What will you be reading this Christmas?

“Sleigh bells ring…it’s the season…la la laa!”

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IT’S ONLY 5 WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS!

About a year ago, when I had just about got back on track with my reading habit, after a 2-3 year hiatus, I decided that every Christmas I would read a ‘Christmassy’ book!

Last year I read and reviewed A Chirstmas Carol by Charles Dickens and this year I hope to begin reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the next few weeks.

Do you have a Christmas book ritual too? Do you like to read something that reminds you of the spirit of Christmas? Or a story set in a picture perfect winter land? Perhaps you prefer a nice chilling winter murder story instead! Or do you have one favourite book that you read every Christmas?

Whatever your Christmas reading plans or recommendations, I am eagerly waiting to hear all about them!

 

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All Together Now!…OR…One By One?

I wouldn’t be surprised if that ambiguous title has you confused and you’re wondering if I have rightly categorised and tagged this post under ‘books’.

So let me quickly say that I am indeed talking about books; in specific, about how you like to read them. Do you simultaneously juggle two or three books or do you prefer to give all your attention to just one at a time?

What do you feel are the pros and cons?

When reading a long and ‘heavy’ book I sometimes like to read something light (and perhaps frivolous) alongside, just to give my mind a break. I do however find that this can come in the way of getting completely absorbed in a book and half the joy of a book, in my opinion, is about being transported to another place, time or situation. So I try not to do too much of that, especially when it comes to reading fiction.

I think reading more than one book works fine if only one of those books is fiction and the other(s) is/are non-fiction. Somehow I find it easier to switch off from non-fiction and not get emotionally attached to the book, as is usually the case for me with fiction.

So what works for you? I would love to know!

On authors’ lives influencing their works

I enjoy reading about writers’ lives, especially when I come across a book I really like, for I feel that the circumstances they found themselves in must have contributed greatly to what and how they wrote.

There is no denying that a good imagination, a talent for story telling and writing, intelligence and having a way with words are all key elements for writing a great book. But what about circumstances?

Had Jack London not spent a year in the Yukon, would he ever have been able to write The Call of The Wild (read my review) in the manner he did? Had Hannah Kent not visited Iceland as a student, would the idea to write Burial Rites (read my review) ever have come to her? Did Sylvia Plath’s depression not find expression in some of her greatest works? What about Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Anne Frank?

Sometimes in fact, I feel a book is made even more enjoyable by learning about the author’s life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some books don’t make sense or lose their meaning, when we don’t know anything about the author’s life. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for example, which I read a long time ago, is, by itself, a great book. But when you learn about Jean Dominique Bauby and the circumstances under which he wrote the book, it becomes a truly remarkable achievement.

So, whenever I come across a good book, it is always interesting to me to know what made these writers who they were – what motivated them, from what perspective they looked at the world, what experiences helped them become better writers – I guess the list could be pretty long!

However, I usually don’t like to read about their lives before I’ve read their book/s. I like to enjoy a book unbiased. I like to enjoy it for what it is and once I have finished, only then do I like to understand what made the writer ‘tick’.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about a writer’s life before you embark on his/her books? Or after? Or do you just like to enjoy a good story and leave it at that?

My Most Precious Books

This is a continuation of my last post, The Day My Books Were Rescued, where I mentioned I would be writing about books that are precious to me; each one for a different reason – such as where it was bought, who gave it to me, what it reminds me of or how I serendipitously read it at just the right time in my life.

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia – Boxed Set (Gifted to me sometime in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s)

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I met a second cousin of mine for the first time in London, where she used to live, when we were around 4 or 5 years old. There is an age difference of about a year and a half between us. We have only met each other a handful of times after that, but when we were very young we used to send each other gifts every time a relative from London visited India or vice versa. This is one of the gifts she sent me. It is a 1987 edition and one of my all-time favourite children’s series. I hope to pass it on to my son one day, when he is old enough to appreciate it.

