Bibelots

a place for the curious

On the act of writing

The pen is mighty, so is the keyboard

Typists, the old fashioned way

Typing: the grace, the beauty,
George Eastman House on Flickr’s The Commons

After spending my whole day surrounded by words working on writing,  editing writing, and plain old writing-writing I come home and write some more.

Sometimes, of course, I don’t. I might do something visual, make something real or do something physical. I might even allow myself to be enveloped in the hedonistic act of reading.

Often though, when I can’t imagine I can fit anything else in my day, when I thought there was nothing left but sleep, I write.

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t want do this. As soon as I could read, I wanted to write. More to the point, I wanted to write stories. Like everyone, I’ve had my ups and downs with it. When I’m exhausted, what I want to tap is boxed up and unreachable. Before computers came along, my hands would often cramp and I’d be dispirited before I could even begin.

I occasionally hear people say ‘the youth of today have lost the art of handwriting’. I’m not that young. I know how to wield a pen. But, actually, I think that’s bollocks. They know how to write. They also know how to type, swipe and whatever the hell else you can throw at them.

So, yes, I know how to put pen to page. I can fight you, sword tip for pen nib. I love a good fountain pen; dipper and cartridge both. I have notebooks and pencils for capturing fleeting ideas. But for the outpouring of storytelling, it’s the gentle, loving stretch of fingers across a keyboard that calls to me.

Let me describe it to you.

Open the lid. Watch the keyboard glow. Allow yourself a few minutes to disperse busy thoughts. Get it out of your system and onto twitter, if you must. Open your manuscript. Or start a new document. Don’t stare at that blank screen, it’s only going to stare back. No. Run your fingers over the keys. Oh, let’s just call it what it is. Caress the keys. It’s a slow dance of creativity and love. Ready?

Now.

Close your eyes. Feel your breath. Empty your mind.

And go.

Hours or minutes later, you’ll find me still. Curled up in a tight embrace of my own making. If it’s going well, I won’t even notice you’ve arrived. I’ll be somewhere astonishing, wild and new.

Pens, notebooks or keyboards. Oral, digital, or physical. Honestly, none of that matters.

What matters is that a story is told. Told and allowed to unfold.

Reader with a cause

The story so far

lots of shelves of books

All the books,
from Nasjonalbiblioteket

Earlier this year, I took on the 2016 challenge set by Book Riot. There’s a lot to be read, and to make it more enjoyable I broke the categories into manageable (and unmanageable) lumps.

Having my lumps of categories has made it fun, but what’s been even more lovely has been the chats with friends as they help me with my quest to find the next great read.

So, since I’ve already had such enjoyable conversations and discovered so many wonderful books, I thought I’d share some of the darlings read so far.

I’ve not quite finished all of these, but I’m far enough along to be sure of my feelings for each one. Anything I haven’t enjoyed hasn’t made it onto this page. I’m not considering a category ‘done’ unless it’s given me something. And that something can be pause for thought, a good hearty laugh, or a chance for learning and discovery.

Friendly recommendations by stand-up citizens

From days ripe with book-loving conversations

Wonderful self-made discoveries

Not as much fun to find and with a lot less conversation

Suggestions welcome

I’m struggling to find a great choice for a couple of areas. Not that I can’t find anything at all, but I’m yet to find that one book that makes my heart yearn to read it. If you’re reading this and have a little beastie that is longing to be read, please do let me know.

  • Read a book out loud to someone else (make it short, please)
  • Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender (not ‘sort of fits this category’, but bang-on and damn good, if you can)

Onwards and upwards

I’m currently reading about 8 books. I got here because people keep suggesting wonderful things. And I keep starting to read them. I jump from one book to the other in a willful and glee-filled attempt to ‘read all the books‘.

So far, 2016 has been a quite magnificent reading year. If I’m going to judge this challenge’s success, I’d say it’s already won.

Where to from here? I don’t know for sure, but it’s going to be good.

Read harder or not at all

two people sit comfortably across from each other between two library shelves full of books

Getting comfy with books

I’m going to try a reading challenge this year. Not to prove how many books I can ram into a year – I’ve never been the type to sit around and boast how big, how far, how many – but to push the boundaries of exactly what I’m comfortable reading. And what I’m not.

