Posts Tagged ‘books’

Fast or slow?

November 10, 2016 5 comments

At the moment, my time for reading is much less than it was before.  Mostly I’m limited to a few minutes at bedtime.  I bought a few books at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August.  Normally, I’d have finished them ages ago, but I’ve still got one or two to go.

And that’s made me think about how I read.  I’m usually a fast reader, one of those people that are described as devouring books.  On holiday, I can easily average a book a day – I just get sucked in and keep going.

But because I have less reading time, I think I’ve slowed down.  Of course, it would take me longer to read a book these days because I don’t have my nose in it for very long each day, but I think I’ve slowed down more than that. Reading a novel at one sitting, or over a few consecutive days, is a very different experience from reading a chapter a night or a few pages at a time.  I find myself revisiting pages more often to remind myself of what I’ve already read.  But I also find myself taking more in.  I’m less likely to be tempted to rush to the end and more likely to lie ,back and enjoy the journey, savouring every word.

There’s much to be said for complete immersion in a novel, enjoying the feeling of being transported through the characters’ lives.  But there’s also a lot to be said for nibbling away at the story, bit by bit.  Maybe I don’t get the chance to feel completely full at any one time – but I get to linger over every tasty bite.

What do you prefer?  Fast or slow?



Making it last (or why bread is like books)

April 23, 2015 4 comments

DSC02568You know that feeling, when you’re in the middle of something really good, but you know it has to come to an end and you can’t quite bear it?  It happens to me when I’m reading a really brilliant book.  I ration myself, carefully hoarding the last precious pages.  And then when I do get to the end, I’m so tempted to start from the beginning all over again.  Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy was like that for me and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy and Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White.  None of these could be described as short books.  Far from it.  And yet, when I got to the end I was almost screaming “No!  You can’t leave it there! I want to read more.”

I get the same feeling when I am on holiday by the sea in St Abbs, one of my favourite places.


Actually, the beach is officially in Coldingham, but it’s only 5 minutes walk away.

However long I’m there – and last summer I was lucky enough to be there for six whole weeks at a stretch – I’m never ready to leave. Having just come back from two weeks in St Abbs, I’m in that grumpy in-between mood, when I just want to be back in a house with the sea at the end of the street and the sound of waves in my ears and the taste of salt on my tongue.  But I’ve found a way of making the transition more bearable, and it involves bread.

Yes, bread.  You see, when we’re in St Abbs, we buy truly delicious bread from the local baker (Lough’s) in Eyemouth.  When we’re there, we get through it so fast.  But when we bring some home with us, we all seem to have the same urge to slow our consumption down, to savour the taste which will soon be gone.

It’s not just about the bread, delicious though it is – especially the multigrain.  It’s also about taking a little bit of that seaside bliss back to everyday life.

Sadly, there’s only enough bread left now for today’s lunch.  It may be getting a bit hard now, but I will toast it and savour every bite.

Hardback vs Paperback

November 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Now this is a thorny question which can bring readers almost to blows.  Do you prefer books in hardback or paperback format?

Straight away, let me nail my colours to the mast.  If money was no object, then my entire library would be in hardback.  (It would also be in a proper library, with a real fire, comfy chairs and a cosy rug, rather than overflowing bookshelves and piles on various bits of floor and furniture, but that’s another story.)  I love the heft of a hardback.  I love dust jackets.  I love the feel and smell of thick creamy paper.  I love the extra space words get to breathe in a more substantial format.  There’s something so satisfying about the physical form of a hardback book, especially when the text is set in a beautiful, clear typeface and the paper is smooth under your fingers and you get that lovely sound each time you turn a page. (Can you tell that I’m not really an ebook reader?)

I know that many people won’t agree with me.  I have heard lots of complaints about hardbacks – they’re so unwieldy; they’re too heavy to carry around; they take up too much space; they’re too expensive; they’re difficult to read in bed.  Paperbacks are cheaper, lighter, more portable.  All this is true.  But they don’t smell the same, they don’t feel the same – and they don’t last the same.  And if you are like me, and like to re-read books you have enjoyed, the there is no question that the hardback is the better option.  How many times have I returned to a book I have loved before, all buoyed up with anticipation of a good read, only to be disappointed to find that my paperback copy is shedding its pages or that the paper has turned brownish yellow and started to smell musty?  The words are undoubtedly the same, but the reading experience is undeniably spoiled.

So which is your preference?  Hardback or paperback?

What is the value of a book?

May 29, 2012 2 comments

What is the value of a book?  As a question it’s right up there with “How long is a piece of string?” or “How many apples in a barrel of grapes?” So let’s narrow it down a bit to the vexed question of books as gifts.

In these days of deep discounts and multiple book offers on-line and in-store, how does the recipient of a book from me know that I have spent ages lovingly selecting it from a real bookshop, maybe even an independent bookshop?  Will they assume it was a bargain from Amazon?  Or – shock, horror! – part of a multiple pack bought for next to nothing from The Book People?

When books are regularly given away with magazines and newspapers and cut-price deals are everywhere, do we really value books as we should?  When you can download hundreds of free books onto your Kindle, do you think of them differently?

For the record, I buy my books from all sorts of places and I am just as easily seduced by a bargain as the next person – I would find it hard to support my reading habit if I didn’t succumb occasionally!  But if you receive a book from me, be assured that, nine times out of ten, it will be that carefully sourced, fully-priced, real-bookshop-bought volume.