R is My World

I kind of disappeared from my blog about seven months ago. A lot of things happened and a lot of things changed. So what really happened? The short and long answer is I fell in love. I started running to become fit and before I knew it I was running five times a week and getting better with every run. I still enjoyed reading books, but didn’t talk or write much about them. From one book and run to another I became more secluded in my own world and I realised I was missing something from my ‘previous’ life. I have missed talking about books and meeting people who, like me, attend book events. I went to Peter V Brett and Joe Abercrombie events and it jerked me out of my sole fitness obsession back to what I have always loved. Now, I try gradually to get back to talking about books here on my blog.

Peter V Brett

Peter V Brett

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Joe Abercrombie

I have booked lots of Edinburgh Book Festival and Bloody Scotland events and am really looking forward to getting immersed in the bookish ambiance. I can’t wait to meet old friends, who I used to attend events with, and new ones. Another exciting thing is that I am a juror for the British Fantasy Awards again this year. Together with two other jurors we are going to pick the best fantasy novel:

Best fantasy novel (the Robert Holdstock Award)
Breed, KT Davies (Fox Spirit Books)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)
A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Moon King, Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)
The Relic Guild, Edward Cox (Gollancz)

All six titles are great books and it is going to be extremely difficult to pick just one winner, but I am looking forward to the book banter with my co-jurors. 🙂

The Guardian on the British Fantasy Awards shortlist: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/21/british-fantasy-awards-shortlists-lavie-tidhar-man-lies-dreaming?CMP=twt_books%5Egdnbook

R is my world – I love getting up early for a run and that’s something from someone who is not a morning person. I fall asleep happily after reading that one more chapter. The biggest problem I have had is finding the right balance between my running and reading. Reading past my bed time and getting up earlier than usually has made me feel like a zombie occasionally. My training for my very first half-marathon leaves me totally exhausted sometimes and finding time for more reading is not easy. I am not even going to mention how I neglected my amazing partner who has been very supportive throughout my whole journey – for that I love him even more; if it’s possible. The positive thing of the whole personal journey is that I not only got really fit but also did find something new I love and something that makes me really happy. I realised how much more I am capable of and that I love seeing myself getting better than my yesterday’s self – even if my legs do hate me sometimes. 😉 So if you see me reading a book in my running shoes just steer me towards the nearest coffee shop for my fix of caffeine and cake. Another bonus of running is this incredible amount of cake that can be consumed guilt free. Yesterday I had a brilliant day – a 10 mile run, then cake, coffee and my feet up for reading.

RUNNING

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World Book Night

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World Book Night 2013

I applied to be a World Book Night giver this year, as my experience from 2012 was both exciting and shocking.

Last year I was giving away copies of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I chose it because it’s funny and it is one of those books that might make people fall in love with reading. At the time I lived in Paisley and decided to give books away in the town centre and on public transport. There was a mixture of reactions – the majority negative. Paisley is a lovely little town in Renfrewshire. It has many places where books can be bought, including an amazing second hand bookshop (Abbey Books on Well Street), lots of charity shops and a couple of mainstream bookshops. Also, there are lots of libraries which have a wide range of books. Despite all that, most of the people I spoke to on the day said that they didn’t read. There were different reasons why – most of them said that they either didn’t like books or couldn’t find the genre they would enjoy. People’s reaction to me giving books away and trying to pass my enthusiasm for reading was mostly filled with suspicion or they looked at me as if I had just run away from the local psychiatric hospital. Those who gave me a chance to explain were very nicely surprised and happy to get a book. One man on the bus told me he didn’t read, but would give it a go. A lady in the shopping centre said reading was a waste of time. I tried to convince her otherwise. She did let me say what I thought of reading, but said that she was a single mother with three children and two jobs. I gave her a list of shorter books which she could borrow from the local library. I met her months later and didn’t recognise her when she stopped me in the street. She told me that reading was her way of ‘going on holidays’ she didn’t have to pay for.

Those people I spoke to had never heard of World Book Night – a few of them said it was a great idea, but some of them maintained there was no point, as people either read or not. That same day I also organised a Book Swap, which people really liked. On leaflets I stressed that people could come in even if they didn’t own any books and they could pick books to take home. That gave me an opportunity to talk to people about reading. Some people were actually embarrassed how little they read, but looked forward to reading more.

WBN Good Omens

That night my head was buzzing with a variety of emotions and opinions. I tried to understand people who didn’t read and how I could change their mind. I never wrote about my experience from 2012 before, as I was lost for words. 23rd April 2012 changed my perception of people versus books. I knew there were people who didn’t read, but I was taken aback by the number of them. I decided that I could try to do something every day not only for World Book Night.

