Books of every description
Real life has its uses sometimes. A recent conversation with a friend about an experience he had on a Sunday morning turned into an entire scene I wrote a few days later about a Stasi officer in East Germany. Will it survive the culling of words that will come later? Who knows? But it was fun to write and reminded me that there is not much that happens that cannot be used in writing. Some of it is simply more interesting and screams out to be used, if not now, then later.
I think the best fiction is based on insights into what it is to be human, in an almost infinite number of settings, some admittedly less plausible than others in what passes for the real world. Stephenie Meyer’s vampires and parasitic race of aliens might not be found in the world as I know it, but what her characters feel and do still reflects experiences I can relate to, even if I have never been in the same situation as they are placed in (obviously, given the whole vampire thing).
I love that there is such a wide range of writing out there, even if I have to accept that, even reading all day every day I would be lucky to scratch the surface of maybe 1% of published fiction. I’m trying to read some books that I would not normally pick up because they aren’t my “thing.” There has only been one absolute dud so far where the narrator’s voice changed so randomly and inexplicably that I simply had no clue what was going on after a while and moved on. Here’s some of the random books I’ve got through recently:
Remix by Lexi Revelling – supposedly dead rock star shows up again at the home of a woman who restores rocking horses. A good length for a book to speed through, and nicely paced throughout.
1984 – I last read this in my teens and had a second go in anticipation of going to see the accompanying ballet. The book was better this time round. I know it’s supposed to be based on the Soviet Union, but you could be forgiving for thinking it was also about working in any other large organisation. That made it almost amusing at times. And if you have a chance to see the ballet, go – it was simply stunning.
Demon Road by Derek Landy. It’s meant to be for young adults, so that was fine. We always love going to see him at the Edinburgh Book Festival. His books are simply great reads. And funny. Funny is good.
Adultery by Paulo Coelho. Yes, it’s about adultery, but really it’s about a part of being human. Which Coelho seems to understand so well that every one of his books is remarkable in its own way. They have probably had the most lasting impact on how I view life than any other author and I have a whole shelf of his books. Only Jodi Picoult and my Mum share that honour.
How Much Land does a Man Need? by Tolstoy – Penguin brought out a large number of shorter books recently for only a pound each and they introduced me to some stories I had simply never come across. They are also great to have in a small pocket for the odd minutes when I am waiting for something or someone. This story was a reminder of what’s important in life – and what’s not. Funnily enough, LoLo was also reading it at school the same week that I read it and was surprised to find it on my bedside cabinet.
And then there are the audiobooks that fill my commute with reading time. And the non-fiction books I’m trying to work my way through at the same time.
I now have to speed up a bit because LoLo is counting the number of books she’s read this year and is currently on 15 or 16. Considering one of them was The Count of Monte Cristo, she’s not making it easy for herself. Unfortunately she’s winning so far this year. She’s even reading books from my pile and then telling me which ones I should read, as a result of which I’ve just started reading The Undertaking by Audrey Magee, which I picked up at a supermarket charity table for all of 50p. It does me good to pick up something on the off chance. I am rarely disappointed.