It’s too easy to stay in your happy little comfort zone. Sometimes, when life is busy or tough, knowing your comfort zone and residing there is good and, even more, necessary. Sometimes you need to push the reading envelope a little.

This time of year there are plenty of reading challenges around. There’s one from Pop Sugar that’s quite nice, but I balked when I read their challenge of ‘A book with a blue cover’. Don’t judge a book by the proverbial, right?

Goodreads has you covered if you just want the numbers, but I do not. It’s nice though as they let you set your own goal.

I loved the look of the #BustleReads 20 book challenge. But I loved it a little too much. If I’m feeling comfy, it’s hardly a challenge at all. Yes? Yes. Still, I wholeheartedly reserve the right to go back there and plunder it if I get bored with my final challenge choice.

The challenge that I’ve gone with had a few goals that properly made me screw up my nose in discomfort. It’s still got some easy hits for me as well though. 500+ pages? Sure. Done. Horror? Um, how many can I have? Just one? Oh. But there is more challenge than ease, and so the winner is…

My preferred challenge

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

The challenge by Book Riot is a great list (that unfortunately is done as an image. Hello, modern web much?) You can get a text version of the list over at Goodreads.

For my own amusement, I’ve broken it into some useful groups. The point for me is to extend myself. I’m not bothered if I don’t tick all the boxes, but I do want to try and tick all the ones that make me break into a sweat.

Well, it doesn’t say it has to be an adult, right?

  • Read a book out loud to someone else

Uh, really? Do I really have to do that?

  • Read a food memoir
  • Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
    {I’m surprised by how much I don’t want to do this}

Oh, I didn’t realise how infrequently I do this

  • Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award
  • Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Read a play
  • Read the first book in a series by a person of color
  • Read a book that is set in the Middle East

I’ve done this lots before, but I’m due again

  • Read a collection of essays
  • Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness
  • Read a middle grade novel
    {for Australians, this is a book aimed at kids aged around 8-12}
  • Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie – debate which is better
  • Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
  • Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
  • Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
  • Read a book originally published in the decade you were born
  • Read a book under 100 pages

Too easy, I do this all the time

  • Read a horror book
  • Read a nonfiction book about science
  • Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900
  • Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
  • Read a book over 500 pages long
    {done, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things}

Is it even possible not to do this?

  • Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel

That’s all from me

It’s time to start reading.

Who owns this book?

A question about unread books was posted on twitter today. It gave me pause for thought:


There’s little doubt that this question has more to do with hoarding than reading, but for me it soon became a question about ownership.

Wisely, Octavia (@ReadSleepRepeat) was careful to include e-books. If she’d just said ‘books’, I could have cheated by trying to interpret that as ‘paper books’, before walking around my house counting a few dozen unread books*.

Thinking of all my copyright-free e-books, I asked Octavia whether her query was also about books you get for free — the answer was a resounding yes.

Uh-oh.

With that answer my slightly-smug feeling of  ‘I don’t have too many unread books’ started draining away.

library, black and white photo

Books, beautiful books
National Library of Norway

Here’s my problem. When I’m bored I’ll trawl through places like Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive, searching for things that sound curious, intriguing or, at least, eminently readable. There are now hundreds and hundreds of tiny, little book bibelots, stored on my kindle and computer, waiting my possible perusal or swift reference.

Do I own these books? Of course not. Not in any financial sense. Do the ones I love belong to me as much as any book I’ve paid money for? I guess the answer has to be yes.

The question then becomes one of whether these great hoards of digital books can be counted. And to that I can say a resounding ‘not in this lifetime’. It’s just not possible. While I’m at it I might as well try and count all the pages on the internet. These books keep going out of copyright, getting uploaded and being downloaded.

It’s around about now that it all gets a little philosophical. Just who owns what anyway?

Octavia’s question was a good one as it got me to thinking. A wonderful outcome on any day. But, ultimately, it’s just not the question I want to answer. Ask me this:

What’s still out there that you haven’t yet managed to read?

The answer is, of course, everything. I can’t ever own all of it, but it’s all there. And, so, here I am. With the universe and everything in it still left to read.

 

* Is it just me or does the phrase ‘unread books’ conjure up images of story-less books roaming the midnight streets looking for words to devour. … No? Just me, then?

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