Reading Resolutions

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Any reading resolutions for the new year? Reading more? (Reading less?) Reading better books? Bigger books? More series? More relaxing books?

It’s been a while since I wrote a Booking Through Thursday post – this week’s question seems appropriate.

This year I’m aiming to read as slowly as possible to try to absorb more of the book, because I often race through, eager to know what happens and after a day or two I can’t remember much about it. I want to take time and think about what I’m reading.

I also want to read as many books as I can from my own shelves, because I have a lot of unread books. My difficulty with this is that I’m always tempted by new books, or books other bloggers recommend.

In 2012 I read 105 books but this year I’m undecided about setting a target (such as the one on the Goodreads Reading Challenge which I did last year), because although I like keeping records and statistics, I think they don’t actually mean much €“ it’s the reading that counts for me. Setting a target makes me anxious especially when Goodreads tells me how many books behind my target I am. So my target at the moment is to read what I feel like, as and when I want and never mind the numbers.

I began this blog to record at least a short note about each book I read, but that doesn’t seem relevant to me any more, and it has become a chore, so this year I’ll only write about a book if I feel like it.

In short, I’m looking forward to a year full of lots of carefree reading.

Who taught you to read?

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A while ago, Deb at Booking Through Thursday interviewed her readers for a change, and her final question was, ‘œWhat question have I NOT asked at BTT that you’d love me to ask?’

This morning’s BTT question is the question I asked:

Who taught you to read?

I asked this because I don’t remember who taught me to read and I wondered if anyone else does actually remember being taught.

I just can’t remember a time when I couldn’t talk, walk or read. I know that I could read before I went to school and that I loved being read to and being told stories. It was my dad who read to me at night before I went to sleep and he was the one who made up silly, funny stories to keep me and my sister entertained. So maybe it was him who taught me to read.

But it could have be my mum who taught me because she was the one who took me to the library with her. The library was a small branch library with children’s and adults’ books in the same room and I could choose my own books whilst she chose hers and she could keep an eye on me at the same time. She was the one who always had her head in a book when she wasn’t busy doing anything else. 

I wish I could remember. All I do remember is loving books and it seems as though I learnt to read by looking and listening rather than being taught. But it can’t have been that simple – can it?

Booking Through Thursday: An Interview with Me

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Booking Through Thursday asks:

1. What’s your favorite time of day to read? I don’t have a favourite time – any time is best. I read mostly early mornings and late at night.

2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.) Yes.

3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.) I love porridge for a hot breakfast and muesli when I fancy a cold breakfast.

4. How many hours a day would you say you read? 2 – 3 hours.

5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago? About the same.

6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader? No

7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To read multiple books at the same time.

8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go? Not everywhere, but most places – it’s easier now with my Kindle.

9. What KIND of book? If it’s a ‘real’ book it has to be small enough to fit in  my bag or pocket and can be any genre – usually whatever I’m reading.

10. How old were you when you got your first library card? Four or five, I think, or I may have been able to borrow books on my mother’s card, I don’t know. I only remember borrowing books from the library before I went to school aged five.

11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?) I don’t know the oldest physical book in my collection. It would be one of the books my parents or grandparents owned. I have several of these that I know my parents were given (as school and Sunday School prizes) in the 1920s, but there are a few like these that probably belonged to my grandparents:

Jane Eyre by Currer Bell (Charlotte Bronte) published by Richard Edward King, 88 Curtain Road, E.C. no date probably 1880s- 90s and The Channings by Mrs Henry Wood, published by Richard Bentley and Son, Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen, 1890.

12. Do you read in bed? Yes – see question 1.

13. Do you write in your books?I was brought up never to write in books, but I sometimes do now – in pencil. I have some of my children’s books that I’ve coloured in the line drawings with coloured pencils and some novels I read for school with passages underlined in biro (I’m shocked by my younger self!)

