Things That Matter – #1 – Reading

Over however many weeks it takes, I plan to share with you the things that matter to me in my creative life.

This week, is one of the absolute joys of my existence.

My father used to say to me, if you have books, you are never alone and never bored. How true! The biggest issue for me is to make time to pursue my passion. My tastes are eclectic and I read very widely. Besides fiction, I also love books on food and cooking, practical skills, science, travel, biography and history.

My Reading Pile

As I type, next to me are Scott Lynch‘s “Lies of Locke Lamora”, Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean‘s deluxe edition of “Black Orchid”, Paul Koudounaris‘ “Heavenly Bodies” and Alan Moore‘s classic graphic novel “V for Vendetta”. Also on my current reading list is Alison Weir‘s biography “Eleanor of Aquitane”, Robert Fagles‘ beautiful translation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and top of the list on my e-reader (yes, I have an e-reader – but more on that later) are Mira Grant‘s “Blackout” and David Mitchell‘s “Cloud Atlas”.

I love books. To me, there is something almost sensual about the feel and the smell of a book, the weight of it in my hands. In the case of “Heavenly Bodies” it’s not just the feel and smell but the stunning photographs that bring me back to explore the text and the reasons why these cadavers are so adored and adorned. But above all things, if it’s a fiction book I haven’t read before, it’s the anticipation of a new journey and new characters to come into my life. If it’s a familiar title, it’s like saying hello to old friends and revisiting familiar places. And the anticipation of new things to discover and learn in non-fiction is still as important to me as when I was a child.

In Tasmania we also have a fabulous library network called LINC that has stayed so relevant in an increasingly digital age and is just a great place to find out things, browse books, magazines, cd’s and dvd’s. And there are many, many bookshops in Hobart, my favourite being Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books, aka The Imperial Bookshop.

Now, as much as I love real books, made from ink and dead trees, I also own an e-reader and use it surprisingly often. My experience with them came from my GP, who was horrified that I was carrying so many library books in my day pack. He suggested that I should, as a person with a spinal disorder, seriously think about getting an e-reader. I was reluctant but my beloved friend (aka “theywhomustnotbenamed” or TWMNBN) bought me one. TWMNBN’s a reader too and understood the need to maintain my habit! That device saw me through the first three and a half George R R Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire” books and more Terry Pratchett Discworld titles than I care to mention! It finally died one summer’s day at a critical moment in “A Feast for Crows”. Fortunately, I had a hardcopy of the book to come home to and find out what happened next.

It’s surprising the amount of criticism I’ve had from people about my e-reading. Most of the books I have on it are electronic versions of titles I already own and it’s wonderful to be able to pull a library of some 500 books out of my bag – no matter where I am. My current e-reader is a touch screen device, with WI-FI capabilities but it doesn’t replace printed books for me. I don’t see it as being “unfaithful” to traditional publishers but just using a particularly convenient tool. I still borrow, buy and read books.

Reading removes my stress, helps me sleep and gives me dreams, feeds my thirst for knowledge, causes me to daydream and imagine the weirdest things and makes me want to know more. And, the inspiration it provides to my songwriting is incalcuably wonderful! For me, the reading inspires writing.

Several of my favourite songs have been directly inspired by Neil Gaiman‘s work. A few weeks ago, he gave a lecture to The Reading Agency in London about why our future depends on reading, libraries and daydreaming. It’s worth the effort to read the full transcript. Also, I’ve recently read (and highly recommend) Gaiman’s latest adult novel, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane“. It’s really, REALLY good.

Now, back to my reading!

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