Reading Maze For Book Reviews

Reading for the Young & Old

Media – is the book dead/

There has been so much commentary on this subject from people who actually know what they are talking about, and now here’s some from me.

It’s not researched. It’s pure gut feel, and it’s my gut and I’m not trying to pretend it has even a grain of authority.

I’m a sucker for reading physical books and magazines – that doesn’t mean that I shun the digital, if I’m going away, or even on a train journey, then I’m more likely to take my Kindle than I am to take a physical book.

However I want the full experience with my reading matter. With a story, well, it’s mostly just the story, and so holding a book should just be an inconvenience, although I do love to see what I have read on the shelves as a reminder of tales loved. So novels, even heavy weight pieces of literature, work fine for me in either media, and I admit that an old style, matt screened Kindle is dandy.

With a magazine, or any book with pictures, then the medium is vital.

The coffee table volume, the staple of publishers such as Taschen and Phaidon, both of whom I have lauded here in the past, just would not work in any other format.

I guess also publishers could not justify the cost involved and that pretty much have to be charged for first editions of monograms of famous photographers if digital was the only medium. You can’t charge £100 or more to flick through screens on your iPad (can you)?

As soon as you have images then the paper quality makes all the difference. In a day or two I’ll write about Kinfolk, it’s a newish magazine that I have only just discovered. It’s paper is almost as important as the images themselves.

I have fallen in love with it. I will tell you more. Regularly!


Kindle versus Book

I have started this post just because I want to confess.

After years of standing up for the physical book I have to confess that there is a damn good place in my life for its sort of nemesis the Kindle, and all its derivatives.

It hurt to say that.

Don’t worry. I know it’s a slippery slope, but I also have 100% confidence that books will always have a strong hold on my life.

So many of the items of beauty that grace my shelves are huge tomes that could not possibly work on screen.

Yes I do believe all that rot that some folk go on about. Things like the sheer heft of a volume having a vital part of the experience it imparts. Yes I believe that the joy of a glossy volume is increased immeasurably by the simple surface tension that creates a slight resistance to turning its pages when first opened.

And the smell. I love the smell of paper.

Even old paper. Like the olfactory affront you experience when walking into a second hand book shop. That’s history you’re smelling.

So what has caused this slight wobble in my conviction?

It’s that old devil called convenience. And in particular at my favourite reading time – when I’m in bed. A back lit kindle lets my other half sleep while I read on into that night with just a dim lamp, and the glow of the new devil.

Big books are hard. I have’t got over the need for the gratification of gradually working your way through. But 100 pages on the train – joy!

For the love of books

A few thoughts on writing

I love for a book to just take me away, to absorb me to the extent that I think about the characters even when I’m not reading it. And to have me wanting to share my love for it when I’m talking to friends, or even writing about other things.

Recent examples of this have been:

  • the mighty tome that is Sahntaram, the book I mentioned last week
  • the first Ken Follett I read, that was called Pilllars of the Earth. I still enjoy Follett, but find his formula is so tight that I can’t read more than one every couple of years, though I love the sense of learning they carry too,
  • A.L. Kennedy’s Everything You Need. Wow! I was amazed to find that she’s actually a funny woman. That book seemed so intense when I read it. Perhaps it was my state at the time reading too much in,
  • The first time I read modern Irish writer Niall Willam’s Four Letters of Love I just had to start again, and read and cry and think. Wonderful.
  • Norwegian Wood by Japanese master Harukai Murakami

Just because a book doesn’t garb you in this way doesn’t mean that it’s not a good read. But  it is utterly lovely when it happens.

I’m a lover of the spare tight style you get with Hemingway, Orwell and others, but also I love the way an Indian book may meander off into such beautiful rich description that in becomes a story within a story.

Sometimes even I may feel that there’s an exciting flow of words, but that really has little to say. But then I’d have to say that as I have just come back to this post half written and realised that I don’t know where I’m taking it!

I’d best stop right here!

The Horologicon. Mark Forsyth.

Now dear fellow.

Were you to pass the wee small hours in your lucubatory, supping away on a bottle of Scotland’s finest, then truly, when you awake from the deepest slumber sometime later that day you should expect to feel, at least somewhat, philogrobolised. Tis the curse of many a lycnobyte, but as Noel Coward, or some other witty drunk, was oft quoted as saying, he felt sorry for the sober, as they’d wake feeling as they did, but knowing that they day would not gradually get easier.

Take it upon yourself to invest in a copy of the Horologicon, by that most well read and clever fellow Mr Mark Forsyth, and you too could find yourself trying to envisage situations when you might employ some of the delightful less commonly encountered delights of the English language.

A book about words may not sound like the obvious source of entertainment for any but the most refined of gentlemen, but it may just surprise you and have you laughing out loud (which my young friends advise me is what they mean when they shower their texts with endearments) (so sad when I thought I’d won the heart of a sweet thing).

To almost anyone with the remotest interest in language I say – buy it, you’ll like it. And if you don’t I’ll buy it off you (and secretly strike you off).