Hello everyone, I hope you are doing well. I thought I would come on here and discuss something I have recently come to realise. I have always been a firm activist for the preservation of physical books. They, in my humble opinion, are superior in many ways. I love feeling the weight of a book, as it reminds me that these words came from someone’s imagination. A book makes them feel real. I have many more reasons as to why I prefer reading books, but that’s a completely different blog post.
Recently, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to pick up a book. The motivation to do so has been laying dormant somewhere inside me. But the desire and urge to read remained. I’ve been focussing most of my time on academic reading for my degree, of which has left me devoid of motivation for recreational reading.
I’m an Amazon Prime customer and am constantly bombarded with Audible advertisements, offering me 2 free credits for any audio books of my choosing. As I mentioned earlier I haven’t read a book in some time, so I decided to try Audible. I chose a book that interested me and decided I would try to fall asleep while listening to it. My only experience with audio books would be when I used an app that read soft sleep stories, in soothing hushed tones that lull you to sleep. I quickly realised this experience was vastly different. The voices were very expressive and demanded to be heard. I ended up listening to 5 hours of the book without realising it.
I finished the audio book and swiftly selected my second free title. I was equally as drawn in to the story as I was with the first one. I am very shocked to have enjoyed it so much.
It has definitely helped me reinvigorate the motivation to read again. Almost. To be fair to myself, I have been writing more recently which is a positive thing.
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this little post, it’s a lot less serious than a lot of my other posts recently.
So who is Jen? Who is the author behind this blog? The part-time poet? The part-time writer? The part-time Blogger? Yes, yes, yes and… Yes.
I see myself as all of the above, but there is more to me than that. I reluctantly shared a short extract from my current WIP of which I refer to as “Project Delilah”. After sharing and posting it, I came to a realisation. Although I have an “About The Author” page on my blog, it is only there as a temporary measure. I do believe it is important for anybody who may be interested in my work, to know a bit more about me and why I have decided to start blogging, as well as my motivations to write in general.
I can’t expect anyone to be invested in my work, without knowing more about me.
Hello There, My Name’s Jenny
So my name is Jenny. My last name is a double-barrel name from both my mum and dad. I love my name as I am pretty sure I am the only one alive (well, my search on Facebook came up empty so that’s close enough, right?) My middle name is Maureen, as an ode to my great grandmother who sadly died the year before I was born. It also helps me feel a little more connected to my Irish roots.
I am 23 years old and am trying to complete my BA (Hons) Sociology and Criminology degree. I started this degree in 2014 and am still yet to graduate. This is due to some unforeseen circumstances of which seem to come up almost every year. I am determined to finish and come out with a high grade as I am more than capable of it.
I have always been interested in crime, criminals and especially serial murder. Any type of crimes that involve complex methodologies, piques my interest. In sixth form I wrote a 6000 word mini dissertation in which I posed the question of: “Is serial murder solely a psychological issue?” Spoiler: It is far more complex than that!
Creative Writing > Academic Writing
Although I love my course, I do have a greater love for creative writing. Not dissimilar to other writers, I have filled up countess notebooks since a very young age, with stories, poems and sometimes even drafts of novels.
My most memorable attempt was during my early teens, in which I bought a 250 page Pukka Pad and decided to handwrite my book that was inspired by Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak. I called it, “The Nightwalkers”. I dedicated it to my primary school teacher who was the first to recognise and nurture my flair for creative writing.
There is something about academic writing that is restricting. You need to stick to the facts, figures, statistics and specific terminology. However, all writing is writing. All writing is practice.
The Big Write
I had a wonderful Year 6 teacher, inspiring, encouraging and strong. She told me to dedicate my first book to her and that is a promise I intend to keep.
My love for writing really began to flourish once she become my teacher. She created an initiative called “The Big Write”. Every Friday after 1st break, some students would stay behind to prepare the classroom. The blinds would be closed, the lights dimmed and electric candles and bowls of dried fruit were placed in the middle of the tables. Soothing concentration music hummed quietly in the background. On the table sat a brief for us. It could say anything from, the first line of our story as a writing prompt, to instructions of the format we should write in. Every Friday the prompts changed and we created unique stories, letters, diary entries or even pamphlets from the same few lines.
