The natural follow up to my recent post about favourite forms of writing is about my favourite forms of reading in all its forms – non-fiction, fiction, poetry, books, magazines, e-books, newspapers.
It also takes a brief look at reading habits given it is not just a question of print media any more for sources of reading material.
Reading is one of the great pastimes. Reading good writing, whatever its form, can entertain you, educate you, prevent you doing something stupid (because you have read the instructions first!) and so on.
Sitting down with a good book and a decent drink (usually hot chocolate in my case, especially at this time of year) is one of my simplest and greatest joys in life.
My favourite form of reading is the short story and I have many collections on my bookshelves and some on my Kindle. Short stories are perfect for when you do not have a lot of reading time or prefer fiction in small doses.
I must admit one of my favourite tales is P.G. Wodehouse’s Accident Syndicate and is in my view one of the funniest short stories ever written. This is a particular achievement given the lead character, Stanley Featherstone Ukridge, is not my favourite of Wodehouse’s canon of characters.
Short stories are also adaptable for modern media (they work well on mobile phones too) and I’ve been grateful for an upsurge in online magazines (including this one!) for giving me a market to showcase my stories.
(In the case of Chandler’s Ford Today the showcase was to discover I can write non-fiction, something I’d never expected when I first started writing. I love reading author interviews and generally learn from them. I never expected to write them!).
My favourite form of non-fiction reading is generally through magazines and I subscribe to a few, mainly on writing. As a member of the P.G. Wodehouse Society(UK) I also receive their magazine Wooster Sauce. The articles looking at links with Wodehouse’s witty work are a joy to read.
I am encouraged magazines are available at the library as not only does this increase the services the library offers, it is a great way to try out a magazine before subscribing to electronic or print versions.
I also find the writing magazines useful not just for hints and tips to improve what I do, but to showcase my work and share my writing news.
I also sometimes have the pleasure of seeing friends share their news in these magazines and must congratulate Brenda Sedgwick for her recent appearance in the Members’ News pages of Writing Magazine. (It’s a great way to get national coverage).
I also find details of writing competitions in these magazines and any shortlisting or better still a win means something else can be added to the writing CV. This in turn is useful for approaching publishers and agents (the more you can list, the better. It shows commitment to writing for one thing. It also shows who you approach that someone else liked your work enough to publish it/award it a prize). So magazines then can help writers improve their craft. It also shows them what markets are looking for what work.
And the lovely thing about reading fiction is there are so many genres to choose from. While I write and adore fantasy the most, I also have a very soft spot for historical works (fiction and non-fiction), detective novels and classic novels such as Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Great Expectations and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
I’ve now got a Kindle
I was fortunate enough to be given a Kindle for Christmas (one great thing about it is that it means my better half no longer has to put up bookshelves for me!) and have been enjoying getting to know how to use this. I’ve a wide range of books on there already from poetry to fairytales to detective fiction and am currently reading authors new to me including Bernard Cornwell.
I’ve had no problems getting used to the screen format and being able to adjust the text size is a useful feature. Also being able to literally come back to where you left off the next time I switch the Kindle on and resume reading is great too. Book covers are surprisingly good on the small screen too.
Having said that, I still love my paperbacks and I happily read those and the Kindle. Why restrict your reading? Why restrict the formats you read in?
I am currently working on a short story collection and should I self publish it, I will happily publish in e-book form and paperback, recognising most people will read in both formats now.
One thing I am looking forward to this year is not having the dilemma of working out how many books I can take with me on holiday. The Kindle takes care of that problem nicely. I’ll just have to remember to pack the charger! But at least my case won’t be quite so heavy…
My love of reading and books comes from the encouragement given to me by my late mother and I was very lucky there, but what is there to encourage reluctant readers?
There is the Summer Reading Challenge run by the libraries. And this article from the Huffington Post gives some very good advice too. Then there’s Booktrust, designed to encourage reading in families with children of all ages.
I suspect devices like the Kindle may be a good way of encouraging reluctant readers. It is important to get books to people. If technology can help them there, then I’m all for it.
The important thing is to encourage reading and non-fiction can also be a good way of helping here. Not everybody is into fiction after all. I had a friend, sadly gone, who really couldn’t see the point of fiction but read anything scientific and loved spending time at Eastleigh Library reading all he could get his hands on in that line.
How does reading benefit a writer? You learn a lot by absorbing what you see, such as how a writer sets out their work. You see their grasp of spelling and grammar (or should do!). You learn what you like by reading other authors’ works. Occasionally you can come across a book you don’t like which leads you to think that you could do better and away you go with your own writing.
By reading widely in different genres, in non-fiction as well as fiction, a writer is also feeding their mind. Ideas for stories come from all sorts of sources and another story can make you think along the lines of “well I wouldn’t have written it this way, my take on this would be etc etc” and again off you go with a story idea of your own.
It is also huge fun to work out a character’s motivation and try to guess the plot before you finish the story and see if by the end you were right. Also from a writing viewpoint has the author concerned portrayed this well enough? If not why not? Again it is all learning material for a writer.
I suppose I was lucky in the era in which I grew up that books were a normal part of television and radio. Now there are many competing forms of entertainment. I remember the wonderful BBC TV series, Jackanory, and enjoying stories read to me that way by the likes of Kenneth Williams, Bernard Cribbins (possibly best known to some for his roles in Doctor Who) and on one memorable occasion by HRH The Prince of Wales with his story, The Old Man of Lochnigar.
And of course stories and books lead to radio and TV dramas, films, stage productions and so on, all of which bring in huge amounts of money to this country.
Shakespeare is still one of the UK’s biggest earners (or would be if the poor chap was able to collect royalties!). I discovered the joy of Dickens after watching Alec Guinness play Fagin in Oliver Twist and then had to read the book for myself. Now that is a sign of a good story. (It was also great acting on the part of Guinness).
For me one of the great joys of reading is while doing so I can forget all the other things I have to do and escape the world for a while. My mother sometimes said she “wanted to stop the world and get off” when she was too busy. When reading you can stop the world for a bit and escape into the world of that book or magazine. I’m sure reading is good for mental health as you engage with what the writer is saying.
How about you?
So what is your favourite form of reading? Book? Magazine? Fiction? Non-fiction? What is your favourite format for reading? Good old fashioned hardback, the marvellous paperback or the more modern on screen types of reading?
Please leave your comments and share if your reading habits have changed in the past few years.
Note: Don’t miss Allison’s next post on Friday 26th February 2016.
Visit Allison Symes’ website: Fairytales with Bite
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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