14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be? Read whatever you like and read, read, read. Never believe anyone who tells you that you should be doing something else rather than reading.

Book Beginnings on Friday

This morning I finished reading Faulks on Fiction by Sebastian Faulks, a book I’ve been reading slowly for a few weeks (my review coming soon). It’s time to choose another non-fiction book to take its place. It’s got to be a book I can read in small bites and not lose the thread, maybe a biography/autobiography, or a diary, collection of letters, or a history book.

I’ve looked at a few and have decided on this one:

The half-timbered mansion disappeared long ago, and the paved thoroughfare lies buried beneath the dust of centuries. The Great Fire tore the heart out of this corner of Elizabethan London, devouring books, buildings and streets. One of the few things that survived is a small and insignificant-looking map – crinkled, faded, but still bearing the proud name of its owner. (page 1)

This is the beginning of Giles Milton’s about the first English settlement in the New World in the sixteenth century. It’s Big Chief Elizabeth: how England’s Adventurers gambled and won the New World. I’ve read his earlier book Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, which is a fascinating tale of the ‘competition between England and Holland for possession of the spice- producing islands of South-East Asia throughout the 17th century.’

I like the beginning of Big Chief Elizabeth, which within a few words captures the mystery and appeal of history for me. I’m looking forward to discovering more about the map and its owner.

Blurb from the back cover:

Big Chief Elizabeth has it all: gallant English seadogs, coiffured courtiers, exotic locations and lots of fights with pirates, Spaniards and Indians. (Sunday Telegraph)

Plus I’m interested to read Giles Milton’s newest book, Wolfram: the Boy who Went to War.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Odd: Booking Through Thursday

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This week Deb asks:

What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?
I’ve read plenty of odd books, some of which I’ve not liked, and some I’ve enjoyed immensely. They certainly make me think. Actually I think a lot of books I read can be classed as ‘odd’, in one way or another, but as for the oddest – that’s very hard to decide.

The People's Act of Love by James MeekOne that came to mind as an odd subject is The People’s Act of Love by James Meek. I read this before I’d started this blog and just have a brief note saying that I thought it was ‘strange’. My memory tells me it was chilling, disgusting in parts yet compelling reading in others. Anyway, I finished it, so it can’t have been that bad. There’s an enthusiastic reviewby Irvine Welsh in the Guardian 9 July 2005.

Lambs of God by Marele DayAnother one is Lambs of God by Marele Day, one I enjoyed much more than the Meek book. It’s another book I read in my pre-blog days. On the back cover it’s described as

a mesmerising novel with the power of all the best fiction – that of shining an oddly angled and penetrating light on the real world. This is the conflict of the church of the primitive saints and the church of worldliness and simony; the struggle between them is as gripping as a thriller.

I thought it was very strange, about three nuns who, for example have a Haircut Day, once a year, followed by Shearing Day for the sheep they look after. I fancy re-reading it – if only I had time!

Age Appropriate – Booking Through Thursday

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Do you read books ‘œmeant’ for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks ‘¦ You know ‘¦ books not ‘œmeant’ for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

I read regardless of whatever age books may be aimed at. I loved the Harry Potter books and I enjoy re-reading the books I loved when I was younger. I’ve been hooked on watching Dr Who on TV from the beginning, although I haven’t read any of the books and now I’ve thought about it I can’t imagine why I haven’t – too many books and too little time, I suppose.  Philip Pullman is another author whose books appeal to all ages.

There are many more. For example, a while ago I re-read Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows which I’d first read when I was about 12. I’d liked it the first time for its story and characters; this time round I saw different things in it – the mysticism, the spirituality and the portrayal of human nature. It’s not just animals messing about in boats on the river. I suspect it may be like that with other books – Little Women seems so moralising now, much different from how I viewed it as a child.

And did I read adult books as a child – yes, of course I did. Amongst other books, I remember borrowing Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness from the library also when I was twelve – a bit different from The Wind in the Willows.