It is precious to me because it reminds me of a time when there was no email and though telephones were around, communication across continents was mainly via post or visiting relatives and friends. Also, the idea of two little cousins, thinking of each other and sending thoughtful little gifts across the many miles that separated them is, well…..just heart-warming.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and White Teeth (Both bought at Waterstones in Aberdeen, Scotland, 2001)

At the time, I didn’t even know who Harry Potter was! I only knew that I had seen numerous people with their noses stuck in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire almost every time I rode the London Underground. From teenagers to adults, everybody seemed to be reading it. What made me curious was the fact that the cover looked very unlike a book meant for grown ups. What was this book that seemed to have gripped everyone around me?!

I was studying in England then and during that year my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I made a trip to Scotland – to visit a friend of ours in Aberdeen and also to see Loch Ness. While walking around Aberdeen one morning, we passed a Waterstones that was running a “3 for the price of 2” offer and sitting in the store window, staring at me was that alarmingly ubiquitous book yet again! Enough was enough! I made the rest of the party wait and ran in to pick it up, along with White Teeth by Zadie Smith, which looked interesting too. For the life of me, I cannot remember what the third book was, but Harry and the Teeth returned with me to India some months later, and it was only then that I read Potter for the first time (realising a bit into the book that I had three more books of the series to finish first!) Of course by then Harry Potter was the phenomenon it was destined to be.

I always smile when I think about how I first ‘heard’ about Harry Potter and remember where I was when I bought my first HP book. Continue reading

Reading Extensively Vs. Reading Intensively

A couple of weeks ago I glanced through a write-up and interview in the local newspaper about a professional story teller who was visiting India from England to give a performance and to speak about story telling, reading and books in general.

Besides being quite excited that the art of story telling was being highlighted and promoted as an actual profession, I was struck by what the artist had to say about reading extensively vs. reading intensively.

He said that most people look to read extensively these days – to read as many books as they can in as short a time as possible. (I suppose audio books aid this phenomenon as well)

He said people seem to have forgotten the beauty that lies in reading intensively – taking it slow with a book, really getting absorbed with what the book, its setting and characters are all about; allowing a book to take you somewhere else or to be immersed in someone else’s way of thinking.

I hadn’t even thought about these two contrasting ways to read and I’m glad that I chanced upon this write-up. It made me realise that I want to make it a point to read intensively. I think I do anyway, for most books, but I want to make it a point to. Of course like many people who love to read, I do have those moments when I want to get through a book quickly just so I can begin another, for I am sure I will never have enough time during one lifetime to read all the books I want to!

But really, what IS the point of reading only extensively and not intensively? Why read if we don’t REALLY absorb what the book is trying to offer? Or is reading extensively just another feature of the crazy, demanding, fast-paced lives we lead today, where it is so hard to just slow down. With all the things we have to remember to do in a day, just remembering to slow down can be difficult!

I am currently reading How Green Was My Valley, am doing so “intensively” and am enjoying every slow minute of it.

When I visualise “reading intensively”, I picture an IV drip whose contents are a book that slowly, drop by drop, begin to enter your system. A bit dramatic I know (not to mention bordering on being morbid!) but that’s just what popped into my mind right now.

So, what do you prefer – reading extensively or reading intensively and why? I’d love to hear some opinions on the topic.

(In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Contrast )

Reading Challenge 2016: To read books I own, but have never read

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I know there are many of you out there who, like me, love to buy books before you’ve finished reading the ones you already own. I have been guilty of indulging in this pleasure for years and as a result I have some books that are over 10 years old, still unread. It is an addictive indulgence, especially when you come across a book that’s been on your to-read list for ages, or you find an irresistible bargain at the second hand store or simply because buying a good book makes you feel good!

So I am setting a challenge for myself – to read at least 15 books in 2016 that I own but have never read or that are sitting amongst my parents’ large book collection at their home (as on 27th December 2015).

I will be updating my progress on this blog. Let’s see how I fare!

I wonder if this challenge will in any way curb my book purchasing habits. Somehow, I don’t think it will!

Do you own a pile of books you have never read? Do you have a reading challenge for 2016? I would love to hear about it.