So I know I planned to do a book of the month type deal on here. But that was after January when I read tons of books. And then in the following months my reading pace slowed as I discovered art and found myself trying to write up a thesis.
But now I think I’ve read enough books that I can pick my next favourite. And honestly, it is very (very) easy. I enjoyed The Night Circus, and Neverwhere was fascinating (in both book and radio form), but the winner is…
…i don’t own a copy of the book and didn’t take a picture but i wanted you to scroll down…
How to Make Gravy by Paul Kelly.
It is a huge non-fiction collection of lyrics and anecdotes and I loved it. It took up all my free time for three days. Here are some things I learned about: Australian history, modern Australian music, Aboriginal cultures, Italian art, and Catholicism. The stories snuck into my thoughts and have been popping up regularly ever since. Paul Kelly is one of my favourite musicians/songwriters and the book felt like a monstrous extension of that. The point is that the guy knows how to tell stories and now I know he can do it in prose form too.
The above song is one of my favourites and the title song of the book. Other songs I highly recommend are: Careless, Dumb Things and From St Kilda to Kings Cross.
Everything I have ever written and will ever write comes out of my own mind. I cannot write anything beyond my own thoughts. My memories and experiences, then, are the most important things I own. Along with language. But that’s not the point right now.
In order to write stories we delve past the names and events and dates to see what it was really all about, to see what it meant then and what it means now. And once we’ve worked it out, or while we’re working it out, we wrap it all up in a separate package. We tell the story with different names and events and dates. Perhaps one lot of events happened over six weeks in an Australian highschool but the other will happen in Paris over a few years. Or vice versa. But at the centre of it all will always be the truth; the essence of what it was all about. At the centre of it all we’re reaching out and asking if others will join us.
Will you be brave with me? Will you learn with me? Will you suffer with me? Will you dream with me? Will you understand me?
In 3rd year uni I had a knee reconstruction right before my mid-year exams. The heay load of study combined with strong painkillers meant that the familiarity and easy reading of Harry Potter was about all I could cope with in terms of leisure activity. I read the whole series through three times. (I’m pretty sure it was three… might have been five though…) I began to think that I knew the whole thing off by heart. Although, to be fair, even before that reading spree I knew the series fairly well.
I was given the first two books for my birthday (tenth, perhaps), we bought the 3rd soon after, and the remaining 4 as they came out. Each time a new book came out I read it all the way through, without pausing, before passing it off to one of my siblings or parents. Along with this quick read through, my parents also started a tradition whereby we read Harry Potter at dinner time. Every night, after tea, a chapter or two would be read aloud. My mum read most often but I think all of us read sometimes. We kept this up until Deathly Hallows, when dinner was not a consistently five person affair.
And so I say that the Harry Potter series are my favourite books. I’ve never thought, before now, that I had a favourite book. A year or two ago I tried to decide and came up with a list that included Ender’s Game, Sherlock Holmes and Anne of Green Gables. It didn’t include the Book Thief but only because I hadn’t read it yet. So what changed my mind?
I have just spent a year without Harry Potter books. I moved to Perth and let my Harry Potter books remain with their set in Adelaide. And I have missed them terribly. Numerous times in libraries and bookshops I’ve swooned over them and wanted to take them home with me but something always stopped me: a new book I’d been recommended, or the fact that I’m meant to be saving money… whatever. Yesterday I gave in. Yesterday at the library I decided that I had missed Harry Potter for long enough and I was going to read them all again. Of course the library didn’t have Philosopher’s Stone in so I had to pick up Chamber of Secrets instead but no matter.
I loved it.
In memory I’ve always thought of Chamber of Secrets as the weakest of the books (certainly the weakest of the first 3) but it just made me so happy. I don’t know if I can really explain how happy I was to go back and remember it all. Nonetheless I am now convinced that Harry Potter is my favourite and possibly will remain so forever.
“write people you would want to spend time with – even the nasty ones” – Neil Gaiman
Look, I’m obviously a Gaiman fan but I’m fairly sure I would find this piece of advice intriguing even if it didn’t come from him and here is why…
I love to read. I have always considered myself a bookworm. I really think books are one of the greatest things in the world. But there are books I dislike, books I hate and books I never finish because I don’t think they’re worth the small amount of time they would take me to read. And books I dislike tend to fall into one of two categories:
1. They are too wordy with long sentences I get lost in and paragraphs about nothing, or
2. I don’t like the characters.
And, if I’m honest, 2 is a much bigger problem for me. I made it all the way through Les Miserables despite finding large chunks of it fairly boring. I loved War and Peace despite, well, all the detailed War sections. I can deal with boring paragraphs if I care enough about the characters.
But if I dislike the main character the chances of me finishing the novel are slim and the chance of me liking it is basically non-existent.
Can any of you think of a novel you like with a character you dislike?
I never go in to a library and pick up what I expected to when I walked in.
On my most recent trip I grabbed some Diana Wynne Jones, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman and (the one planned novel) a Teen Power Inc book by Emily Rodda.
The strangest pick of the bunch was the Neil Gaiman book, (well, “graphic novel”): one of the Sandman series. I knew these were what had made Gaiman famous but I’d never really thought of reading them. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Asterix and Tin Tin while growing up (ok, I still do), but that’s been about the limit of my comic book/ graphic novel intake.
Well, anyway, it was fantastic. It was fun and funny and exciting and mysterious and now I want them ALL. That’s the problem with picking up one book in a series… You get hooked and then have to search the world for each and every episode. But the characters were fascinating, I enjoyed having pictures while I was reading and it was a nice change from my normal reading habits.
The other three novels I had already devoured when I was somewhere in the vicinity of late primary school and it is interesting to go back and read them just to note how much I have changed.
They are three very different books and even back then I knew that parents, teachers and librarians had a ranking system in their minds regarding which were “better”. I have it now, too, but I didn’t back then. Back then, I loved the words of Lemony Snicket, I loved his cleverness and his characters. I loved the worlds of Diana Wynne Jones and her imagination. I loved the high-stakes adventures of Emily Rodda’s gang and the way she told me that no two people are the same.
I only saw the things that held my attention. If a book was good enough in one aspect it didn’t matter if it was lacking in others.
In order to help myself ‘get in the mood’ to write a book for 9-12 year olds I’ve been reading a lot of books I used to love at those ages.
I delightfully worked my way through almost all the Tamora Pierce that the local library has to offer before getting distracted by the discovery of John Green. I can highly recommend both An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns and I can’t wait to read the rest of his books.
Returning to pre-teen fiction I sought out Emily Rodda and picked up Rowan of Rin. I found all the names and places thrown at me confusing to begin with but once I got into it I liked it just as much as I always had before. It makes me wonder whether those things bothered me when I was ten or if it’s only since I’ve got old.
The last author on my recently read list is Neil Gaiman, whose work I first discovered through the incredible Good Omens. I really liked the movie Coraline and was pleased to discover a book which was still brilliant and yet did not leave me retrospectively disappointed with the movie. I also read Odd and the Frost Giants which was nice but couldn’t quite compare to Coraline or The Graveyard Book (another book of Neil Gaiman’s I read a while ago).
Have I learnt anything? I still enjoy the books I used to when I was eleven.
Have I learnt anything more? I’m not sure, perhaps a reminder that adventures are more important than introspection.
My favourite? I think The Graveyard Book may be my favourite but First Test by Tamora Pierce comes a close second.
Still left to read: Some Saddle Club and Teen Power Inc.