A Year of Reading

Been a good year for reading for me (not yet for writing, but there's still time so watch this space). Picked up another couple of books during the week including the Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett, which is one of the nine Discworld's I've yet to read.

This week I surpassed the forty books I'd set as a target for the year on GoodReads.

Somehow forty books in some ways doesn't sound that much to me, but it's a struggle to get the reading time in some weeks with our busy lives and so I've got to be pretty satisfied with getting close to a book a week. And it's mad when you look at the average number of books people read or the number of books the average person reads (which is quite different). Apparently the average number of books is around 10 to 12 or so, but the median number (i.e. the number that most people profess to have read in a year) is only 4; the average number being skewed so much by the heavier readers out there. Damn stats, hey. Data suggests that more intelligent - sorry I should say better educated - people read more books, women read more books than men, and incredibly around a quarter of people don't read any books at all (FFS).

Books1

These stats seem quite reasonable when I think about it. I've got mates that read no books at all and a few who read maybe five or so. I've had years in the past when I didn't read as much as I do now and I wish that wasn't true (that said I may have been strumming my guitar more some years and I feel guilty about not doing that as much as I used to now); basically there's only so much time.

Roughly 50% of the books I've read so far this year have been SF/Fantasy (so far so predictable) and 25% non-fiction and there have been a few classics thrown in there (The Tempest, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, Titus Groan). All in all many very satisfying and fascinating reads. Some have made me think about my writing methods and style but mostly they have just given me fabulous escapism and provided me with worlds away from this hopeless dystopia we appear to be in at the moment.

All these hours of escapism are priceless and I wish more people would read more, but you can lead a horse to water etc. It would entertain, inform and de-stress many a bod I know if they would. If we all had a few hours away from the google-box and the news and those bloody adverts it would be a better place (imagine if Donald Trump sat back and read a history book or six, and maybe looked at an atlas rather than SNL, Fox and his Twitter feed. Ho hum.).

Fifth Elephant

Anyway's for my next bit of escapism I am heading back to the Discworld to find out about the Fifth Elephant.

TheGreatAtuin500
The Discworld on the back of the Great A'Tuin
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No Phone & No Photos

My phone crashed yesterday. I had no phone available all day. All bloody day! I ask ya. Got it going again last night, then went out today without the charge cable, so I basically haven't had a sodding phone for almost two days and have consequently been almost incommunicado; so much so a mate who never rings me called me tonight to see if I was still alive. It's like I've gone back to the early 1990s.

Yesterday I also managed to take my camera case out with me, but left the camera at home. Doh! So no photos from my trip to some lovely hostelries in Nottingham.

Highlight today was delivering a parcel to the second hand bookshop in Penmaenmawr. I mean I HAD to go into a bookshop, no excuse. Oh well... twenty minutes later and I came out with five books:

  • William Golding - 'Lord of the Flies'
  • Sherri S.Tepper - 'Janina Footseer'
  • Philip Roth - 'Exit Ghost'
  • Alistair Reynolds - 'Pushing Ice'
  • James Blish - 'A Clash of Cymbals'

Not a bad haul, not bad at all.

Five Books

Tomorrow is looking like it could be a challenging day out there on the roads of north Wales with the coming of Ophelia. Fingers crossed it isn't too bad.

If I get back at a decent time I may put some pen to paper - I have some writing to do folks...
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Titus Groan

Just getting to the end of Titus Groan and I have one question... why haven't I read it before? It's been sat on my shelf for ages.

gormenghast

The story is great and the fading castle of Gormenghast, with its bizarre cast of characters and traditions, is fascinating but the main thing is how his prose evocatively presents us with his world; layer upon layer. Beautiful paragraphs pepper every page. Mervyn Peake was obviously some writer. I will have to get hold of some other stuff of his once I've completed reading this trilogy. At least I've got the next two books to go first.


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Am Reading - New Concepts

Onto my 36th book of the year which is well beyond where I aimed to be by September. The next five books to get to my planned forty I think will be the three books of Gormenghast, The Name of the Rose and either The Golden Compass or The White Mughals.

But more writing must and will prevail over the coming weeks. The last couple of books I've read on writing have been very useful in focusing some thought especially with regard to rewriting (something of a new concept to me).

