The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

All the books in the world

on January 4, 2014

Along with the New Year’s Resolutions that come with January, there’s also a few ‘things I’d like to do more of’.

Reading is one of them. Reading has always been a very favourite pastime of mine ever since I can remember. School played a big part in this of course. Right from Infant School at story time sat on the carpet in front of the teacher. I can’t remember the stories but I do remember nodding off quite often. I must admit I can still do that in lectures, meetings and conferences given the right conditions, it’s such a blight.

At the age of seven in Junior School we kept a book diary. Every week you borrowed a book from the school library. In your diary you wrote down the date, title and any comments. Except I must have fallen asleep when the teacher explained what ‘comments’ were because for the longest time I never understood what it meant or what to write under it. Eventually I got it but mostly wrote platitudes like ‘It was very good’, ‘I enjoyed it a lot’, ‘It was a nice story’.

Even at that age, hype was a popular thing. Everyone was queuing up for Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith. It’s about a boy called Henry who loves and eats chocolate so much he develops a chocolatey brown rash and runs away from home to avoid being examined by the Doctors. It’s definitely a book I would like to revisit with #1, 2 and 3.

I love bedtime stories with #1 and 2. #1 has always loved stories. A real mix of them too from Thomas the Tank Engine, Aliens Love Underpants, Meg and Mog, Cars, the genius wit of Julia Donaldson to the timeless fairy tale classics. We’ve even been able to get through all four Milly Molly Mandy books, several Roald Dahl, A bear called Paddington and we’ve just started on Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood. (One of the characters has been renamed Frannie instead of Fanny). These books were more for my own enjoyment and it has been wonderfully nostalgic to immerse myself back into my childhood. Reading to the children will also give me the chance to read books that I never got round to the first time either like Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn and the Swallows and Amazons series. Old fashioned classics that perhaps are out of touch with the modern age but reeks of a time of simplicity and I find that comforting.

I think that’s what I like best about reading. The feeling of comfort it gives me. I’m not really one for murder mysteries, crime or spooky stories because as we’ve already established I’m not very brave and I have a very active imagination and why freak myself out anymore than I need to?

I like to read a so called ‘heavyweight’ followed by a bit of ‘froth’ to recover. Books should make you feel good and ‘froth’ like hot chocolate, whipped cream and marshmallows does that but too much of it can leave you feeling just a bit over indulged.

As I look at my bookshelf, I have many books borrowed or influenced by some of my closest friends. The science fiction/fantasy/espionage genre favoured by Nana Moon; the edgy, delving titles sought out by Ms Beefy; the contemporary fiction/food and drink books of Elbear; Game of Thrones or the A Song of Ice and Fire series to be exact which Brilliant New Adventure is ploughing through when I can’t even follow the television series properly.

I can think of books I’ve read in the past that define various ages of my life. In my mid teens there was the Flowers in the Attic series by Virginia Andrews. In my twenties it was all about books that resonated with something familiar. Lots of books set in London about twenty somethings going about life, love and the meaning of life! Kathy Lette, Phil Gayle, William Sutcliffe, India Knight, Nicky Hornby, Tony Parsons to name a few. It’s funny to think these authors have aged as well and I wonder whether their current work will resonate with me as much. Take the latest Bridget Jones novel, About the Boy. I have a copy but haven’t read it yet because Bridget has moved on further than I have. I loved Bridget in her early thirties when I was in my late twenties but will I recognise the slighter older Bridget sans Mark Darcy and after a few rough tumbles life has thrown at her. So it’s a book added to the pile of unread books that can be stacked nearly as tall as me!

Other people can open up whole new literary worlds for you too and so I was rather excited to be invited to join a Book Club last year. Ok, so it’s a night out with a glass of wine but reading was definitely involved too! It felt a bit like having homework to do. Quite thrilling to read for purpose and to share the reading experience with other people. It was invigorating to be introduced to a range of material I would have otherwise passed over.

After the sad demise of the massive Borders a couple of years ago, further book retailers have closed down leaving just a handful of book stores around. Much the same as in the UK I expect. Books are expensive in Singapore which came as a shock after being able to buy books as cheap as socks from Amazon (other on line retailers available), supermarkets and the market stall on Whitecross Street, London. But there is something quite luxurious about walking into a store lined top to bottom with thousands of books of many genres. Although I also upset myself one time thinking about just how many books I’m ever going to read; like how many countries in the world I’m ever going to visit.

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Equally there is something to be said about supporting your local library. When we lived in London, I passed by our local library every day. It’s an old listed building that smelt of assembly halls. The book selection wasn’t huge but it was adequate. To be a library member makes you feel part of the community. Also saves you money and allows you to read books guilt free that you wouldn’t want taking up shelf space.

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I never thought I would be converted to ‘virtual’ books but my in laws gave me a Kindle for my birthday last year. It’s a very modern looking gadget in a beautiful pink leather case. Handy for travel and all those books you don’t want on show for people to see! (Fifty Shades of Grey anyone?)

Without the commute to work, the lunch break, the odd free afternoon, I’m reading a lot less. I’m down to 15 to 30 minutes a night just before bedtime. Reading requires a lot of commitment. Sometimes though I’ve easily forgotten what the book is about so perhaps I ought to restart a book diary with proper comments this time, now that I know what it means.

So I best get started on my pile of books as tall as me. There’s a big eclectic mix there including books on the history of Singapore, autobiographies of inspiring people, parenting books, contemporary fiction, old favourites, science fiction, fantasy and of course a good helping of froth.

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