We would write in silence from the minute we sat down, for the next hour and a half. I remember feeling like it was never enough time. Ideas were born from other ideas, characters forming before my eyes. Our teacher and the lovely teaching assistants would walk around reading over our shoulder. If they felt what you had just written was interesting, well written or impressive, we were told to take a piece of dried fruit. It was like a message to our peers that we have talent. As a child, your pride is huge and it would encourage us to carry on writing the best that we can.
Our teacher helped us create “portfolios” of all of our stories. By the end of the year, we each had a portfolio filled with 36 short stories. My teacher wanted to expand the initiative to other schools after she successfully implemented it within our entire primary school. She chose a handful of the best portfolios (including mine) and showcased them to other schools in the local area. I have always wanted to re-read these stories but unfortunately I never received them back.
Unfortunately I found out she passed away nearly 2 years ago. It was heartbreaking to know, she will never read the book I am writing. She will never read my dedications page and see just how much she inspired me. Her unwavering belief in me is what is driving me to continue on this journey.
I Dedicate This Book To…
Of course, I shall be dedicating my book to Ms. S. But there is another kind soul I shall be sharing the honour with.
My grandad. He was my hero, my saviour and my inspiration. He was the most hardworking, funny, loving and annoying grandad a girl could ever ask for. I am so thankful for him and I genuinely would not be alive today if he wasn’t there. He was my rock when I needed strength and my clown when I needed to laugh.
There is so much more I could say about him, however it is still very hard to talk about him without asking why? Why was he taken from me? I don’t know. I will never stop needing him or missing him.
What I do know is, all I can do is try my best to make him proud. I can hear him say “Stop crying girl. You know I love ya don’t ya?” He would be so happy to see my writing this blog. I am such a shy person with a lot of paranoia. I have never fit in and doubt I ever will. I just want to finish my book and as my grandad would say “You’re the boss Jen” and he is right.
If You Made It This Far
I hope this gives you a little bit more of an insight into who I am.
“We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else’s mind.”
– Anna Quindlen
Like any reader knows, we have good reading weeks and we have bad ones. We can all empathise when we see others in the dreaded “reading slump”. When your TBR books bore into your soul every time you go to pick one up, but make a cup of tea and get into bed instead. Maybe that’s just me, but it can be difficult finding the time to read; especially if you fall out of the habit.
Sometimes it’s a case of taking a break only to come back with a replenished sense of eagerness to read. Other times there are things you can change in your daily routine that can help you read a little bit more.
These tips are just what I do when I feel like I need to read more! Maybe try some and see if it helps.
Put Your Phone Down
It sounds simple enough but I’ve found that you can either pour through social media scrolling endlessly seeing snippets of other peoples’ lives; or you can dedicate those lost hours to reading that book that’s collecting dust. When I’m on my phone it feels like I blink and its three hours later. Comparing that to the feeling I get after getting lost in a book for three hours is what makes me think twice when I wake up in morning. I consciously ignore my phone and reach for a book instead. Take thirty minutes to read silently, welcome the day with a good start and an exercised brain.
In short: put away your cellular devices and pick up that book.
Read What You Like
Again, it sounds really obvious but I ran into an issue with reading a few years ago. I wanted to read the books everyone else was reading, so I only read books that were trending at the time or on a bestselling list. I’m not saying they were bad books because I enjoyed them. The issue is, none of them were so gripping I couldn’t put them down. Not until I discovered the genres that suit me best and the kind of stories I am interested in. I still read multiple genres but key ones such as psychological thrillers, crime thrillers and horror are definitely my top favourites.
When you read a book you enjoy but wasn’t necessarily sucked into, it can demotivate you to carry on reading. Just keep reading, a lot, until you find the types of books that really excite you and motivate you to read more.
To cut a long story short: read whatever interests you, don’t focus on the popularity of the book because who knows, it might be your new favourite.
Although I am usually a paperback kind of person, e-readers can be so useful when the desire to read strikes you whilst travelling on public transport. However long it takes you, if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone, you can utilise that time to squeeze in a quick chapter or two. They are so portable and you can choose and download a book instantly while you wait for the next bus.