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Reading and Plans

My reading plans at the start of the year was to read 40 books including the following:

Non-Fiction

'White Mughals' - William Dalrymple
'Return of a King' - William Dalrymple
'Jerusalem' - Simon Sebag Montefiore
'One Summer' - Bill Bryson

Classics

'Macbeth' - Billy Shakes
'The Tempest' - Billy Shakes
'Something or other' - Charlie Dickens
'Name of the Rose' - Umberto Eco


SF and Fantasy

'Gormenghast' - Mervyn Peake
'The Silmarillion' - Tolkien
'The Golden Compass' - Philip Pullman


I'm well on for the 40 having read 32. But of the eleven above I've only read four (
The Tempest, Macbeth, Jerusalem and The Silmarillion). The remaining seven are all a bit to hefty to carry around so I can't see me completing all of these. In general though it's been a great reading year, even if I stopped now. But of course why would you stop?

But FFS my bloody
writing has been really neglected. Perhaps I can kick-start it with an attempt or two on Shake's 'CalenDark'. Once I've blocked that off, or at least given it a good go, I can get back to one or two of the items on my original Writing Plan. There are real life things going on, for this next few months which will take a few days and hours out, so perhaps I'll let the reading go a tad and focus on some writing.

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The Heart of the Matter

Really enjoying my reading at the moment and have just finished Graham Greene's 'The Heart of the Matter' which I really enjoyed; Scobie is a really great slightly messed up character. Will have to keep my eye out for them showing the old Trevor Howard film on the tellybox.

I'm now 27 books in to my aimed 40 for the year. In my last fifteen books I've read three Pratchetts, two Lessings, one Tolkien and one Tolkien piss-take - a bit of a fantasy/SF leaning at the mo (as per). I've only read a couple of non-fiction books; one on beer and one on maps - two fab subjects!

More Reading
GoodReads book list - completed reading

Whilst all this reading can be put down as a little training for a beginner writerer I need to get these writing projects of mine properly kick started. I need to finish at least one of my four projects this year. At least one! A bit on Project 1 or 2 today me thinks... watch this space.






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Reading. Not Writing.

In a recent visit to Henry Bohn's bookshop on London Road (by Liverpool Empire) I picked up an interesting couple of books, then on going back downstairs to pay for them I spotted some Terry Pratchett. Doh! This is when the Discworld audit list I put together a few months ago came in handy. I saw four Pratchetts but wasn't sure which ones I had... a quick shufty on to my own website so I could see my list and hey presto! Two of the four Pratchett's in front of me were Discworlds I didn't have (Small Gods and Maskerade). Huzzah!

HenryBohn
Henry Bohn Books (old pic from website Felix Goodbody website - click on pic)

Put back one of my originally chosen books and purchased these along with a book about maps. I do like me maps.

Better get back to edit my Pratchett book list to keep it up to date (don't want to buy Small Gods and Maskerade by accident again do I!).

Then yesterday Oxfam on Bold Street and I came out with
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene).

Okay, so more of a reading time than a writing time. Definitely a time to get back on to 'Fergie Time' time. That's a lot of time which is not what I am managing right at the moment. That said reading time is never a time wrongly spent. Finished Small Gods in a couple of days and it's one of the very good ones. Most fun.

In summary, am reading and am not writing.

Enough.
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Fabulous TV Eats Time

TV Eats Time Until There Really Is No Tomorrow

There has been rather a lot of great TV on for the last month or so. And I've loved watching lots of it, but it has slowed my reading down and, even more, my writing. Whilst work takes up so much time I really can't help that. TV though... I should make harder choices about what to watch or not, but flip there have been some cracking shows on. So rather than feel any guilt about it I'm calling it 'research into writing'. Just in case I end up doing any screenwriting.

Current and recent TV must watch for me:

  • Taboo
  • Line of Duty
  • Homeland
  • Follow the Money
  • Inside No 9
  • University Challenge
  • Only Connect

At least Taboo, No9 and Follow the Money have finished (and UC and OC have only the Finals to go) so I may have more writing and reading time without the need for making difficult telly-box decisions over the coming weeks.

Keep Writing - Stop Watching.
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Come On!

