and feel a tad depressed. Why? There are so many books there, which I’ve never read and probably never well. They’re usually those that others have recommended, saying that I really must read this brilliant book. Well, I’m sorry, but those days are gone. I have banished ‘ought’ ‘should’ and ‘must’ from my vocabulary. The word ‘ought’ expresses a duty or rightness about doing something or implies some sort of shortcoming on my part for not doing something. I can do without this sort of negativity, thank you very much. One person’s taste can vary widely from another’s. 
Reading a book I’m not enjoying is like eating a cottage cheese salad when I’m really craving a beef stew with mashed potatoes and dumplings. I cannot immerse myself in an author’s world when I find their prose style irritating, for example (Frances Fyfield springs to mind here). Similarly, if the characters are unsympathetic or the setting unbelievable. I have to feel emotionally engaged. 
Reading a book I love from the off is like wearing the comfiest pyjamas and lying beneath a soft duvet with feather pillows beneath my head. I don’t want to move. I’m fully immersed in the world the author has created, and I don’t want to put the book down. I used to give books 100 pages. If by that point I wasn’t enjoying it, then I’d give it to the charity shop. Now I’m less tolerant. Life is too short and there are too many books to read. I usually give it no more than a chapter. I’m all too aware, as a writer, that I have to get those first few pages right and engage my reader from the first line. If I don’t, then it’s likely they won’t even purchase the book in the first place.
I make no apology for my choice of reading matter. A few of my favourite books and authors are pictured here. I love reading fiction for pure escapism. I don’t want to tax my brain too much. However, that doesn’t mean to say that I put up with sloppy writing! It’s just that I prefer to read non-fiction for brain taxing and research purposes. I want a fiction author to tell me a good story with believable characters with whom I can feel empathy. Sometimes I like to be taken out of my comfort zone and read about grisly murders, but these have to occur in the most commonplace of situations, so that I can put myself firmly in the victim’s shoes. 
I will no longer listen to friends’ recommendations when it comes to books. I listen to my own instincts. I’ll read what I want to read and not what I think I ought to be reading. Same goes for eating!! 


Anonymous said...

You forgot to say "so ner".

I couldn't agree more. This is why I'll be mostly giving up reading "pastel cover" books from now on.

Unknown said...

it's wonderful to explore and discover a new writer that we really enjoy. How I wish I had to the time, instead of spending hours editing, but my time will come.