If like me you prefer a hard copy book, make sure you always pack at least two in your bag the night before. I find that when travelling somewhere I like to have a couple of options as sometimes the story is too complex to fully absorb while you are out in public. Sometimes I can but other times I find it difficult to fully commit, which is why I pack a more light-hearted book just in case.
If you feel comfortable eating lunch by yourself, I recommend trying to find a quiet place close to your workplace to eat and read. I used to work in a very fast-paced and busy environment so I liked to be alone during my break in order to recharge my batteries. Having a quiet and beautiful spot to read and be alone is a lovely way to get more reading in, as well as relaxing you half way through the work day. If you use an e-book, the wind can’t blow your pages around while you eat with one hand and hold the book with the other.
TLDR: Read on transport and during your lunch break.
Read In The Bathroom
Yes that is correct. Read in the bathroom. Or the toilet. Whenever I am really into a book, it becomes more like a third arm than a book; it comes with me everywhere I go. That includes but is not limited to the bath. There is nothing more relaxing than taking a steaming hot bath with candles (a substantial amount as I am blind as it is) and a book. Of course, it can delay the cleaning process but you just need a bit of self discipline. Tell yourself to read up to a certain page or chapter and then put it down.
Create A Goodreads Account
Managing a Goodreads account is an amazing way to track your reading. You can see all the books you’ve read, all the books you want to read as well as thousands of ratings and reviews to help you decide what to read next.
I got back into reading around three years ago and I loved to watch my collection grow. However, it was difficult to appreciate just how many books I was reading, until I created a Goodreads account. I was both shocked and excited at how many books I managed to read.
It is an amazing platform for both avid and casual readers to discover their next favourite book. Goodreads also has a list function in which its users can compile lists such as: ‘Best Thrillers’ to more niche lists such as: ‘Books About Videogames and Virtual Reality’. Whatever you’re interested in, I’m confident you will find something on one of the many lists available.
Listen To An Audio Book
Another relatively obvious tip, but if you enjoy being read to this might help kick start your reading again.
I personally always always fall asleep when listening to an audio book so it takes some time to finish one. Their voices are so soothing and calm it lulls me off into a deep and peaceful sleep.
I hope if you’re reading this you’ve found one of these tips useful! If you have any of your own feel free to leave a comment.
Just remember, you only have to read as much as you want to. There is no correct number of books you should be reading. If you find yourself in a slump, give one these a go. Reading is like exercise for the mind, sometimes its hard to find the motivation.
Daily Reading Recommendation
“A priest I knew once told me “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”
– John Marrs
I came across the book whilst scouring Amazon for new books to devour. I read the synopsis and went to buy it when I realise: it’s not coming out for a couple of months. I was upset I wasn’t going to be reading this amazingly original book the next day, but on the otherhand I had something to look forward to.
Marrs eloquently delivers a hardhitting, thought provoking and relevant story in such a unique manner. I would urge anyone to read this book.
I am currently working on a full book review of “The Passengers” so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.
Left alone again
While colours and patterns consume you
Sweet dreams and hope settle around your slumbering body
While I am tormented by my mind
Black butterflies invade my churning stomach
While I look upon my sleeping love
Not a single dream appears to be of me
While I doubt and doubt and doubt
Not you, but me
While the sting of hot tears briefly warms my raw skin
Where are you? Where are you?
While I handle this sharp blade
Contemplating, longing for a different sting
While I try to push the evil aside
The anger, oh this anger is raging inside
While I pull my hair hoping for relief
Left alone again
I have just started my blog to document my writing journey! I would never go as far to say I am a poet, but I do dabble in poetry now and again. I only…
I chose this concept because it occurred to me that there may be people who have never read a physical book. There may be humans walking the planet as we speak, who have exclusively read e-books. That thought was a scary one for me to mull over but in doing so, I have come to a few realisations with regards to the debate of e-books Vs print books.
I do have a certain level of understanding with those of us who prefer to read e-books rather than a traditional printed hard-copy. It is an interesting debate and I would like to use this platform to give my 2 pence. It is especially interesting when you consider the quote by Stephen King I chose. Maybe it should be “(e)Books are a uniquely portable magic” I will come back to this quote analysis a little later on in the post.
