To have and to hold

I love audiobooks – as my earlier post proclaims.  I love being read to, especially when a narrator’s voice perfectly complements a story.  I love the way they enable me to cover more literary (and even not-so-literary) ground than I would otherwise have time for.

At Christmas I was given a Kindle and I find I love this too.  Now I can have 4 or 5 books in my handbag wherever I go.  I don’t have to second-guess myself; I can pick and choose what to read according to my mood or the segment of time I want to fill.  Will it be a racy plot-driven thriller or an oh-so-clever prizewinning literary masterpiece?  Perhaps a treatise on the existence of God or an analysis of high-fat, low carb versus calorie-counting?

But I’ve always loved real, actual, physical books most of all.  I love the feel of them when they’re new; that crisp-cut brick of pages, virgin spine, pristine and unsullied.  And I love them too, when they’ve been read to bits, when the spine is bent back and creased a dozen times, the pages have gone a bit curly; there’s evidence of lunch or suntan lotion, corners turned down to mark favourite sections.  That’s when they take up residence in my bookshelves – betraying all evidence of my pleasure in the reading.  My books – the ones I’ve enjoyed and valued – are a little piece of ‘me’.  I cannot throw a book out, nor even give one away, that has enthralled or entertained me. I want to be near it.

But now I find I have a dilemma.  I read a book on Kindle and I love it.  But where’s the evidence of this?  ‘Soft’ just doesn’t do it.  I listen to a novel, exquisitely read on an audiobook, and the only place it resides is in my iTunes library.  That’s not good enough.

So I’ve taken to purchasing that lovely brick of pristine pages each time I enjoy an audiobook or a Kindle title.  And I make room on my bookshelves for the pages that surprised, entertained or delighted me in their more contemporary formats.

I wonder if I’m alone in this?  If I’m not, and there are hundreds or even thousands of audiobookers and Kindlers out there buying second copies in physical paperback, just to possess them, the book trade perhaps has less to worry about than it sometimes fears.

Reading and learning

I’m soaking up everything I can find on writing fiction at the moment. OK, that’s not strictly true. There is far more written than I can possibly find the time or energy to read, especially if I want to find some time and energy for… writing. Apparently, much of it is of questionable quality too, so I’m told. But here are a few books I’ve already found helpful:

  • The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M Bickham. Good advice, practical and entertaining at the same time.
  • Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. I’m glad I waded through the impenetrable first half of this much recommended book, because the second half turned out to have some very sound advice.
  • Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff. Easy to digest and good advice from the perspective of a writers’ coach.
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Advice on technique from a Master, combined with fascinating biographical insights. A must-read, whatever your preferred genre.
  • Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress. Very usable advice, particularly on two major stumbling-blocks for new authors – showing-not-telling and choosing your POVs wisely.

I’m also now reading fiction that doesn’t immediately appeal to me as being “my sort of book”, watching for technique and writerly skills as well as the pleasure of a good story, well told. And on a cold and soggy Sunday and I can think of no better way to pass a few hours than to make a comfortable nest on my sofa, line up a mug of coffee and a biscuit and stick my head in a book.