Visual – Booking Through Thursday on Friday

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So ‘¦ the books that you own (however many there may be) ‘¦ do you display them proudly right there in plain sight for all the world to see? (At least the world that comes into your living room.)

Or do you keep them tucked away in your office or bedroom or library or closet or someplace less ‘œpublic?’

This is a very easy question to answer:

My books are on display as you come into the house – in the hall and living room as well as in the study and all the bedrooms. I have a few cookery books in the kitchen too. Actually I have too many books to hide them away anywhere and I have no wish to do so. As Cicero wrote:

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

and Anthony Powell:

Books do furnish a room.



Booking Through Thursday – Cheating?

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is:

Do you cheat and peek at the ends of books? (Come on, be honest.)

When I read this question I had a feeling that I’d answered it before and checking back in the blog I came across my answer back in June 2007. It was my very first Booking Through Thursday post. Here is what I wrote then:

I’m always tempted to look at the end of books and sometimes I do if the book is getting boring to see if it picks up. If the book is one that I can’t put down then I try to resist looking ahead ‘“ not always successfully though and then I wish I hadn’t!

Do I still think the same? Yes and no.

Yes, because now I don’t think of it as cheating at all – life is too short to continue reading a book that seems to be going nowhere, so I’ll look ahead to see if it looks as though it will pick up.

And no – now I don’t peek at the end of crime or mystery novels – that does spoil the experience.

Something Old, Something New – Booking Through Thursday

This week’s question:

All other things being equal’“do you prefer used books? Or new books? (The physical speciman, that is, not the title.) Does your preference differentiate between a standard kind of used book, and a pristine, leather-bound copy?

I love reading brand new books, especially brand new library books. I like a new book to be perfect if I’m buying it and I’ll go through the copies in a bookshop to find the best one there, the one without any scuffed pages, creased covers, the one no-one else has thumbed through.  There was only one copy left of Les Miserables when I wanted to buy it. Its cover was worn and the whole book was shop-spoiled and when I pointed that out at the till, the shop reduced the price. I’d still have preferred a good copy, but I did buy it.

I buy quite a lot of used books too and then I’m not as fussy. I’ll buy a book in a really poor condition if it’s the only one I can find, or if the ones in better condition are much dearer. As much as I like reading a brand new book that no-one else has read I also like reading a second-hand book that has been well read and I like to see the notes someone else may have made in the book, something I rarely do myself.

Booking Through Thursday – Firsts (on Friday)

Although it’s now Friday I wanted to answer this Booking Through Thursday question:

Do you remember the first book you bought for yourself? Or the first book you checked out of the library? What was it and why did you choose it?

I can’t remember which was the first library book I borrowed. My mum took me to the library before I started school and I remember that whichever book it was I liked it so much I didn’t want to return it and was only consoled when mum said I could borrow another book.

I think The Gloriet Tower by Eileen Meyler is the first book I bought for myself. I still have this hardback book. The description on the book jacket describes it as a

… tale for older children set in Corfe Castle a few years before the beginning of the Hundred Years War. The family there who found themselves drawn into a strange and cruel plot had no existence except in the Author’s imagination. Nevertheless a thin thread of fact runs through the story. The death of Edward II and the power wielded by his widowed Queen and her favourite Mortimer belong to history. The plot to ensnare the King’s brother and the merry-making and the dancing on the walls are true enough and true also is the story of the capture of the Earl of Kent.  … the castle and the wild heath, lapped by the waters of the harbour, are true until this day. They are there for all to see for themselves.

As far as I remember I chose this book because of its historical setting in a castle – I loved castles (still do), and I liked the cover picture. And so began my love of historical fiction. Looking at it today I think I’d like to read it once more.

Many years later I visited Corfe Castle in Dorset, now owned by the National Trust. It was swarming with people and I wished I could have seen it in years gone by when it wasn’t a tourist attraction.