Three Tips For Choosing A Book To Read Next

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve written about this before, but I thought that I’d talk about choosing books to read. After all, there are literally millions of books out there and it is impossible to read everything that has ever been written. So, if you’re reading regularly, then you have to be selective.

However, whilst I’ll probably talk a bit about buying books, I also want to write this guide in a way that will also be useful if you just want to choose a book from the ones you already own or from a library etc… too. Plus, this guide is mainly aimed at people who are new to reading novels – since, if you’re an experienced reader, then you probably either know most of this stuff already or have worked out your own methods of choosing what to read next.

1) Try it out: I’ll start with the most obvious way of choosing a book. In other words, reading the first few pages of a book to see if it is something that you want to read more of.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect way to judge whether a book is worth reading (after all, some books only really get good after a few chapters or once you’ve got used to the writer’s style, and some books are only good at specific times in your life) but it’s a good first test and there’s no shame in putting aside a book that you’ve read a little bit of and looking for another one instead, if you’re going to get more out of another book.

After a while, you’ll get a knack for this kind of thing. For example, the novel I’m reading at the moment (“The Afterblight Chronicles: Kill Or Cure” by Rebecca Levine) wasn’t my initial choice of what to read next after I’d finished reading Clive Barker’s “The Damnation Game“. Originally, I’d planned to read an urban fantasy novel with an interesting title and a really cool-looking cover but, after reading the first few pages of it, I realised that I wasn’t really in the mood for it at the moment. So, I set it aside and went for a post-apocalyptic thriller novel instead.

So, although it takes a bit of practice and getting to know yourself, the best way to choose what to read next is simply to read the first part of a book and see if you want to read more of it. This is the best, and perhaps only, way to test out a book (and better than things like cover art, reviews etc..) that you are thinking of reading next.

2) Set rules: One good way to choose what to read next is to set yourself rules. However, these need to be rules that have a good practical reason behind them (so you’ll actually follow them) and should be made with the goal of increasing your own enjoyment. Making rules for the sake of showing off or anything like that won’t last for long and will result in a lot of bad book choices too. So, your rules actually have to mean something to you.

For example, when I got back into reading regularly a little over a year ago, I started by binge-reading eight thriller novels by Clive Cussler. By the end of the eighth one, I was so used to this author’s stories, writing style etc… that reading his books had gone from being exciting fun to being a dreary chore. Likewise, after reading the six main novels in Jocelynn Drake’s excellent “Dark Days” series within about a month, I found myself wishing that I’d spread these books out a bit more so that I didn’t feel the intense sense of loss that I did when the series was over.

So, I set myself some rules -in addition to my long-standing “If you enjoy it, read it. If you don’t, then don’t” rule – to avoid these problems.

To avoid getting bored with any one author, I initially started with a rule that I’d read a book by another author to the one I’d just finished reading and then, to avoid reading amazing book series too quickly, I also added a rule that I wouldn’t read more than one or two books by any particular author in the space of a month.

So, yes, making some rules can be useful for choosing what to read next. But, as I said earlier, you need to have a good practical reason for these rules because – if you don’t – you’ll either end up ignoring them or they will ruin your enjoyment of reading.

3) Serendipity: If you read a lot, then you’ve probably got a chaotic collection of unread books, including a few that you’ve forgotten about. If you haven’t got one of these, then look for a library or either a website or physical shop that sells second-hand books. The goal here is just to explore a collection of books until something catches your interest.

Earlier, I mentioned looking at second-hand books and this is important because these tend to contain a much greater variety of authors, genres etc… than shops selling the latest bestsellers do. They’re also cheaper too, which is good for building a personal library on a budget. Looking for interesting random books is a bit more difficult if you’re looking for second-hand books online – but things like going through several layers of recommendations (eg: “People who liked this book also liked…”) on sites that include them can give you something vaguely similar to it.

The advantage of doing this, rather than following a set reading list or anything like that (although these can be useful), is that it forces you to choose on the basis of quality. When you’re looking through a collection of random books then things like an author’s fame, awards etc… matter less than whether the book you’re looking at right now has an intriguing opening chapter, a fascinating blurb etc…

But, the key word here is “random”. So, this tends to work best when your book collection consists of chaotic piles of books (rather than neat shelves) or when looking through the shelves of a second-hand bookshop/charity shop.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Reasons To Read Older Novels

Well, I thought that I’d talk about some of the reasons to read slightly older books. This is mostly because, for most of my teenage years during the 2000s, I mostly read older and/or second-hand novels from the 1950s-1990s (in addition to the occasional 19th century/early 20th century novel or short story) and actually preferred them to modern books.

