Booking Through Thursday – Burn

It’s being a while since I joined in with Booking Through Thursday’s weekly meme, but when I saw todays question I knew I had to get involved.

This week the question is:

If your house was burning down and you could save just one book from your collection … what would it be?

(And, for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll allow series to count as “one” long, multi-volume book.)

This question immediately intrigued and excited me. My book collection is one of the most precious and sentimental things in my life. Each book is loving cared for and my entire collection takes centre stage in my home; the shelves carefully and intricately arranged.

The idea of losing my entire collection therefore fills me with dread. But what if I could save just one book? As painful as the thought of losing my books is there is one book that instantly comes to mind and is irrefutably, without doubt the book I would save.

The book is the His Dark Material collection by Philip Pullman, a trilogy that includes Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. The specific book in question was a gift last Christmas and it’s a very special book indeed. Beautifully designed with a classic cover, this book is a first edition collectors item.

It’s the only first edition of a book that I own, perhaps making it even more dear to me. It’s also one of my all time favourite books, a collection of stories I could read again and again.

So this is the book I would save. I’d feel deeply guilty about leaving my other books but I couldn’t consider losing this volume. Sentimental, full of memories, a book I am truly proud to own.

What about everyone else, if your house was burning down, which book would you save and why? I’d love to hear your answers and don’t forget to post your answers at the Booking Through Thursday site.

Thanks BTT for coming up with such a great question and for prompting to really appreciate my book collection.

Celebrate Roald Dahl Day!

Of all the funny days we seem to celebrate, from crumpet day to ninja day (yes there is such a thing) I was very thrilled when I remembered that today was officially Roald Dahl day.

I’m sure many people already knew this and many others will no doubt be pleased to find it out. Dahl is after all responsible for introducing people from all ages and backgrounds to the wonderful world of reading. I bet we can all remember with vivid clarity the first time we discovered Roald Dahl’s amazing imagination and talent for creating the most captivating and spellbinding stories.

So in celebration of Roal Dahl, I thought I would ask you all to share your answers to these questions:

What was the first Roald Dahl book that you discovered?

What is your favorite Roald Dahl, and why?

If you were picking a Roald Dahl book to give to a reader who had never read one of his books before what would you chose?

And finally why do you love Dahl so much?

I do hope you’ll decide to let me know your answers, I’d love to hear everyone else’s feelings, memories and experiences of reading Roald Dahl.

So, here are my answers:

The first Roald Dahl book I discovered was The BFG, my older cousin had a copy and I remember being fascinated and terrified by the books illustrations in equal measures. I was delighted to realise that the scary looking giant was in fact a lovely friendly man and his image has become symbolic of my memories of children’s literature.

My favourite Roald Dahl book is The Witches, I was literally petrified as a child by these scary old ladies who acted and talked just like my grandma’s. What if my beloved nan was really an evil witch? This book had all of my emotions stirred, fear, joy, love and rapture. This was when I truly realised the pure thrill of reading.

If I were picking a Roald Dahl book for a first time reader I would probably end up cheating and picking two. I know, I know I asked for one book. But I just love George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda so much that I’m picking them both. (Feel free to cheat too, if like me you just can’t settle on one book).Who could fail to be enthralled by either of these captivating stories? Matilda is so uplifting and hopeful and Georges Marvellous Medicine is just so side-splitting funny.

And lastly, I love Dahl because even at twenty-seven I still love reading his books with just as much fervour as I did when reading them as a little girl. His books are more than just stories, there memories. The illustrations are beautiful pieces of art and his characters are like best childhood friends that you’ll never forget.

So now I think it’s time to make a hot drink, curl up in bed and lose myself in Georges Marvellous Medicine, I recently treat myself to a charity shop copy because sometimes we just need to revisit our youth and remember a really amazing writer.

Happy Roald Dahl day everyone, how did you celebrate?

To Speed Up Or To Slow Down?

Time is ticking

 Perhaps it’s through the discovery of other bloggers and their impressive ability to read at what seems to me a superhuman speed which has caused me to become so self-conscious? Either way I have recently become increasingly concerned with how much I’m reading and at what speed rather than what I am reading and if I’m enjoying it. Strange isn’t it? Surely reading should be carefree and relaxing? Does it really matter about much you read?

