Stories Are Treasures, Books Are Things

When I enjoy a book or feel a lot of feelings about it, I like to interact with the text. I look up the words I don’t know, highlight my favourite quotes (initially in pencil; I return to the quotes when I’ve finished the book and highlight the very best with a marker) and comment on the story: from “I love this” and “yay” to “so dramatic” and “uuugh”.

Similarly, I delight in reading what other people have written in the margins of their books. My grandfather always puts a little pencil mark in front of passages he enjoys. As a result, whenever I borrow a book from him I feel like it comes with an extra dimension: I’m both reading the book and simultaneously following his reading of it. Continue reading “Stories Are Treasures, Books Are Things”

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Writing Rebels in Historical Fiction

There are many more good and not-so-good novels set in Georgian England (more popularly known as Jane Austen land ;)) than I can count. Some of them were written at that time, most of them later. This can lead to some problems with anachronisms (a kind of historical inaccuracy, read more here) and readers’ expectations. Continue reading “Writing Rebels in Historical Fiction”

Brussels as an Invisible City

BrusselsHere in Brussels, I am part of a book club. We meet every month or so and select two books beforehand of which we have to read at least one. One of our most recent reads was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. It took me a while to get into this book, but when I did I was very impressed. It’s a frame narrative in which Marco Polo tells Kubla Kahn of the many cities he has seen on his travels. The cities are presented in short fragments of one or two pages that paint an image of its most unusual features, more like poems than stories. Continue reading “Brussels as an Invisible City”

Life Is Messy, Books Are Not

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Reading books is somehow inherently comforting. They take us to far away places and let us forget about our troubles. But is it really only that? Actually, the most satisfying books may be the ones that in some way tie in with our own lives.

Novels often* present the idea of an universal truth. The questions a character asks are answered at the end of a book, confusing events start to make sense or the book itself sends out a clear message. Even if that message is that life is a mess, inherently unpredictable or absolutely horrible, the message itself remains solid and true in the universe of the narrative. Granted, it may take the protagonist and/or the reader a while to decipher it, but the truth is always out there. Continue reading “Life Is Messy, Books Are Not”

Bookshop Snaps

Sometimes you’re in a bookshop and you’re drawn to a book as soon as you see it. As you pick it up you hear the ‘Harry meets wand’ music playing, your money dances in your pocket and you skip off to the till with a slightly manic grin on your face. Other times, you’re not quite sure. The book looks interesting but might also be a on-your-shelf-forever. Do you really want to spend this much money? You decide you need to do some research. You resolve to sleep on it for a night.

So what do we modern people do in these cases? We take a quick picture that soon sinks to the depths of our camera roll and we never think of the book again. (I know I cannot be the only one – comment below if you do this too!)

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Hmm, is this book worth it? I even asked the people of Instagram for their opinion, but never made the purchase.

Continue reading “Bookshop Snaps”

Is The Goodreads Challenge Really Helpful?

I read 40 books last year. Hurray! I am sure that I owe this in part to the Goodreads 2016 challenge that edged me on until I reached my goal. However: is this really a good system for tracking your reading?

Every January, Goodreads challenges its members to set a goal for the upcoming year. Last year, I aimed for 20 books (having read only 9 in 2015) but doubled this when I met my goal early June. However, in December, as I was struggling to meet my goal, I realized that the challenge was also giving me a lot of unnecessary stress. Is this challenge helpful for me as a reader? Here are some thoughts: Continue reading “Is The Goodreads Challenge Really Helpful?”