I visited a wonderful blog yesterday  called Impromptu Promptlings (well, I visited quite a few TBH but this one in particular resonated with me).  The question asked, because a question it was, focussed on what one’s favourite books might be, and what type of books (category etc.), they fall into.

The blog can be found here  – the rest of the site is great too, so have a look around.

The question had me thinking about my love of reading all evening.  I think reading became an obsession with me from a very early age.  I well remember the first book I ever learned to read.  It was a Ladybird book entitled Jesus of Nazareth – left-hand side script, right-hand side beautiful images relating to the text.  My mum read it with me over and over until I could recite it word for word.  Then I began to realise that some of the word shapes looked the same and were pronounced the same.  Yay – I had discovered the key to the secret of reading.  I was about four – not then at school certainly.

Ever since I have read anything and everything I can get my hands on.  As a child that would be (out of necessity), the ingredients on the back of a bottle of talcum powder (sitting in the smallest room – you get the idea).  If there is no sensible reading material near me I’ll grab anything with the printed word on it.

I’ve always been the same – and I’ve often wondered why I have this obsession.  I realise that a part of it, throughout my life, has been a need to escape from reality for a time (sometimes a long time).  A part of it is because I love words – they form images in my mind and good writing draws me in with its spell-weaving.  I can see, hear and smell the London and court of Henry VIII through Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.  I devour huge chunks of anything to do with the social history of housing – my PhD thesis required it, and I happily complied.

Perhaps I would really like to travel back in time?  One of my favourite authors is Jodi Taylor whose works include The Chronicles of St, Mary’s.  These are a series of the wackiest, wittiest and most intelligent books I’ve read.  The heroine is a historian who, with her team of historians and back-up support, travel back in time to capture important events as they happened.  What I wouldn’t give to be able to do that!

There is something sublimely soothing about the process and act of reading – there is the pleasure of opening an unread book and discovering the journey that the pages contain.  Finding a comfortable position to read in is a primary concern, because I’m going to be sitting there for a few hours!  Life passes by unseen and, most of the time, unheard.  Nothing can break the spell until I want it to be broken.  That time of reading is a totally selfish act: selfish because no-one else is included, no outside cares enter my thoughts, the next meal either has to wait or someone else has to cook it (hubbie), and, best of all, my imagined world is totally mine, a secret which I rarely care to share.

Another reason I read so much is because I have half-formed scripts of five novels sitting in the filing cabinet marked ‘Get on with it’ which is waiting for me in a corner of my mind.  Having trained as a historian I find it difficult to write without being able to back up my writing with facts.  One of the reasons for writing my blog is to let myself write freely, find my writing ‘voice’, and just let go of the chains and restrictions that bound me in academia.  Having read so much, and so widely, over the years, I now know what I want to write about, and I’m now figuring out how I want it to read.

A trial opening paragraph is just urging to be written down – so I’ll share it with you for comments when it’s finally crafted.

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4 thoughts on “Philosophising on the Joy of Reading

  1. Ooo! A trial paragraph! Can’t wait! I smiled when I read what you said about reading being selfish. Maybe. But over the years I’ve found it works better for me than Xanax! A lot of what I read really stretches my mind, some of it (the WWII stuff primarily) distresses me terribly, but as you mention in the St. Mary’s series (which I’m going to have to look up!) sometimes I just need something to read that closes the educational part of my mind or the introspective part down. Reading is such a multifaceted hobby, isn’t it… You mentioned liking Wolf Hall. My friend on here talks about wanting to read that book. Don’t think she’s read it yet, or she may have. Here name is Christina Ochs and her blog is The Rolling Writer (http://christinaochs.com/?wref=undefined/). Her husband is a long-haul trucker and she rides shotgun! She just had her first book in a trilogy published. I wonder if you would enjoy her site. She’s a lovely person. I’ve actually had coffee with her a couple times when they’ve gone through here on their way to somewhere. It was fun! Have a look if you get a minute. Oh, and thanks so much for the promo. I appreciate it. Have a great day, Ruth!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, and for pointing me towards your friend’s blog. I’ll certainly pop over and have a wander round. I know what you mean about introspection – I have whole conversations in my head about whatever it is that’s on my mind. Reading something is the only way to shut that voice off 😁

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