Wednesday 28 November 2012

The Joy of Reading

I wrote a post over on Write Anything about the joy of reading and I wanted to expand a little on my points and personalise my words, in part to contextualise them and also to explain where I'm coming from.

In the post, I say that it's vital that writers read in their genre in order to know its conventions, and to ensure their work avoids falling into the 'parody' trap. For example, I can always tell when someone has written a steampunk story without having read any steampunk because they include the major stylistic elements, but without any of the 'punch' that puts the punk into the genre's name. Steampunk is more than just brass and cogs. If you read enough of the genre, you'll know what to include - and what to leave out. You'll also know what's been done before.

I also say that it's important that writers familiarise themselves with how other writers use language, but in essence, it's important that writers understand how to string words together. I've read a wide variety of work from a range of periods, genres and writers and I like to think it's influenced the way that I use language. A lot of novice writers write in the way that they speak, but it's important to

Yet there's more to it than that. Reading should be enjoyable. If reading a book feels like a real chore, then ditch the book. Life is too short and there are too many books in the world to waste your time reading crap. I can honestly say that ever since I got my Kindle, I've definitely been reading a lot more. I've divided my reading time between the free classics such as Phantom of the Opera or Jane Eyre (which I'm currently reading), and the books I've bought that are written by my writer friends. I read those texts related to my PhD while commuting, but when I want to get some reading done before bed, out comes the Kindle.

A lot of people say, somewhat piously I think, that they'll never give up real books, usually quoting something about the smell/feel of a physical book, but as far as I'm concerned, a book is a book, regardless of the medium. I love the smell of physical books as much as the next person, and I'd happily live in Barter Books in Alnwick, but my Kindle means I can carry many books in my bag, instead of one, and it's a lot lighter than most paperbacks. OK so a book will never run out of battery and it's not the end of the world if a book gets wet, but having my Kindle has really altered how much, when, and where I read.

Plus it looks awesome in its Frankenstein case.


Katherine Hajer said...

I always wonder if the people who say they'd never give up "real" books are descended from people who said Gutenberg's machine totally took the personal touch out of book-making.

This and the Write Anything post are great. Yeah, I don't get it -- why write if you don't like to read? That's like a dedicated naturist working in the fashion industry.

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