I first wrote this post in October 2013 for a WordPress Daily Prompt on choices. I still read books so I decided to dust it off update it and run it again as most of you won’t have seen it. I had about half a dozen views a week back then if I was lucky.
How do I pick what blogs or books to read?
Whether it’s books or blogs the thing that always gets me to read it is the hope of being entertained. If I see the name of a writer whose work makes me laugh or who tells a good story I will be eager to read what they have written. I enjoy the humourous take on everyday life that I find in some of my favourite blogs but I also like those who share their knowledge and passions. I have learned a great deal from my fellow bloggers about writing and photography.
If I don’t know the writer I’ll look at the subject matter, if it is non fiction is it about a subject I’m interested in? Is it relevant to my specific interests? For example I like cricket so I’ll read biographies of players but I wouldn’t read a book about the laws of cricket or a blog giving an interpretation of the LBW rule unless the writer made it funny because I would get a headache!
Is the title appealing? An intriguing title will at least get me to read the first few paragraphs to find out more. Sometimes it turns out to be not what I thought it would be but sometimes it will turn out to be a good read.
Fiction is a bit trickier to choose than non fiction. When I was at school I often used to enjoy the fiction extracts in my English text books so much that I would search for the books they were from in the library.
I don’t like to read books with excessive violence or bad language, so as well as reading the plot outline, I will usually skim through a book trying to get a feel for it before I settle down to read. There have been many books which promised to be good stories that I’ve walked away from because they were just too graphic for me.
Sometimes I read something because a friend has recommended it or I’ve read a favourable review but only if I think it sounds interesting myself. If I have enjoyed a film that was based on a book I may decide to read it but I won’t read best sellers just because it is trendy to say you have read it.
I think a lot of people must do that. In our book room at the Op Shop we have at least three copies each of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and its sequels. It seems to be by far the most often donated book we have. (I haven’t read any of them.)
Recently I have started to listen to audio books and I found that the reader makes a big difference to my enjoyment. “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens is a favourite story of mine but the main reason I bought the audio book was because Sir Patrick Stewart was reading it and I love his voice. Likewise Stephen Fry is exactly the right person to read the Harry Potter stories. One of my first audio books was “Deep South” by Paul Theroux. I have read several of his travel books and I understand his style but I had a lot of trouble listening to the book. It was partly the book itself, it was long and I’m afraid I fell asleep a couple of times. I just didn’t enjoy the narrator’s voice though. I decided that in future I will stick to reading the books.
Up until this past year I’ve been an “old school” reader preferring books to electronic forms of reading. A lot of people I know have been switching to downloading their books or listening to audiobooks instead.
I have a lot of books and I don’t necessarily want to get rid of them but I decided that some type of device would be useful for travelling. When I regularly travelled to Hobart and to Oatlands I usually had a “bus book” with me. However, I didn’t want to carry a huge pile of books when we went cruising so I bought a Kindle. Initially, I’d tried reading on a tablet but the Kindle is better as the screen is easier to read even outdoors.
I discovered that a lot of books are very cheap, some even free. A lot of those are a bit lightweight but sometimes when I’m tired I just want to read something and I don’t need it to be too deep. However, sometimes I find one I really like for just a couple of dollars, a bit like finding a hidden gem in a secondhand bookshop. I do have a wish list of books I’d like to read and some of those cost more but over time I’ll get them unless I find them in the Op Shop first of course.
More recently I decided to give audio books a try. I started off with Paul Theroux’s “Deep South”. I had mixed feelings about that. I had wanted to read the book for a long time but I didn’t like the reader’s voice that much. I will get the rest of his travel books either in Kindle or regular book form. Then I bought “Fahrenheit 451”. I read that book in high school so I thought I’d enjoy it but I didn’t like that reader’s voice either and kept falling asleep listening to it.
Once I realised that voices mattered I decided to be more careful about selecting books. My next choice was “A Christmas Carol” read by Patrick Stewart. A favourite story of mine read by someone who has a really great speaking voice.
I bought a dramatisation of “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” read by some of the actors from the original radio series. I watched the TV version of this some years ago so that sounded quite familiar.
I also like Stephen Fry’s speaking voice so I am currently listening to him reading the Harry Potter books. I always meant to read them and have never quite got around to it until now. Having just got to the end of the first one I can quite understand why children loved them so much. In contrast, my current Kindle book is “The Last Librarian” by Brandt Legg.
I won’t stop reading “real” books but trying something different has helped me to branch out and read more books more often than I have for some time.
It has been a while since I’ve found a book that I just didn’t want to put down. I have several books “on the go” at the moment, some eBooks which I read on the tablet and one other hard cover book. My reading habits have become a bit erratic lately as, especially with eBooks, I tend read a bit here and a bit there at night before I go to sleep rather than sitting down and reading a book cover to cover.
At the Op Shop where I now volunteer three times a week someone came in with a load of household goods including a box of hard cover books. I have plenty of books and wasn’t looking for more but then I saw a book with a picture of a cat on the cover and had to pick it up. I used to have a cat that looked very much like it. It was “Matthew Flinders’ Cat” by Bryce Courtenay. I have read some of Bryce Courtenay’s other books and enjoyed them and I once read a biography of Matthew Flinders so I was intrigued.
I was alone in the shop and the weather was bad so there were no customers. I opened the book and started to read. Within a few minutes I knew I was going to have to buy it so I could read the whole thing so I popped $3 into the till and have been reading it off and on since Thursday.
Matthew Flinders’ Cat tells the story of a homeless man, Billy, a street kid called Ryan and how they save each other. During the course of the book Billy tells Ryan the story of Trim a seagoing cat who belonged to Captain Flinders. Although the story of Billy and Ryan is fiction Trim was a real cat. There is a statue of Trim on a window ledge of the Mitchell Wing of the State Library of New South Wales near the statue of Matthew Flinders. For those not familiar with Australian history Captain Matthew Flinders RN (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was an English navigator and cartographer, who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia and identified it as a continent. I remember learning about his voyages in school.
While I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the book, it is not a new one, it was written in 2002; it follows Billy who was once a lawyer as he struggles with alcoholism and rehabilitation. It seems a well researched and honest book and even though I have not finished reading it yet I would recommend it.
There are a few books in my library that I like to go back to from time to time and this is one of them. It is a work of fiction but set against the background of real events. Beginning in the closing stages of World War Two it traces the development of the American space program through the eyes of four fictional families. It covers the engineering and scientific aspects very well but also the political. I found the characters believable and even more than 30 years after it was written it poses some interesting questions about space exploration and whether or not we should be doing it.