Thursday, 19 February 2009

Reading and Me!

I have a fluctuating relationship with reading. Sometimes I read voraciously and at others I don’t read for weeks at a time. One of the main reasons I don’t read, is that if I find a book I really like, I can’t put it down. Nothing gets done, no cooking, no housework, no sewing, absolutely nothing. Then the guilt sets in and I don’t read again for ages. I wish I was one of those people who can read for half an hour or an hour in bed before they go to sleep. I’ve tried it but it ends up with me up all night reading, I have to go downstairs to avoid disturbing my husband.

My main time for reading is on holiday. I’m loaded up with books to read lying on a lounger beside the pool under the sunshade. Not for me trekking about the Roman and Greek ruins in the heat. I don’t mind a little wander now and again to see some sights, but don’t expect me to go on a long day trip anywhere. Just leave me reading.

Now I’m not a good reader, I’ll admit to that. I’m a bit of a speed freak. I used to be a good reader but I got into bad habits when I was studying for a degree with all that scanning and skimming. I start off fine but then I seem to speed up and want to find out what happens. I often have to go back to read a section again because I’ve lost the plot, literally. So what makes a “good” book for me? I’ve been trying to suss that out and I’m not really sure. I don’t have a particular genre I like. I can enjoy a detective story, a historical novel, comedy, satire and so on. I don’t really enjoy sci-fi and wild west stuff though.

I know when I really like a book because I keep trying to remember phrases the author has used. It’s a bit like moments you remember from films, like James Stewart in Harvey who said, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I have a few quotes that I can remember from books and believe me I have a terrible memory so it’s no mean feat for me. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Bill Bryson’s introductory sentence in The Lost Continent is totally unforgettable and always cracks me up. “I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to!”
What a fantastic opening line. How could you put that book down? Well maybe if you came from Des Moines you might.

Another phrase is from The Great Gatsby, there were quite a few I loved, but this one always sticks in my mind, “he dispensed starlight to casual moths”. So simple, but so memorable. It’s all credit to Scott Fitzgerald that I can recall that after over twenty five years.

Over the years there have only been a few books that I couldn’t get away with and finish reading. After all I did manage to get to the end of Umberto Ecco’s The Name of The Rose, a bit of a marathon I can tell you. I doubt I would have done that if I hadn’t seen the film which I thought was wonderful and that kept me going. One of the few times the film isn’t a poor reflection of the book.
However for the first time I can remember in years, I’ve given up on a book. Maybe it’s because I’m conscious of not having a tremendous amount of time left to waste, after all I’m 64. This book was such a disappointment to me as it’s by Alexander McCall Smith who wrote the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I loved the TV programme and I had tried to get the book from the library but currently 90% of the library’s books are packed away while it’s being refurbished as a "Library and Customer Service Centre", get that! I should have ordered it from another library but I was in a bit of a hurry and just took what books they had by him.

The book was The 2 ½ Pillars of Wisdom – The Von Igelfeld Trilogy. Now this book contains three stories about three German professors, I struggled reading the first, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. I read five of the eight chapters of it and I just felt the stories were stupid, not funny and I was thoroughly bored by them. Life’s just too short to be so bored by a book so I moved on to the second one by the same author. I don’t give up easily!

This one is the World According to Bertie. Again it’s part of a series, it’s A 44 Scotland Street Novel. Funny how this chappie’s book titles contain a number. I decided to read a few pages to avoid sitting down for a lengthy session being full of great expectations and then being disappointed!

It’s a portrait of life in Edinburgh covering a range of moral issues, love, friendship, child rearing, duplicity and more. There are a number of different stories being played out with characters including Bertie a confused six year old boy, Bruce a conceited and greedy young man, Cyril a dog about to be wrongfully executed and Matthew and Pat a couple who are not exactly suited to each other.

It certainly was much better than the other book but it won’t make my list of favourites. I’m a person who likes things resolved, even if it’s not a particularly happy resolution, but this book left some of the stories unresolved. Now as it’s part of a series, maybe the stories continue. I’ll keep a look out.


  1. I've read most of the #1 Detective Agency Books. Actually, I've listened to them on audio. The reader is fabulous. I'm not reading anything right now, but have a whole stack of books I bought at the used book sale to start now that we're settled in Nevada.

    ~hippo hugs~

  2. I do the same thing. That is what I miss about the village, it's library.

  3. I have had 2 of the #1 Detective Agency books on my shelf forever and still not got to them, but I will. I am a read for 30 minutes to get to sleep person every night of my life. It turns my brain off and lets me sleep well. I am a great lover of Bill Bryson.

  4. I only read one of A. McCall Smith's books about the #1 Detective Agency, and I had trouble getting it read. I personally thought it was boring. But, a friend recommended it and thought it was great, so I struggled through and read it to the end.

    Maybe, I should do like Hippo Chick and listen to it instead of reading it.

    I read a lot in the winter when I am penned up in the house and there is not much of anything else to do. I don't read before bed time because it keeps me awake, as you said you can't put the book down, so instead of sleeping you stay up and read.

  5. Life is too short to spend on a book that brings no joy. Like you, I read until I'm finished and ignore everything else. I like it like that. If a book can hold a reader's attention in that manner, then it's a good one. I don't feel guilt about that, I feel joy that an author took me there. I'd rather read knitting patterns than a bad book.

  6. I am pretty much the same way. If I get half way through the book and it is a struggle, I give up. A few books like that though, I have just put aside because they came so highly recommended by so many people I just think it was the mood I was in or something and will try again another day. One book that comes to mind is "The Pillars of The Earth". As many books as I have read, I regret to say I have not read a whole lot of classics but that is my goal. I hope to at least try to read all of the Classics and some Shakespeare.

  7. My taste in books these days is leaning towards non-fiction-memoirs, biographies, Nature books, animal stories, travel memoirs, May Sarton's books, etc. I loved F Scott F. and The Great Gatsby was a favorite. I love the phrase “he dispensed starlight to casual moths” which you mentioned. Have read a lot of Ernest Hemmingwat's books, but liked Fitzgerald more. I was never fond of detective stories, but do enjoy a good mystery now and then.

    But I enjoyed your post about reading, Winifred. Have a great weekend.


  8. I have read a few of A M Smith's books and enjoyed them. He always seems to draw me in with unusual titles. I usually try to finish a book even if I'm not particularly enjoying it. However I had to give up on "Labyrinth" by Kate Mosse, which was a "Richard and Judy" recommendation. My daughter and my mother also gave up on it - my daughter said she just didn't care about the characters and I think that just about summed it up for me too.

    Have recently read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" which I did enjoy. Another I would recommend is "The Time Travellers Wife".

    Happy reading Winifred. A x

  9. Dear Winifred ~~ Good post about your reading habits. I used to read a lot, especially at night, but my eyesight doesn't allow that now without a magnifying glass, which does not encourage it any more. Thanks for your comments and reminding me that there is always tomorrow.
    Take care dear friend, Love, Merle.

  10. I don't have a whole lot of extra time for reading. I am like you if I read, I don't get anything done. I read magazines more that anything. I read the books for my small group at church for my spiritual journey. I do read the Bible most nights before I go to bed. I wish I had more time to read!!

  11. I wish I had more time to read, but I still work. I do pick up a book every now and then and try to read a couple chapters each time. I can't read in bed cause I always fall asleep!

    Strange that you mentioned the name Cyril as I used to have a pen pal from Scotland by that name when I was in school...many years ago!

    I found this to be quite an interesting post!

    ((( HUGS )))


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