More Reading, Not Enough Writing... Come On!

Just finished reading
Primo Levi's 'If This Is a Man', my thirteenth book this year according to my reliable GoodReads friend. A good and thought provoking read if not exactly a cheerful one. Wouldn't be a pick for everyone. Not sure what my next read will be, but it will probably be more cheerful and thankfully less thought provoking... so many options. Still need to finish The Silmarillion so maybe I'll just drop back into that.

PL If

That said I've got writing to do! Yes, writing! I've just written a daft quick story for Microcosms and put that up on the site. It's my first Microcosms for a few weeks. But really that's a side issue I've got to drop back on to Project 1 (and/or 2) of my 2017 Writing before I fall behind on these.

Okay, decision made... next up will be some thought, if not words on my second story for Project 1. I reckon I can finish that (thought AND writing) by Monday to remain on track.

I have it printed it out. I have pen, I have paper, will travel... and, err, think...


Am Reading...
Am Writing (Promise)
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The First Great Discworld Audit!

Discworld Audit

As Weather Bomb Doris (okay,
Storm Doris) struck I was told my route was cancelled so I’ve ended up with an unwanted day off. Given the winds in north Wales it is not a bad day not to be out (but it means that I’ll have to work on Saturday or Sunday this weekend instead. Bit of a bugger, but so be it).

So what to do today while I’m avoiding the weather? Reading and Writing, definitely. But I also thought it’s about time I actually checked what Discworld books I’ve got. I’ve read a fair few of the 42 book series, but I know there’s books out there with my name on them next time I’m in a second-hand bookshop. The nicest books I've got are the first three of the series from the Unseen Library - a lucky buy when they first came out!

Here are the Discworld books in the order they were written (those in
bold are the books I have on my shelves, those in blue I ain't got).

Discworld Series:

The Colour of Magic (UL)
The Light Fantastic (UL)
Equal Rites (UL)

Colour of Magic

Mort
Sourcery (HB*)
Wyrd Sisters (PB)
Pyramids (PB) x2
Guards! Guards! (PB)
Eric (HB*)
Moving Pictures (PB)
Reaper Man (PB)
Witches Abroad
Small Gods (PB)
Lords and Ladies (PB)
Men at Arms
Soul Music

Interesting Times (HB*)
Maskerade (PB)
Feet of Clay (PB)
Hogfather (PB)

Jingo
Jingo (PB)
The Last Continent (PB)
Carpe Jugulum (HB)
The Fifth Elephant
The Truth (HB)
Thief of Time (HB)
The Last Hero
The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
Night Watch (HB)
The Wee Free Men
Monstrous Regiment (HB)
A Hat Full of Sky (PB)

Going Postal
Going Postal (HB - with stamps)
Thud!(HB)
Wintersmith (PB)
Making Money (PB)
Unseen Academicals (HB)
I Shall Wear Midnight (PB)
Snuff
Raising Steam (HB)
The Shepherd’s Crown (HB)

HB - Hardback
PB - Paperback
HB* - Hardback 'Rincewind Trilogy'
UL - Unseen Library Edition


Things I have learned:

  • I have 9 books to look forward to which weren’t on my Reading List this year. Huzzah!
  • I have two copies of Pyramids. (I think maybe of Feet of Clay too)
  • I should put all the same author books together and not spread across four bookshelves.
  • I’m sure I’ve read Mort, but it looks like I’ve an excuse to get again. After that I’ve evidently got a few gaps to fill in.
  • I should have done this earlier… how many times have I walked passed these books and not picked up because I thought I’d read them…?
  • I need to print-out this list for next time I'm in a second-hand bookshop.

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Reading Over... Time to Write...

With A Notebook in One Pocket

I said I'd have a plan for my writing year by the end of the month and that I'd get on to it after I'd finished the book I was reading. Or more to the point, not read another book until I've got a plan in place. Well here it is... no, not the plan... I finished reading '
The Dispossessed' by Ursula Le Guin last night so when I go out later It'll be with a notebook in one pocket and NO PAPERBACK OR KINDLE in the other one. Scary stuff.


Ursula

I'm ten books in to the reading year, which is well ahead of my target while heading towards forty reads. So no pressure on my reading time from that perspective while spending time on the plan. But I'll miss the daily reading... so basically I best get this writing plan firmed up with both realistic and s t r e t c h goals my friends!

