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Category Archives: Reading Themes

Dusting the Blog-webs


With a slightly laboured title, I am returning to blogging. 
And about time too!

Some things have changed since I last blogged: we’ve moved from the North-East down to the Big Smoke of London, I work part time, my children are almost as tall as me.

One thing has remained constant: books! Anyone who knows me – or who has even noticed the title of this blog! – knows that I love books. 

I love books as objects, inspiration, escapes, portals, entertainment, guilty-pleasure, wallpaper, decoration. And working a few days a week as a Bookseller is a perfect way to keep my love-affair alive.

And so, as a way of keeping my critical faculties going, rewiewing what I’ve been reading, and sharing book-ish musings with whoever might be reading this, I shall be dusting down this blog, blowing away the cobwebs, and setting my book-ish thoughts free!

Want to join me?!

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A Poem: Resolution 2014

A slightly tongue-in-cheek poem inspired by my New Year’s Resolution:

The books flow about
The house, with a shout,
My husband exclaims,
‘No more! Hear my aims:
To have a house free of clutter.
You buy books, ‘stead of butter.
This worries me greatly,
The bookcases are weighty.
They might topple and fall.
The books! They’ll crush us all!
Why do you buy so many books?
Don’t you know how it looks?
To have teetering towers
Threatening to overpower
Adult or child;
These books: they roam wild
Throughout the whole house,
Not even a mouse
Can burrow through these,
Eating pages not cheese.
Their bulk does well insulate
Almost as well as roof slate.
But the mess in the hall,
Bedrooms, lounge, just all
Over this place –
It is a disgrace.
You must control your urges
To stem this paper tide which surges
From room to room.
How I wish for a broom
To sweep clear this hoard
To see empty floorboard.
My dearest love,
I implore help from above
That this year you resolve
Our bookish problem to solve.
Say to yourself this sweet little rhyme
When you’re tempted, each time:
‘I shall not, will not buy a book,
Not in paper, Kindle or Nook;
Not online, not for a dime,
Not in a store, no! no more!’
Just for this year,
Please, my dear?’

A.W.Craig January 2014

 

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A Victorian End of Year Review (of sorts)

ImageVaultHandler_aspxAnd so, the end of 2013 has passed… and so has my two-year themed reading challenge. It’s been such fun choosing a monthly theme then piling up the appropriate books with fevered anticipation. And then posting gratuitous pictures of my personal library. The total of books read thematically has been less than impressive, as seen on my Good Reads list.

Organising my reading thematically has given me focus, made me take books off my shelves (even if they’re just been piled up and reshelved after a couple of months), and challenged me to discover new authors and genres.

However, it has sometimes been restrictive and the blogging element of the experiment has fallen by the wayside a little. I haven’t reflected on the themes deeply enough, perhaps because the reading in the end hasn’t been so focused. I’m still distracted by all the books I haven’t read, and all the books which keep piling up in our house.

So October’s theme, which melded into November and (oops!) into December, was Victoriana. I loved the anticipation of this and found some delicious looking books on my shelves (see previous post). The few novels I managed to read were successfully atmospheric and (perhaps) overly dramatic. Some were set in brothels with suitable emphasis on sexual proclivities (The Crimson Petal and the White in particular; not too gratuitous but with an engaging narrative style. And stonking good plot). There was swirling fog, gorgeous dresses, and grisly murders (at times). They all seemed to be hefty tomes with complicated plots and lots of sex. Perhaps it’s an attempt to redress the balance of our mis-conception that the Victorians repressed everything. (see Matthew Sweet’s Inventing the Victorians to redress the balance)

Reading contemporary novels set in the Victorian era has been an interesting contrast to the style and content of the ‘real’ Victorian novels I’ve already read.  Some of the Victoriana was almost a self-conscious parody, seeking to recapture the thrills of a Victorian ‘sensationalist novel’ but failing. I’d rather read Wilkie Collins or Mary Braddon, thanks.

I would recommend anyone to try a year, or a few months, reading within a certain theme; whether a particular author, setting, genre, subject matter. I have discovered some gems and authors I wouldn’t have otherwise have tried. Get out of your comfort zone and look in a different part of your local bookshop or library.

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And so as I look ahead into 2014, I’m resolving to ‘watch less, read more.’ I have many books piled up waiting to be read and am looking forward to a year’s ‘free reading’, returning to my old habits of reading different books, whatever takes my fancy…
…. but with the twist that I cannot buy any more books for myself for the whole year.

Now, that’s an idea for a year’s worth of blog posts…

 

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On Victoriana

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Inspired by my son’s school topic this half term, I am choosing to read a selection of Victorian inspired modern fiction. I’ve read a good selection of the ‘real’ thing although there are always gaps to fill. However, I have chosen to read modern writers’ interpretations of Victorian literature. Even within this selection I am aware there is a potential range of style: some may almost be pastiches, others add alternative voices to the established canon, some look at a familiar subject from an unfamiliar angle. Most of them would probably be viewed as scandalous if published during the reign of ‘ Victoriana’!