 These are the thoughts that I have being musing with since beginning my blog and so eventually I decided to give speed reading a chance. I’ll confess to high hopes because the idea of reading two books a week from my usual snail pace of one was very tempting.

 Initially I really struggled with ‘speed reading’, in life I’m known for analyzing situations and this seems to follow through when reading. Poetic prose and deep metaphors get my full attention and I can never move from one sentence to another without fully understanding the last. I suspected that it was this acute attention to detail that slowed me down so much and so I brought the subject up with my more swift friends.

The idea that I spent so much time trying to understand the full meaning of each sentence baffled my friends, ‘why waste so much time?’. But I’d always thought skipping through idea’s and sections that I didn’t comprehend was cheating?

 Forcing myself to give this ago I adopted the rule that if I read something that didn’t quite click for me the first time, I would re read it once, maybe twice and then move on regardless. My worry was that this would spoil my connection with the book and sully how strongly I bonded with the writer. Yet it in reality I learned that so long as I didn’t do it with every sentence I still managed to understand and appreciate the book. In fact a certain pressure was lifted and I enjoyed the book more from my own perspective instead of trying to figure out every little meaning of the writers.

Skipping the incomprehensible has definitely sped up my reading but only marginally, so I forced myself to plow through at an even faster rate and it was then that I started to notice a detachment to the books I was reading. When putting my book down for the night my first thought wasn’t ‘wow that was incredible’. No personal observations of the story sprung to mind. Instead it was ‘Ok I read 50 pages there, must read another 100 tomorrow and then 100 the day after and eureka that’s a book in 3days!!’. Brilliant but where is the emotional connection?

Currently I’m half way through both The Shadow of the Wind and The Secret Life of Bee’s and after a harried and rushed start I’m giving up on speed reading in favor of taking my time. It’s giving me reader’s indigestion. Books shouldn’t be rushed or forced in my opinion, they should be devoured as slowly as you like, taking your time to digest and absorb each delectable page.

 Off course that’s just me and a small part still envies those that can speed read but I’m giving up on that in order to try and get back to just enjoying books for what they are.

 So what about everyone else? Are you a fast reader, blasting through page after page at a super sonic pace? Or are you a slow reader who likes to take their time? Do you even care or does it just not factor into your mind? I’d love to hear how everyone else feels about it and whether or not you’ve changed your reading habits.

…Now back to those wonderful books.

Goodbye 2011…Hello 2012

Firstly Happy Belated New Year to you all! I hope 2012 started well for everyone and you all enjoyed the festive period whatever you did. I had a great New Year, hence why my blog has probably being a little quiet this past week, but also as I’ve spent the last few days enjoying everyone else’s blogs and their New Year updates. It’s being great to hear what other bloggers have been doing over Christmas, what books they’ve read and received, the ones they plan to read in 2012 and their favorites of the year.

I’ve already blogged my favorite books for 2011 but that was before I read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and now I must say that this is firmly up there on my list of top reads for the year. I’ve also started listing the books I plan to read in 2012 but given there are so many appealing new books due for release I fear my TBR list is never ending and am trying to refrain from adding too many more.

So I thought I would do a quick little blog today reflecting instead on what has essentially being my first blogging experience. I started blogging in March after meeting Simon from Savidge Reads who allured me into blogging world by introducing me to his wonderful site and many others.

I then decided to set up I hug my books and for anyone following me in my early days you may know I had the somewhat embarrassing incident of accidentally naming my blog I hug my bogs. Marginally more funny given my name is Lou, this particular incident at least has the one bonus of making people chuckle when I tell them all about it. Oh well at least I wont ever forget how it all began.

 I soon got into the swing of the blogging though and found it ridiculously addictive, there’s something cathartic about reading a book and then jotting down your thoughts. From here I made some really great friends through my book group; a by product of I hug my books. Since our first meet in June we’ve developed a nice steady stream of book lovers who enjoy meeting once a month to catch up and talk about the current books were reading. Were a Manchester based book group and are still welcoming any new members who want to join us. Do check out the page if you think you might be interested.