Writing App
Get writing

Get Writing and Keep Reading everyone.






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More Books!

More Reading and More on Writing Plans

Was delivering today in
Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr in north Wales. The last delivery was a reattempt in Penmaenmawr which gave me the opportunity to pop into the excellent Second-Hand Book Shop 'Escape Reality'. It's an excellent shop - two rooms rammed with second hand books and it has a reasonable quantity of SF books, which is always nice.

Payment at the shop is through an Honesty Box (well, a slot in a door).

Ended up buying
six books! A couple of which were picked as much as for the fab old SF covers as for the stories themselves.

The books included tomes from
Beryl Bainbridge, Bernard Cromwell, Brian Stableford, James White, and Roger Zelazny.

Books

Books3

Books2

Currently I'm reading my first Ursula Le Guin - 'The Dispossessed'

I've got lots of books on my shelves and on my current list to finish; and am currently reading a great book too. So I didn't really need any new old books, but I've got them anyway. Second Hand Bookshops. Gotta love 'em.

Thing is now I need to create some space on my shelves.
Or else get some more shelves!

Of course yesterday I pointed out that I'm trying to get my
writing plans sorted and all this reading may get in the way of it, or at least in the way of the immediate plans. So I've decided that once I've finished The Dispossessed I'm not starting another book until I've finished The Plan!



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Reading and Writing Two Weeks In

Reading and Writing and Plans


Reading:

It's only the second half of January but that's like 1/24th of the year right? So I got to get my writing plans sorted soon.

Got some good reading done already this year. First off was '
Galactic Derelict' by Andre Norton. I bought it as much for the cover as it was a gloriously gaudy 1959 paperback. Was well worth the read in any case!

Next up was 'W
eird Ales II' edited by Steve Cotterill (created by Theresa Derwin). I said I'd review it as I was involved in the first volume, writing the introduction. I didn't have any involvement in the this one. A volume of short stories based around bars, pubs and drinks it is a mixed bag of great and not so, but that'll be down to actual personal preference rather than actual quality. Enjoyed the book and posted reviews on both GoodReads and Amazon.

Third up was one of my 'classics' on my aim to read this year list, '
The Tempest' by William Shakespeare. I've not had much experience of reading Shakespeare but enjoyed it and more will be read this year I'm sure. Macbeth next I think.

Last read completed this month so far was Asimov '
Nightfall Two' a selection of short stories which even included a flash fiction piece he'd written live on a TV show. He's a story writer master and every story had great merit and often fab twists. What can you say about the guy. Genius.


Jerusalem


Currently reading '
Jerusalem: a Biography' by Simon Sebag Montefiore. It's a heft hardback which has been on my shelf for a few years now - it was published in 2011 but I'm not sure whether it's been on the shelf that long. I'm about a third of the way through and boy is it packed. Clearly a 2500+ year history crammed into 520 pages means the pace is packed and when it has had such a ridiculously packed and complicated history it feels like a head spinner. Many of the stories of the peoples involved could have been lifted straight off the pages of the Game of Thrones (or the other way around). Any of these sound familiar:

Incest' pouring molten gold onto an enemy to kill them; having a feast for adversaries - then the waiters and kitchen staff clubbing and knifing them into the stew; 'Greek Fire'; matricide; patricide; flip all types of 'cides. In fact other than the lack of dragons I could be reading the GoT. Awe inspiring 'Biography' of the city. Pretty much too much to take it all in!

Only just past the Second Crusade, so let's see how the next 900 years goes.


Writing:

I've listed a few things I want to write this year on previous blog entries - bigger pieces than flash. But so far I have not firmed up what to start with. So far this year - other than a little preparation for one of my projects - I've just done some
flash fiction.

Lucky enough to get runner up in
Angry Hourglass last week, which was a nice surprise. Later last week I did an entry for Thursday Threads for the first time in many months (okay probably over a year) and on Friday I wrote a quick entry for Microcosms and again did a piece for Angry Hourglass on Saturday. So a fair bit of flash there then!

I think I'm
judging Angry Hourglass next weekend. So less flash options next week. Maybe, just maybe I'll be putting together something for one of my projects.


