Tag Archives: Reading

So many books, so little time – is it possible to read for pleasure as a new parent part II

Apologies for the longest gap ever between posts on this blog.  So I seem to have  to a degree, answered my previous question regarding whether a new parent can read for pleasure.   The answer according to myself, is probably not in the first six months, and definitely not if you are studying for a Masters at the same time.  I have actually been reading some books over this last year (32 to be exact according to my goodreads account) but I lost that urge to blog.  My solution to this problem is now to do some more detailed reviews about the books that I feel strongly about and to sum up the others in one or two sentences.  This is obviously not a brilliant solution but at least my brief reviews will save you lots of time.

If you are one of those people like myself, who no longer has time to waste time reading average books my recommendation for the year is The Good Children by Roopa Farooki, the best book I have read in a really long time.

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So many books, so little time – is it possible to read for pleasure as a new parent?

Alicante-82I remember as a child my mum falling asleep on the sofa whilst trying to read a book and wondering how anyone could not be subsumed in a novel or fail to finish it.  Anyone who has been following my blog may have noticed that I there was a huge empty gap from June to September, this has been due to the arrival of my brilliant baby daughter in June.  I was definitely not prepared for how much disruption a baby causes to your ability to think, let alone read.  Combined with studying for my Masters in History I had been wondering if reading for pleasure was a thing of the past.

During the holiday I started and failed to finish Ahdaf  Soueif’s The Book of Love and Isabel Allende’s Island beneath the Sea.  The problem was that when anything came up involving tragic storylines with babies I could not carry on reading.  The good news is that now that she is a bit older, life is becoming a bit more manageable. I have finally managed to actually read something that isn’t a crime novel and I have  finished  John Guy’s biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, My Heart is my Own.

Still, I am wondering how it is possible to combine all my different roles and  if anyone else in my position has found  a solution to this.  A friend mentioned how he knew someone who started blogging about children’s books, but I am not sure I am ready to go down that route, especially as there isn’t much to say about  VR’s books being as they are normally about eight pages long and consist of pictures of animals.  I can see that my blog is definitely going to become even more history orientated than it is already as I carry on my research for the Masters – if I can manage to stay awake long enough.

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Is life too short for bad books? Should we finish everything we start?

I have been pondering this question for years, I am a bit of a masochist and force myself to finish some dreadful books, such as Sarum.  In the last year however I have had a few books that I have still not finished.  Watching the English by Kate Fox started well but just became repetitive and The Beckoning Silence by Joe Simpson only managed three chapters, as well as some of the books I started reading in Spanish and ran out of steam by the middle.

The Joe Simpson book was a present and I have found it difficult to get interested as I know very little about climbing and I find the style repetitious; he starts climbing up a dangerous mountain with a friend who takes unnecessary risks, manages to climb it, then friend later dies.  As the fantastic Digested Read summed it up “The man who falls off mountains continues to lead a charmed life as the body count rises”.  Now that I have read that I don’t feel I have to finish the rest.

Anyway whilst trawling through blogs I discovered Tim Pear´s article Why Finish Books? and was hoping this would change my whole attitude to reading – instead of wasting hours of my life finishing crap books I could give up without feelings of guilt.  I was slightly perturbed by his first point however,

“But I’m not really interested in how we deal with bad books. It seems obvious that any serious reader will have learned long ago how much time to give a book before choosing to shut it. It’s only the young, still attached to that sense of achievement inculcated by anxious parents, who hang on doggedly when there is no enjoyment. One can only encourage a reader like this to learn not to attach self esteem to the mere finishing of a book, if only because the more bad books you finish, the fewer good ones you’ll have time to start.”

So I am obviously still reading like a teenager!  So bad books should be given up straight away. I liked Schopenhauer´s view,  Life is “too short for bad books” and “a few pages” should be quite enough, he claims, for “a provisional estimate of an author’s productions.”

Pears then goes on to argue that in fact we should have a new approach to reading and just finish a book whenever we feel like it even in the middle;

“All these writers it seems to me, by suggesting that beyond a certain point a book might end anywhere, legitimize the notion that the reader may choose for him or herself, without detracting anything from the experience, where to bow out (of Proust’s Recherche for example, or The Magic Mountain)…..Yet even in these novels where plot is the central pleasure on offer, the end rarely gratifies, and if we like the book and recommend it to others, it is rarely for the end. What matters is the conundrum of the plot, the forces put in play and the tensions between them.  Indeed, the best we can hope from the end of a good plot is that it not ruin what came before. I would not mind a Hamlet that stopped before the carnival of carnage in the last scene, leaving us instead to mull over all the intriguing possibilities posed by the young prince’s return to Elsinore……With novels, the endings I’m least disappointed with are those that encourage the reader to believe that the story might very easily have taken a completely different turn……  Sometimes I have experienced the fifty pages of suspense that so many writers feel condemned to close with as a stretch of psychological torture, obliging me to think of life as a machine for manufacturing pathos and tragedy, since the only endings we half-way believe in, of course, are the unhappy ones.

I also wonder if, in showing a willingness not to pursue even an excellent book to the death, a reader isn’t actually doing the writer a favour, exonerating him or her, from the near impossible task of getting out of the plot gracefully. There is a tyranny about our thrall to endings. I don’t doubt I would have a lower opinion of many of the novels I haven’t finished if I had. And finally I wonder if it isn’t perhaps time that I learned, in my own novels, to drop readers a hint or two that, from this or that moment on, they have my permission to let the book go just as and when they choose.”

So I don’t know if other readers agree with this – is Pears right, does everyone give up on rubbish books without much thought? Also even when reading good ones is reading to the end not  that vital as it is normally rubbish?  So many books, so little time.

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Goodreads.com, a great website for book lovers.

Discovered Goodreads last month and am very jealous, I wish I had made a website like this.  Actually they do have millions (well, lots) of people writing for it, so I have no chance of emulating it.

Anyway this is a great website and worth looking at.  You can rate the books you have read or create a would like to read list.   You can also see what your friends are reading and how they have rated the books.  There are also lots of groups to join or quizzes to do.  I have also been looking at their worst books of all time list, for some inspiration on my next post about rubbish books and there are some controversial choices in there like Animal Farm and Tess of the D´Urbervilles at 28 and 30 respectively.  Despite this travesty it is still a little bit addictive.

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