As the year progressed I became more comfortable in my blogging and developed a taste for what it is I most enjoy writing. I think I’ll always enjoy reviews first and foremost. They are the reason I began blogging and remain the most challenging but rewarding part of the blog. I like having one concrete place where I can visit my own thoughts and secretly I hope that other readers might stumble upon my blog and find what I’ve written helpful or even persuasive.

One pleasant surprise was the brilliant and sometimes genius meme’s that other bloggers come up with, two of my favorites where Cornflower books ‘A Bit of Silliness’ and Simon from Stuck in a Book’s One Book, Two Books, Three Book, Four and Five. Both great ways to re cap on what I was reading or planning to read.

Other blogs that I’ve loved visiting are Tiny Library, The Book Jotter, Fleur Fisher, A Stripped Armchair, Manchester’s Artistic Son, and Manchester Meanders. Thanks to all those blogs for providing great information and intersting posts. I look forward to reading more of your stuff in the coming New Year.

I don’t have any definitive plans for my blog this year, I just hope to keep enjoying the experience, hopefully discover some more like minded bloggers and maintain a place where I can chat to other book lovers about their reading experiences.

I hope everyone else had a great year and read some great books. I hope 2012 is a wonderful year for you all full. And thanks for stopping by.

Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2012….Part One

I probably shouldn’t be even thinking about which books to read in 2012 let alone writing my thoughts down. My bookshelves at home are threatening to cave in any day now. Yet as the new year approaches my eyes have started wandering to new releases due to hit the shelves next year. And already I can’t wait.

With that in mind I decided to start a little ‘wishlist’ so I could keep track of the books I’m most looking forward to. I’m calling it part one because I’ve only just skimmed the surface in terms of which books are coming out…I’m sure the list will only get bigger.

Firstly I’m highly anticipating The Land of Decoration by Grace Mcleen which will be released in March. (Chatto & Windus). It’s a debut novel that seems set to offer originality and innovation through a story that centers around a young girl who in her quest to escape the troubles of this world makes her own world called The Land of Decoration. She uses pipe cleaner and shaving foam to create her own perfect version of reality. The book sounds incredibly interesting and unique.

Next up is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, out in February (Headline). I’ve heard such positive and promising comments concerning this book and the blurb about is so enticing that The Snow Child is a book I can’t wait to read. I hope I love this book as much as the critics seem too. The book tells the story of a childless couple living in Alaska in 1920. They built a snow child and when they awake the next morning they actually see a little girl running in the forest who calls herself Faina. The book promises magical entities mixed with reality. Perfect. 

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan comes out in March (Virago) and is another book that has caught my attention. It tells the story of a group of people stranded on a lifeboat, lost at sea. The boat is not however big enough to hold everyone and in their desperation to survive the passengers soon begin plotting and scheming. I particularly like books that focus on human emotions and how we react in the most tense and unusual scenario’s; I can’t wait to read this book.

So these are the books that I can’t wait to read in 2012…so far. I’m still looking for inspiration. So what about everyone else, what are you all looking forward to reading next year? Have you already started a list or perhaps you’re not interested in new releases and instead have older books that you hope to devour? What do you hope 2012 will hold for you in your reading life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Reading Through November

Can you believe it’s December already! Finally it is acceptable to adorn our homes with Christmas tree’s, bright lights and a variety of other festive embellishments. It’s also the time of year when we can write our Christmas lists (if your still a big kid like me) and (again if your like me) ask Santa for all of those highly anticipated books you can no longer wait to read.

But before I divulge my list of desired books (well you never know Santa could be reading this post) a quick update on what I’ve being reading this month.

I started off the month reading, or rather listening to the hilarious ‘We need to talk about Alan’ which from the very first word had my rolling around laughing at Alan’s idiosyncratic view of the world, life, and the people around him. This was my first audio book experience and although I can’t see myself running out to do it all the time I’ve definitely discovered some benefits.

Next up I picked a book that I really should have read long a go ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold. For some reason I’d always dismissed this book, thinking foolishly that it would be too girly. Anyone who has read this book will know that’s not the case at all and the book turned out to be insightful and thought-provoking to the end.

I then began When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman which I’m half way through and will be reviewing once I have met my fellow book groupers next. I don’t want to say too much too soon because I still haven’t gathered my thoughts on this one but I’m glad were reading a book that has been so topical and dominate in 2011. Fingers crossed I will love it as much as the critics.