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2017 in Reading

Planned Reading in 2017

So I've set myself a target of reading
40 books in 2017, but which books will they be?

I'm planning on continuing through my shelves picking off books I've bought but not got to yet and there will be plenty of SF and non-fiction stuff too. Of course the books can't
all be picked now, but a fair few can. Some heavyweights and some lighter ones. It'll be interesting wherever I end up.

To date my 'definite' reads to come include:


Non-Fiction

'White Mughals' - William Dalrymple
'Return of a King' - William Dalrymple
'Jerusalem' - Simon Sebag Montefiore
'One Summer' - Bill Bryson

JerusalemKing

Classics

'Macbeth' - Billy Shakes
'The Tempest' - Billy Shakes
'Something or other' - Charlie Dickens
'Name of the Rose' - Umberto Eco


SF and Fantasy

'Gormenghast' - Mervyn Peake
'The Silmarillion' - Tolkien
'The Golden Compass' - Philip Pullman


GormenshastCompass
Silmarillion



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2016 in Reading

Goodreads and Reading

I've been a member of
GoodReads for four years now and I must say I quite like it. It's not over intrusive in the way Facebook and Instagram are always trying to get in your face. You can look up recommendations based on your reading, but they're not constantly rabbiting at you- which is great.

I do like to see a record of what I've read when. With my memory it's very handy.

Last year I set myself a reasonable target for me of
26 books, a book a fortnight. As it happened I managed 41, which was great- the more reading the better. A nice mix of fiction and non-fiction with of course rather a big nod to SF and fantasy on the fiction side, and ale on the non-fiction (and fiction: Weird Ales).

Books16-1

Unlike recent years the vast majority of the books I read were actually books.
Paper books, off shelves and everything. Had the not unusual idea of perhaps reading some of the untouched or barely started books from my heavy shelves. And it was a cracking idea I must say.

Not sure if any would be classified as 'Classics' I suppose Graham Greene's 'Our Man in Havana', Philip Roth's 'The Plot Against America' and Primo Levi's 'Periodic Table' could be and perhaps a couple of the Atwood's, but what's a classic anyway?

Books16-2

Two of the books feature your's truly too - Flash Dogs 'Time' and Theresa Derwin's edited 'Weird Ales'. Both thoroughly recommended for other people's stuff at least.

I'm going to pick my
Reading Top 10 from 2016. Why? Well, you do that kind of thing at this time of year, don't you? All of them cracking.

  • 'Imaginary Cities' Darran Anderson
  • 'Cloud Atlas' David Mitchell
  • 'The Plot Against America' Philip Roth
  • 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' Connie Willis
  • 'Oryx and Crake' Margaret Atwood
  • 'Tough Guys Don't Dance' Norman Mailer
  • 'Our Man in Havana' Graham Greene
  • 'Years of Rice and Salt' Kim Stanley Robinson
  • 'The Anti-Death League' Kingsley Amis
  • 'Trigger Warning' Neil Gaiman

Now I've got to look forward to 2017 and the reading ahead. I'm aiming for a similar number of books that I achieved this year (40) and if the reading is half as good as last year's then I'll be very happy.

Happy New Year folks and Happy Reading - whatever you may be getting your head stuck in to!
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Post NaNo... Back to Reading

During November there was little time for reading with all the hours required for the NaNoWriMo writing challenge, so it is good to get back to it again. At the start of the year I set a target on Goodreads to read 26 books, it seemed reasonable to aim for a book a fortnight. I've already achieved that and now I'm aiming to get to 40 - which will be my best reading year for some many a year.

I just finished a book with a great little background to it; To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. A time travel book with a Three Men in a Boat theme; what could be finer? It was a good read and my 37th book of the year.

And now I'm on to a big hardback which has been on my shelves untouched for a good few years now.: The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson. It won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2003.

TheYearsOfRiceAndSalt(1stEdUK) TSNOTD

It's very much been a year of books this year, rather than a year of Kindle. I've been trying to read some of the many books I've got on my shelves that I've never got around to. For too long I've been buying books even though I've got plenty of reading to in the house. I've tried to avoid second hand bookshops a bit more this year, not completely successfully.



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