Quick History Lesson
Historians largely agree that it was an ancient group of people who inhabited Mesopotamia (historical region of Western Asia) who first attempted to transcribe symbols onto mobile mediums such as stone around 3500 BC.
It wasn’t until around 105 AD that paper began to become favourable, this time period is sometimes referred to as “The Paper Revolution”. Moreover recent archaeological reports claiming to have discovered paper dated 8 BC, as well as the fact paper had been used in China from as early as 200 BC for wrapping and padding.
Books as we know them today have come a long way from symbols transcribed on clay or stone. But when was the first book printed? Though it was Johannes Gutenberg who first mass produced printed work (the Gutenberg Bible) printed books actually existed nearly 600 years before. The printing press has its origins in Asia centuries before the technology reached the West.
What Is An E-book?
According to Google an e-book is “an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a specifically designed handheld device.”
I remember the first time I saw a Kindle being advertised on the TV. The possibilities seemed endless. You can fit hundreds of books on one single device, which is so convenient for long-haul flights, busses, tubes and trains.
Have you ever borrowed a book from your mum, only to find the font is so small you can hardly read it without your eyes burning in their sockets? Well you can customise font and size on an e-reader such as a Kindle. If you don’t have enough room for eight bookcases in your home, you need not worry.
I get it. I really do. But…
Printed Books Are Better
Of course, this is just my personal opinion. As I said before, e-books are way more convenient, easier, quicker and maybe even more affordable. I myself have read a few e-books, mainly when I have just finished an amazing novel and I need something else in a hurry ;to fill the emptiness you feel once the last page has been read. Let me explain.
There are many things I love about books. The characters I meet and watch grow, the emotion it evokes from me and of course the feeling of reading a book with a satisfying ending – or perhaps a satisfyingly dissatisfying ending. But I also love the physical feeling of holding a book and turning its pages. The smell of the pages, the creases in the paper and even the weight of it. The fact we can physically hold a universe in our hands, or the life story of a WWI soldier is what makes me prefer printed books to e-books. To me, it increases its authenticity. Perhaps this is due to the fact I am a creature of habit. Or it could even be because when I see a book I loved reading as a child on my bookcase at home, it takes me back if only for a second.
Another compelling argument for e-books is the fact they are instant. You can find and read new titles almost instantly at anytime. You could be on a bus and feel like reading, but you didn’t anticipate this that morning. An e-reader gives you the freedom to read wherever you are. I myself have downloaded the Kindle app to buy books when the feeling arises. However, I remember during secondary school, I had the most ridiculously small bag, couldn’t fit a thing in it. Once I got back into reading again, I took into account that I needed space for all of my school books, as well as fiction books. Thus, get a bigger bag!
Stephen King Was Right
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
E-books are still books, the words are the same, the story is the same and the characters are the same. The only difference is the way in which we consume the same product. It depends heavily on who you are, what you prefer and why you like to read in the first place. For me, reading physical books is an experience from reading dozens upon dozens of blurbs in the bookshop, to buying;it all the way up until I place it on my bookcase.
Everyone experiences reading in their own subjective way. Whether you read a story in a book or on a screen, even if you read a story written on the toilet door of a pub loo; there is magic in those words. That story came from somebodies heart, mind and soul. There is power in imagination, creativity serves us all. Consume it however you like!
To Answer My Own Question
No, printed books should not be left in the past. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t embrace and take advantage of the convenience of e-books either. At the end of the day they both allow us to enter other worlds and escape for a little while.
Also, does anybody else just love staring at their bookshelves? Reorganising and rediscovering stories as you proudly dust their resting place? Especially the books you have been given by others or the ones you find in a charity shop. I find myself wondering who may have enjoyed this story before I did; or perhaps who disliked it and decided to give it away. It makes printed books just that little bit more special to me.
Daily Reading Recommendation
“Never tell a lie when you can tell the truth. The truth isn’t always the safest course, but mostly it is.”