I’m forward to fog and furs,  crinoline, corsets and the Crimea; a selection of mystery, romance, murder, history and great costume descriptions.

Of course, the stack of books shown is another gratuitous shot of books from my shelves; there’s enough material there to last about six months. I hope I can make some progress.

Enough of this: time to read!

(not shown: collected works of Sarah Waters and Scarlett Thomas, and whatever I can find loaded on my Kindle)

 
 

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On Being On Holiday (Belatedly)

20121117-224129.jpg I’ve been on holiday. Literally (for a short time over the summer) but also metaphorically (from blogging). I didn’t go away anywhere very exciting, or particularly relaxing (I have children so much of my life is essentially the same with different scenery), but I have given myself a break.

I’m supposed to be blogging every month, reflecting on my reading theme. As you’ll have noticed by now, it’s been a while and I’ve heard a few self-imposed deadlines whizzing past.

Nevermind; back on track for the final few months of 2013. To be honest this ‘holiday’ has been refreshing. I extended June’s Sci-Fi theme into half of July so I could finish The Passage.  I have paused my reading of  The Game of Thrones for so long I think I should now admit to having given up on it, for this year at least (a shame, I know; I may regret the decision). I then challenged myself to take only my Kindle on a short trip to London, intending to read Wolf Hall and that alone (see blog post ‘On Not Packing Books’ in July ). That I managed, but over a longer period of time than I’d expected, with other books in between.Jubilee 2012 184

A holiday from themed reading  has been invigorating. I could read whatever I fancied, just like ‘the old days’, not exercising my critical faculties at all. (I couldn’t read when ever I fancied, those ‘pesky children’ had to be entertained, educated, fed and watered, but I had the evenings and a few long car journeys.) Unfortunately, I didn’t read anything particularly ‘high brow’ – Wolf Hall notwithstanding. I’ve returned to a few comfort reads (Joanna Trollope’s latest The Soldier’s Wife and a couple more of Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn series) in addition to a few titles I’ve been putting off because they don’t fit into a theme: the Hunger Games trilogy, Tigers in Red Weather, Good Omens, Separate Lives.  It’s been fun to jump and skip about around time, setting, style and theme. The ‘holiday’ feeling has been difficult to shake off. I tried to be good and get into the ‘back to school’ mood by posting On Iris Murdoch (in anticipation). I fully intended to read at least one of her novels and one biography. imageI failed. Both Bruno’s Dream and The Sea, The Sea are woefully, pitifully read. I have started both, attaining about 10% progress. I also started A.N. Wilson’s respectful but unorthodox biography/memoir of Murdoch but am only up to page 52. Both the novels are refreshingly different to what I was expecting with eccentric, troubled male protagonists with tangled personal lives. I may continue to read their stories as they provide a refreshing change both from what I have read before of Murdoch’s novels and my recent fayre. But onwards, onto the next thematic challenge; merging October into November to avoid deadline anxiety with multiple family birthdays getting ‘in the way’ of my reading. Perhaps this holiday from a theme has exposed my intellectual pretence. I am a book tart, a bibliophilic magpie, a will-o-the-book-wisp. imageAm I the only one?

 

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On Iris Murdoch (in Anticipation)

A collection of Iris Murdoch

A collection of Iris Murdoch

A new month, the start of a new school year, another gratuitous picture of my library.

After the Summer off (more of that later) I am returning to my self-imposed reading theme, hoping to get the literary grey cells going with a good dose of Iris Murdoch.

As you can see, I have a(n almost) complete collection of her novels (copies of Flight From The Enchanter, The Bell and Iris are mysteriously missing; particularly odd as I know I’ve read them. That will bother me all night…).

But I don’t think I really ‘get’ Murdoch. She’s a novelist who writes about ideas, about people who talk about philosophy, stringing events together to make a point, rather than a great novelist with a well-honed style.

Or at least that’s my recollection of Murdoch’s work.

I am prepared to be challenged.

But where should I start?

 

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On Not Packing Books

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The Summer holidays approach, packing will be done, adventures anticipated.

But am I the only person who considers the books to pack long before I’ve decided on clothes, which bag to use, or even where we’re going?!

The anticipation of potential reading time, uninterrupted by the usual demands, gives me almost as much enjoyment as the actual time away.

But I am constantly faced with a dilemma: which books to pack? What will sustain me for time away from my library (both personal and municipal)? What if I’ve taken the wrong books? What if I run out of books? How heavy will they be? Should I squeeze in an additional small book or additional jumper?

My Kindle was supposed to solve this dilemma. I now have over 800 books on my device: enough to satisfy even the most voracious reader for many holidays to come.

I should be happy with this. But, no. I still worry about whether to take my charger for a couple of days away. What if it breaks? Can I really survive without a ‘real’ book in my bag?

And so I am setting myself a challenge. We’re going away for four child-free days, travelling by train with limited luggage.

Can I ‘survive’ with ‘just’ my Kindle?

If yes, I might finally get to read ‘Wolf Hall’…

 

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