Some on-line friends have been asking me what kind of books I enjoy reading. I have to say it’s a question much easier to answer now than would have been the case twenty or thirty years ago. At one time I read because I wanted to learn – and I don’t necessarily mean at school or college.
Long after I thought ‘book learning’ was well behind me, I found myself perusing text books and journals and weighty tomes as my career took on unexpected twists and turns and I needed to keep abreast of advancing technology and techniques.
Glancing back at my opening line, the key word is enjoy. These days, with the pressures of work and deadlines behind me, I read almost entirely for pleasure. Fair enough, now and then when I’m writing and need to check something I pull down an encyclopaedia or log on to Wikipedia, but that’s part of the game, part of the fun – and certainly never a chore.
If, like me, you’ve ever had the pipe-dream of nestling down in a comfortable armchair, in front of a crackling log fire, and starting on a new book by a favourite author, while the rain and wind beat out a pattern on the windowpane, a glass or mug of something warming to hand, I fancy you’ll know exactly what I mean. Bliss. Absolute bliss.
It takes me back to when, as a kid, I read my way from the comic papers – by way of almost anything – to Wilde, Doyle, Dickens, Austen, Johnson and company. First radio and then television were counter attractions of course, but somehow, getting caught up in a good new book always had a special thrill of its own.
At first I’d read almost anything and it was a point of honour to see it through to the end; even if sometimes it fell short of expectations. That’s something which has certainly changed. There are too many books out there I haven’t read yet. Far too many tales, some still unpublished, I won’t live long enough to have the chance to read.
If a book doesn’t have me gripped in the first two chapters, say forty or fifty pages at the most, it goes into the box destined for one of the local charity shops. Perhaps two of every three books I buy end up in that box, or are given away to friends unfinished. There’s a lesson in that for all you wannabe authors out there. Don’t hang about. Make your point early. Grip your reader before he loses interest – and once gripped, make certain you never let him go.