– Stephen King
Since we are already talking about Stephen King, why don’t you have a look at this if you haven’t already? I ordered this after reading ‘The Outsider’ by Stephen King, of which I realised only once I finished it; is a spin off from the Bill Hodges trilogy. I wondered why I didn’t connect with the main character like I thought I would. ‘Mr Mercedes’ is the first book in the trilogy and it is an amazing read.
It is a tightly plotted crime novel that still manages to retain the unmistakable Stephen King flavour he has become known for. It is without a doubt a novel of character and great depth. I managed to finish it in one sitting so if you choose to give it a go, get comfortable and don’t worry about that bookmark!
I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to comment what you think.
I think it is fair to say that I am a voracious reader. I also think it is unfair to say this has always been the case. I remember loving books at a young age. I would read them over and over again until the spines were so cracked you could barely make out the title; though I loved them anyway. However, that love began to feel more like a hindrance than a passion. When secondary school came around I started to read less and less, until eventually I stopped all together until a few years later.
I thought I would list my top 5 most important books that have shaped and influenced my life as well as my reading preferences. Maybe your next favourite book is on my list too!
5) Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
“Meet Darren. He’s sixteen going on immortal. “
– Darren Shan
The reason this young adult/horror/vampire literature book is on my top 5 is a good one! This book was my first taste of the horror genre of which would lead to my love of another author featured on this list. In retrospect, this novel was the first step towards more serious stories aimed at an older audience.
During my time at secondary school, we attended a tutor group everyday for 40 minutes. Once a week we participated in an initiative called DEAR time: Drop Everything And Read time; in which we were expected to read a book for the entire lesson in silence. On a day like any other, I realise I had forgot to pack a book that morning. Fortunately, one of the lovely teaching assistants had a box full of books and there it was, amongst the dusty and mostly ripped books laid Cirque Du Freak. The title immediately caught my interest I grabbed it and got stuck in.
I was so enthralled by the end of the 40 minutes, I plucked up the courage to ask the TA if I could borrow the book and give it back once I had finished. All day I felt the book calling me. I tried to read it during my science lesson but was swiftly told to put it away. Finally when the end of the day came I returned to the magical world of vampires and consumed its words with such haste, I finished it within hours of arriving home.
The next day I returned the book and went straight to the library to check out the next book in the series. This was the first book that really inspired me to write a story of my own. I called it “The Nightwalkers”. I bought a notebook and from this my first ever attempt at novel writing came to be.
Thank you Darren Shan, the Vampires Assistant.
4) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
“Bruno: We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that? ”
– John Boyne
This is another pivotal book of which shaped who I am and the type of books I am attracted to. I had an amazing primary school teacher in year 6 who believed we were old enough to read and understand the complex themes within this book. My early memories of this story take me back to sitting on the carpet with my peers intently listening to the characters developing and the story unfolding before our eyes. Despite our young age, I remember the emotions the story evoked from not only myself but my peers. We wrote stories from the perspective of the main characters, which helped form my understanding of empathy and the idea that everybody experiences the same event differently.
I re-read it a few years later and found I was reading a completely new book. My life experiences had changed how I interpreted it, the characters felt more real than they did the first time and my knowledge of Nazi Germany made the story even more harrowing.
This is a definite must read for anybody who loves historical fiction.
3) Kill The Father by Sandrone Dazieri
“Have you ever heard of the boy in the silo?”
– Sandrone Dazieri
I feel like I’m repeating myself with every book, but this is another pivotal novel in my reading career. It rejuvenated my passion for reading fiction. I had been reading so many academic texts, articles and books I had lost the desire to get lost in a fictional characters life.
I was a second year in Brighton, waiting for a delayed train back home. My phone was dead and the journey was long and cold. By chance, I walk into a small WHSmith to grab a drink when I spot a display of books on sale. I remember feeling a dusty switch flicking in my head and a light began shining inside me. It was a feeling of comfortable familiarity. I read the back of a few books until I came across this one. The plot was so interesting I felt my irritation at the thirty minute wait transform into a sense of gratitude. I was grateful I had thirty extra minutes to absorb this new story.
The feeling of dread caused by delayed trains and miserable weather dissipated as I got lost amongst its pages. The writing is beautiful, the characters are scary real and the story is original. Overall, an excellent, emotive and satisfying read.
