I have been somewhat tangled up in thorns of late, both metaphorically and literally. But, today is a day to celebrate, because it is #BookGivingDay. And I would like to give everyone a book, but then in a way I do, as all of my books are available through public libraries, those treasure-houses of culture.
I am sending out 3 books to friends, wrapped in finery. Two are second hand books that I read and loved, now out of print. One is one of mine that is heading to Kate of Turtledoves, to say thank you for the beautiful gloves she sent me as a result of Pi eating one of my cashmere gloves from them. They are perfect for painting in as they are delicate and warm, without being bulky and restrictive.
And I would like to send out a couple of books to someone reading this post.
Reading has often saved me. I am curious to discover how people choose what to read. I had little guidance when I was a child, missed out on all the classics, was late learning the trick of it anyway. The past few books I have read have lead to me wandering the world. The first, The Bear and the Nightingale is set in Russia.
I don’t have enough words to express how beautiful this book is. It was recommended to me by Tina, I think, on twitter. It carries within it the legacy of Angela Carter, and as a first novel, no, as a novel, it sparkles, shines, glows. Glorious. Just read it. It’s one of those books where you open the pages and begin to read and the words and the world you are in drops away and you are utterly enchanted. It has everything of the alchemy of reading that I adore.
Next I moved into a different world, the world of the Farseers and Robin Hobb.
Now, obviously I had read this before, but it was a manuscript then, and I was searching for images. This time the reading was pure pleasure. Soon, soon, her new book will come…. I wait, having read the unedited text, to enjoy again, because reading a manuscript and reading a book is so different. And I love this short novel, which might be described as historical fantasy.
Then I moved to this, a book set not in a country but in a tribe, which wanders a time when borders were drawn and ways of life forced into change. It ripples with mountain air and dust storms, fierce winds and hunger, hard lives, and beauty. It tells of a people so different to any I have encountered. It informs. It saddens. It is beautiful. This came to me via Seaways Bookshop in Fishguard who, when I asked about a year ago, ‘what’s good’, they said this was.
And now I have wandered to America, back in time. And this book I heard a review of on Front Row, some time ago, and then bought,using badges, not money, from Sam Read Books in Grasmere. It’s a signed copy, beautiful shape, wonderful cover and so far I am settling in to the change of country, change of style and finding these characters also nomadic.
I have never understood people who say, ‘I don’t read fiction’, ‘I never read fantasy’, ‘I never read non-fiction’, ‘I only read detective stories’. My reading is nomadic. I travel around the world, and these days am finding, thanks to publishers, more books in translation. I read children’s books, adult books, not many non-fiction, probably far too much fantasy, books by men, women, from all different nations. Books without borders. I think at a time when politicians prance and pose and build walls of legislation and bricks and mortar against our fellow man this is even more important, for we need to understand and accept the differences in humanity. For even as we are all equal, we are not all the same, and those differences can be glorious. And I learn about the lives of others in my choice of reading, about how they live, customs and beliefs, other ways of thinking, other ways of being
I find my reading by recommendations, word of mouth, books that leap off the shelves into my arms, some from reviews, seldom by prize winners. So, my question to you is, how do you choose your reading? Leave a comment on this post and in a week or so I will pick a winner and send the two books below to them. If you already have them I can send them to someone you wish to gift them to. And if you can recommend to me books from far and from wide that you love please do. So, leave a comment and share.
Read without prejudice. It’s my new motto. I need to make a badge!