Reading Matters

I am an avid reader and will often get through a book in one or two sittings. Being no good at deferring gratification I like to get to the last sentence, in fact, when I was younger and reading stories I used to read the last page first, completely undisciplined about not knowing the ending. I have managed to wean myself off that particular habit, most of the time.

In terms of reading material I go through phases, sometimes it is fiction that I want to read, and sometimes non-fiction. In the non-fiction camp I concentrate on books about psychology, philosophy or psychotherapy; reading and learning are two of my favourite Front Coveroccupations.  I read often at bed time, and so books that might be considered textbooks by others are often found on my night stand. For example, I have been rereading two books recently byFront Cover Ian Stewart and Vann Joines who write about Transactional Analysis, the psychotherapeutic approach pioneered by Eric Berne. “TA Today” and” Personality Adaptations”  are literally reference books for practitioners, and their subjects fascinate me.

Yes, I do abuse my non fiction books with highlighters and notes, but I like them to be functional, and when I reread, which I often do, highlights help me to find the core messages quickly.  As an adult I have given myself permission to relearn a great deal about books being useful – I am the child of two librarians so I had double the messages about the preciousness of books, and didn’t even bend spines until my twenties. Now I approach a book with impunity and see it more as a utility.

In terms of fiction, I will oscillate between “fiction-lite” (maybe chick lit or sometimes crime genre stories by such authors as Freya North or Janet Evanovich) and more heavy literature, which may be books considered classics or by authors renowned for good writing. Recent choices have included rereading Virginia Woolf, or Alan Bennett.

As I move into mid-life I am diversifying into darker, more subtle books. I have started to pick ones with more difficult themes that I may have shied away from when I was younger. I am always interested in relationships and how people interact, but now I may read about more complex issues such as death and grief and loss. Currently I am reading “The Grief of Others” by Leah Hager Cohen, a book about a family’s loss, grief and longing. The author takes the subject of losing a baby shortly after birth, and creates a story that is at once wounding and healing to me as a reader.

Having recently rediscovered the joys of the local library I love the freedom this gives to pick up books I may not otherwise choose, and then return them unread if they prove to be a false start. It took me a while to realise that I didn’t have to persevere, I could stop a book before I had finished. This was, again, a hangover from my youth where I was told to finish what I started. Nowadays I am establishing more fully what I like and what I don’t, and this can extend to my reading matter also.

In deciding on a book  I have often been influenced by the cover. Regularly the picture on the front, the colours and the way the jacket is set out lure me, they woo me (a booksellers’ dream, I am sure!)  Even the type face and the weight of the book can contribute to a volume’s attractiveness. I will also scan first pages, or contents, and make an intuitive decision. Although sometimes, I pick up a book simply because I know of the author, and this will be my only method of choosing.

Whenever I successfully get in to a book, whatever its subject or genre, I will lose myself in the world of character and place created by the writers, or the world of ideas presented within. Once I am absorbed then they are hard to put down and so I may be up all night with the next novel, and I need to get to the end before I am tempted to read the last page first.