2) IT by Stephen King
“Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”
– Stephen King
It wouldn’t be a top 5 books without a bit of the King. Luckily for me, I grew up around the biggest Stephen King fan. My grandad must have owned all of King’s classic books when I was a kid; I would often wander in his room to see him reading one by the light of a single lamp. Although I love many of King’s novels, I have a special place for IT. I first read this mammoth of a novel as a young teenager and watched the TV mini-series soon after. There is something about being scared witless by his words that is so entertaining… Captivating even. Words on a page can evoke true fear, but that fear is remedied by the satisfying underlying themes present in this story.
My grandad also had a tattoo of a clown on his right shoulder blade holding a shiny knife. He always joked it was Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It made the story feel even more real.
Everyone needs to read this book at least once.
1) Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra
“As we grew older, the violence around us intensified. The moment a boy’s age hit double digits, he was no longer a mere nuisance to the older neighbourhood kids: he was a potential threat.”
– Lorenzo Carcaterra
This is the single most important book on my list, for multiple reasons. My mum had two copies of this book and she noticed I was reading the same old young adult books over and over. Although this book contains distressing and graphic language, she felt I was old enough to appreciate its contents. I must have been eleven or twelve the first time I read it and I have lost count how many times I have re-read it since.
Firstly, Carcaterra claims this book is based on real events he experienced as a young boy. I have never doubted his sincerity although it has been widely contested but I am not going to go into the politics surrounding this amazing book. My personal opinion is that he is being honest.
Secondly, the author beautifully shows what life was like in 1960’s New York, I felt as though I was walking along Hells Kitchen’s streets as I read every word. The story telling is outstanding.
Thirdly, this book changed my life. It changed who I am and I truly believe the heartbreaking stories of four childhood friends helped shape my emotional intelligence. Carcaterra retold his story with such elegance, such vivid detail and with pain lurking in and amongst its pages it forced me to face the fact that the world can be a horrible place. It taught me to understand the evil in the world; but more importantly it showed me you don’t have to succumb to the demons living amongst us.
My Beloved Copy
As you can see, this book has been through a lot. It has definitely been well read but it has sadly sustained tearing on the spine and front cover over the years. This is partly due to water damage – I brought this book with me to University and managed to spill a bottle of water over it. However, most of the damage is due to its age. This copy once belonged to my mum, she bought it back in 1996; the year it was published but more curiously… The year I was born. Make of this what you will!
I hope if anyone is indeed reading this, you have enjoyed my little list! I enjoyed taking a look into my past and showing my appreciation for these momentous books. Each story takes me back to the first time I read them and I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them with anyone who stumbles upon my blog.
I have started this blog primarily to keep myself accountable in terms of my writing. I am currently around a quarter of the way through my first ever novel. I started off strong and was writing around 2000 words per day, though I soon burned out and my word-baby has been left unopened for a couple of months.
I believe if you have a genuine passion for something, you should strive to achieve it but we almost always forget that we need to crawl before we can complete the marathon that is novel-writing. This blog is my first baby-step. Although I have already started my book, that alone is not enough momentum to keep it hurtling towards the finish line.
I plan to upload snippets of my book as I continue this journey as well as any free-writing I do. I have just joined an online writing class in which we are required to submit pieces of creative work; those will also be making an appearance in the near future. I am so excited to have finally taken the plunge and started this blog. I created my first writing blog when I was fourteen after seeing a school peer enjoying fashion blogging so much. I was discouraged at the time and deactivated the website.
I have promised myself, even if my mother was the only one who ever reads this; I’m glad I have a space to share my work as well as improving my writing.
Daily Reading Recommendation
“…It’s better to ask for the Earth than to take it”
Although this is not a book, I believe a lot can be taken from a script. I have loved this play for many years. I first read it in when I was 12 years old as my mum wanted me to be prepared for my English GCSE’s which began the year after. Unfortunately I never got the chance to study An Inspector Calls at GCSE level, but that didn’t stop me from reading the play again and again.
The moral message of this play is hard-hitting and still relevant to this day. I would recommend this play to anyone and everyone.