Tag Archives: Books

An Ode to Hard Books

Life is never easy. It’s an ongoing battle, a struggle. It is cruel and it is cold. Life is hard. It is made ever harder by being filled with hard choices. Choices where the answer is not readily apparent, forever occluded by the uncertainty of the future. Alternatively, in rare cases, the answer is clear and obvious, but through its choosing opens you up to any number of hardships and unpleasant consequences. For me the hardest of choices comes every morning. It is the choice as to whether it’s worth getting out of bed. Should the day finally arrive when I decide that it isn’t, that is when I know that I have lost. It will be the day that I finally throw in the towel and surrender to a genetic predisposition toward sloth-like laziness. To be swallowed by my own crushing personal inertia, an unwillingness to move or do anything. The bottom of an energy well from which no amount of coercion can roust me. But until that day I keep getting up every morning, fuelled by an empire shatteringly unstoppable quantity of spite and a blind, unrelenting, stubbornness that would put most tectonic plates to shame. I do this because it is habit, for I am nothing if not a creature of it. But most importantly I do it because I know that nothing worth doing will ever be easy. If it is easy then it’s probably not worth doing. As it is with life, so it is with books.

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I like books. This is a fact that should come as no especial surprise. Books are one of only two vices I profess to having, the other of course being the magically revitalising nectar that is tea. Over the years I have accrued quite a substantial library, as I discovered to my peril when it came time to move house. I’ve performed a few rough counts in the past, primarily to get a rough idea as to just how much cover I needed for my contents insurance. However, I’ve never actually taken an inventory of the whole library. So this weekend, while taking a break from saving the galaxy and allowing my eyes to stop bleeding from all the pixelated violence I had committed, I decided to check out Goodreads.

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In the past I have made my opinions on eBooks very clear, I’ve waxed lyrical about the virtues of bookmarksand my joy and delight in all things solid and real. This love for solidity and realism has made me realise something about which I didn’t bring up in my initial tirade against them, something which in essence is far removed from a simple personal preference, something which has slightly sinister overtones. The rise of the internet and the relentless march of technology and data which followed has made a profound impact on modern life, it has changed the very way we view the world. This change isn’t static either, it’s a change that continues to evolve and shape society. I’m just not entirely sure if it’s a good thing any more.


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The Simple Things

Sometimes I think that we, the reading public, can be real snobs when it comes to books. We tend to subconsciously (and sometimes consciously) judge people based on what they’re reading. So many of us, including myself, lambaste the popularist novels, decrying the works of Dan Brown and J K Rowling, or in the case of the Song of Ice and Fire, claiming we read it before it was “big”. It’s book-hipsterism and it makes me feel a little dirty.

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Keepers of the page

When talking about books and writing there always seems to be one little thing that is forgotten and pushed to the back of the discussion. Perhaps not quite shunned and ostracised but certainly ignored for other more weighty matters. It’s like the person who stands alone in the corner at a party; not because they’re a social leper, but simply because everyone else is too busy with other things. I am of course talking about bookmarks.

Bookmarks are those little stalwart vanguards of the reading world. They held your hand when you cried during that romance novel of yours, they stood resolutely by your side as you struggled your way through that big, high-brow classic that hasn’t aged too well and doesn’t make a lot of sense, they never left your side when you were reading that trashy novel you bought at the airport which everyone said was great but was actually really shit. They didn’t judge you. They were with you every step of the way. They did all this without expecting any recognition nor thanks, because they’re inanimate objects and such a thing would be impossible for them, but they were still there! Despite the fact that we don’t give them half the credit they deserve, bookmarks are extraordinarily important things. They are a simple little device which holds our place for us, it lets us remember where we were. They are our anchorage amidst an angry and uncertain sea of words. Nearly everyone has one, even if they don’t read. They’ll be some in a box somewhere gathering dust.

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Abominations of Technology

In my last post I briefly touched on the subject of e-books. Well, I didn’t so much touch upon it, as glance at it from a great distance through a pair of high-powered binoculars. Something akin to a stalker of conversation points; it’s like birdwatching but metaphorical. That and my tea is in a mug as opposed to a Thermos. There’s still sandwiches though. Sandwiches with pickle.

Now I suspect I should attempt to capture the aforementioned lesser-spotted speckled conversation point with my net of bilious words and angry grammar lest it dash off into the bushes or get eaten by a cat. It is at this point my metaphor begins to shake violently and collapse in upon its own absurdity.

So e-books then…

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Size doesn’t matter

Earlier this week I was making one of my regular trawls through the shelves of my local Waterstones. I was once again searching for what I like to call “bus fodder”; something to read on the bus into work. I do enjoy being able to slip out of reality, into a world of sublime fiction and not have to face the ghastly horrors of the daily commute. During my trawl I saw that Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear had been released. Having enjoyed his previous book The Name of the Wind I went to pick it up and have a bit of a look at it. Upon picking the book up my initial reaction was simply that of “Christ! This book could choke a whale!” For you see, it is an extraordinarily large book. I have come to expect hardbacks to be slightly larger and more hefty than there soft-backed brethren but this struck me as something that, if push came to shove, could be used to quite easily kill a man. I’m sure the book is wonderful but since I already had four books in my hand (one of these being an equal large collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s works) and facing the trek back to work carrying them I decided to put it down and get it at a later date. It did get me thinking though…

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