I used to work with people who loved reading but I changed my job and my new work place was my challenge to start with. Talking about books, giving them away and engaging in conversations with co-workers about reading was my new challenge. I succeeded with a few. I was mostly happy about helping a young girl, who didn’t read – there was no reason why, she just didn’t read. She was into vampires, so I gave her Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. She loved it and kept asking for different books. I used to be a book hoarder. Ok, I still am, but it gave me an opportunity to pass on books which I decided I wouldn’t want to read again or keep for any other reason. That’s what I do, I read and pass books on. I love the feeling of giving someone the opportunity to escape to another world.

For World Book Night 2013 I applied to give away Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s an amazing book. I chose it not only because I loved it, but also because it’s relatively short and engrossing from the very beginning. I gave a few copies walking in the streets of Glasgow and on the bus. This year, to make it look more like a gift I tied a ribbon on each copy of the book and wrote a little note attached to it. I had only three rejections this year, which was a huge improvement. I also organised a Treasure Hunt inspired by Girl with a Pearl Earring in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. There are no paintings by Vermeer but they have a brilliant collection of Dutch paintings.

There are a lot of lonely people coming to Kelvingrove every day. I work there and see these people coming and going like shadows. Some of them will talk to members of staff as they have no one else to talk to, others just come in, walk around and leave to come next day and do the same. I managed to give books to some of them. I also tried to show them how books can be interesting regardless of the subject. A lot of people think that art is a pretentious hobby of the rich people. Glasgow Museums have free entry and try to reach a lot of people from different backgrounds. Girl with a Pearl Earring was a perfect choice. People who received the copy were delighted to hear that it was a story of a young girl who worked for Vermeer’s family as a maid – a story of someone they could relate to, as one of ladies said to me. People who attended really enjoyed the challenge, chat about books, art and cupcakes I made (my secret weapon).

Treasure Hunt

Cupcakes

Girl with a Pearl Earring

I think it’s very important to try to reach out to people who don’t read. It doesn’t matter why they don’t read – what’s important is helping them to fall in love with reading. World Book Night is a brilliant project which might help people not only to find pleasure in reading, but to help them find something that keeps them happy regardless of what they have to face in life. It might be a cliché, but each book is a chance of having a different life, a chance to be someone else, to be somewhere else and to understand life from a different perspective – though when the cover is closed after the last chapter some of the book’s magic stays – an experience that enriches one’s life.

 

Book hoarder – disease or love?

Since I remember I have always received books for birthdays, Christmas etc. I loved reading from the moment my mum taught me. Now I’m in my early thirties and I could furnish a house with books. I recently moved to a new flat and transport of the books proved to be a real problem. I did get a van and people to help, but they all commented on the number of books I had and how much effort it took to load them onto the van and then take them up to my flat on the 2nd floor. It made me think – do I have a kind of disease or I just simply love books.

In my defencImagee I do love books and I always end up buying more. I read them and keep most of them, but I also give many of them away. Still, I have so many. Why? Could I not use the local library? Yes, I can and I do, but I love buying books. There’s something therapeutic about it. Some people go and buy clothes, shoes and bags – my retail therapy is buying books.

I have my favourite genres but sometimes I buy books simply, because I love the cover – call me shallow! Though rare and special editions by P B Shelley and W Shakespeare are the biggest part of my collection. Lots of signed books by my favourite authors too. These will never walk out my door. Over my dead body. Also being a translator, I have lots of different dictionaries – and I keep buying more. All is fine until people start commenting on number of your beloved books or cats or anything else people might have more than one.

There are two categories of people. Those who admire my books and sometimes borrow them from me, and those who criticise me for having so many of them. In many cases it’s nothing to do with the fact that they hate reading, because they read, but they think it’s a waste of space to keep them – more dust!

I cannot stop buying books, so maybe it is a disease, like OCD or something. All this created a dilemma – should I get a Kindle? I occasionally use the Kindle App on my phone, so it’s not a completely strange idea to me. Will I feel the same about buying books? I don’t know, but I also know that my flat cannot invite more books, as it’s practically full and I share it with my partner who has his own interests.

Buying a Kindle is a tempting idea. I can build my virtual library and put there almost 3000 books, which I can carry everywhere with me. That sounds brilliant – I would still buy regular books (nothing beats smell of new/old books and feel of paper in your hands) but not as many. Most important though is a book itself. It will still find its way to conquer my mind. It will be in a different form. But is buying books in a different form a publishing treason? Ages ago, people strived to find ways to publish stories. It was a long and exhausting procedure before the printing machines were invented. Nowadays, it all can be done in a matter of clicks.

Sometimes I wonder what majority of authors think about having only virtual publications of their books. I would love to have my book on a library shelf, not only available in an ebook form.

If I win the lottery, I will buy a huge house, then I can have my own library. In the meantime, I might consider buying a Kindle – I will see how I feel about it, once I have it and use it.