As well as the above I have being dipping in and out of a number of other books but excessive studying and the reading of therapy and counselling textbooks for college has really drained my reading time more than I could ever have anticipated. How do people manage to read so much and work and study? Tips please.

So now I’m looking forward and thinking about what December holds for me. Hopefully some more relaxed reading time.I plan to obviously finish When God Was A rabbit, I’ve got a welcome and quiet weekend fast approaching so hopefully I’ll get some time to do that.

I’d also like to read something Christmassy which evidently reminds me of a conversation I had recently with another book loving friend. She was struggling to come up with a Christmas related book for her book group and both of us kept drawing blanks. So anyone with some festive suggestions please do get in touch?

As for books that I’m hoping to receive this Christmas, well there’s only one that I have actually specifically asked for so far; Steve Job’s autobiography. My request doesnt stem form a reverent admiration for Mr Jobs but actually from my Day Zero challenge to read a book written by someone I disagree with. I disagree with many of the things Steve Jobs said and his idea’s. So who knows maybe Christmas day will be spent changing my mind, or maybe just re cementing old idea’s.

So what does everyone else have planned reading wise this month, have you asked for any specific books? What gets you in the festive mood and which books did you love/hate in November?

Booking Through Thursday – Thankful

I was intrigued and excited by today’s Booking Through Thursday question, which is essentially an opportunity to pay homage to a favourite witting legend of mine.

The question is;

What book or author are you most thankful to have discovered? Have you read everything they’ve written? Reread them? Why do you appreciate them so much?

The author that I am most thankful to have discovered is Philip Pullman, most famously

Philip Pullman

known for writing the epic children’s trilogy ‘His Dark Material’ a collection of books that seem to have enthralled and entranced just as many adults as children.

I haven’t read all of his book, just the Dark Material Trilogy and The Ruby in the Smoke; another children’s book with the power and magic to also touch all audiences.

I have actually re-read Northern Lights, the first in the trilogy, and just last night I was discussing Pullman with another book loving friend. We both agreed that if any books were worth a re visit it was these three. There’s just so much going on that a second read will only reveal more magic previously missed. I’m pretty confident a third, fourth and even fifth re read would prove just as successful and gratifying.

So why do I appreciate Pullman and his books so much? Well it’s hard to think of one concrete reason. I have so many. It could be that his material is always fresh and original, the worlds, characters and idea’s he has created are so unique and inspiring.

It could also be that he always manages to reach back into my childhood imagination, suspending my long developed adult disbelief and instead transport me to another world with daemon’s and magic knives.

In fact one of my favorite aspects of Pullman is the entire concept of the daemon. In His Dark Material he created the idea that all human beings in Lyra’s world have a

Mrs. Coulter

daemon,which is essentially a living extension of their soul. It can be an ermine or a cat, a tiger or an otter. Many a time I have spent happily speculating with friends what our own daemon’s would be. I always say a cat.

And yet there are so many more reasons that I love Philip Pullman, but ultimately he taught me that writing and reading doesn’t always have to follow the generic norms of adult fiction. It doesn’t always have to be full of flowery poetic prose, laden down with existential metaphors. Writing can be fun, writing can be transporting and writing can be magical.

If ever I want to escape the drab dreariness that can be this world then I can always grab for Pullman’s magical carpet of literary transportation and enjoy the journey of being taken away to a world enlightened with mystical creatures, feisty characters and unpredictable twists and turns.

The cherry on the top of Pullman’s cake is that deep underneath all of this childhood fantasies is actually a very serious, real and frank exploration of life and people. Mix this with his atheist messages and you have a writer who can delve into the deepest recesses of any subject whilst whisking it all up in magic and fantasy.

So Philip Pullman is the writer I am most thankful to have discovered and I look forward to discovering many more of his wonderful works which I’m sure wont fail to enchant me.

And so the same questions to you lovely readers – who is the writer your most thankful for? Why, Have you read all of their books? Would you consider re-reading them? And off course why do they mean so much to you?

Don’t forget to leave your comments at Book Through Thursday and here. If you decide to do your own post then do remember to leave a link.

And on a slightly separate note here’s another question; Have you read the His Dark Material Trilogy? If so what would your daemon be?