It also helped that, thanks to charity shops/second-hand bookshops, I was able to belatedly experience both the paperback horror boom of the 1980s and glimpse the golden age of sci-fi. These days, such books are unfortunately less common in these shops 😦

But, when I got back into reading regularly a year or so ago (after about 3-4 years of not reading much), I focused more on slightly more modern fiction. It was more readable, more fast-paced, more interesting in some ways etc… For a while, I actually preferred it to older fiction. But, every now and then, I’d find an interesting older novel or re-read one of the books I enjoyed when I was a teenager. And, since I’m doing this at the moment, I thought that I’d talk about some of the reasons to read older books.

1) They make you a better reader: When I started re-reading Clive Barker’s 1985 novel “The Damnation Game” a few days before writing this article, I was surprised at how formal and slow-paced the writing seemed to be. Then, I remembered reading this book for the first time when I was about nineteen or so. At the time, it had been just another ’80s horror novel – something I’d read for relaxation and enjoyment. I didn’t remember the writing being so elaborate or the pacing being so slow – it was just an “ordinary” older horror novel to me.

Of course, I read older books more frequently back then. So, I was more used to and well-practiced at reading this writing style. It was pretty much standard. I was, in short, a slightly better reader than I am today. Yes, some traces of this lingered in the vaguely formal writing style that I use for most of these blog articles ( I blame the many essays I wrote in school/college/university and discovering both Sherlock Holmes and H.P.Lovecraft at the age of seventeen for this. I actually find it easier/quicker to write non-fiction like this than to use a more informal style), but I was less used to this writing style than I was when I read older books more regularly.

Still, there are good reasons why modern books often use a more streamlined and fast-paced style. Not only is it even more relaxing and fun to read, but it also allows modern books to compete with the distractions of the internet, smartphones and other such things. Even so, reading older books still makes you a better reader – it’s kind of like a workout for your brain or something like that. Not only that, if you get used to reading older books (with their slightly slower and more complex narration), then modern books will seem even more thrillingly fast-paced by comparison too.

2) They’re a really interesting type of history: Older books, by their very nature, are dated. Sometimes, this can be a bad thing (eg: dated attitudes etc..) but sometimes it can be a good thing. In short, older novels are one of the most intriguing types of history out there. Not only are they a completely immersive glimpse into the past, almost like a type of time travel, but they often present a more “realistic” version of the past than stylised modern historical films, pop culture nostalgia etc… do.

After all, these books were the “modern literature” of their day. They were new once. They were written about the “present day” in the way that modern novels are. And this provides a much more complex, interesting, nuanced and unvarnished glimpse into the past than you might expect. Sure, you can sort of do this with other mediums – for example, watching the first series of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and various Beatles music videos will give you a highly stylised glimpse of the general “atmosphere” of 1960s Britain – but, because books force you to use your imagination, they are a bit more vivid and immersive.

Not only that, there’s also something cool about experiencing exactly the same type of entertainment as people in the past used to enjoy too. And, unless you’re reading a modern reprint, it’s also interesting to think that the book you’re reading right now is exactly the same book that someone twenty, thirty etc… years ago also enjoyed too.

3) They can surprise you: Although books are one of the oldest storytelling mediums out there, they can often be further ahead of their time than films, TV, videogames etc….

For example, Dashiell Hammett’s 1929/30 novel “The Maltese Falcon” feels much more “modern” than films of the time. Even Mickey Spillane’s 1947 novel “I, The Jury“, a pulp novel that has otherwise aged terribly, is written in a surprisingly fast-paced style that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a modern thriller novel.

Then there’s the way that Shirley Jackson’s 1959 horror novel “The Haunting Of Hill House” includes humour, a group of “misfit” main characters etc… in a way that is at least vaguely reminiscent of modern horror films.

Then, there is science fiction. Whether it is the way that Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” reminded me a lot of mid-late 1990s sci-fi films like “Ghost In The Shell” or “The Matrix”, the way that William Gibson’s 1996 cyberpunk novel “Idoru” almost seems to be a novel about the modern internet or even how Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is a satire of the 1960s that was written in the 1930s, it is absolutely amazing when you find an old novel that is eerily ahead of it’s time 🙂

4) You don’t have to read “classics”: One of the most off-putting things about older books is the whole idea of “classics”. You know, the boring old novels that you were forced to read when you were in school. Most older novels aren’t like this!

Seriously, reading older novels doesn’t mean having to trudge through “the classics”. Yes, some 19th and 20th century “classics” are actually really good books (and are well worth reading for fun), but one of the cool things about old books is that there are so many of them – most of which end up being forgotten. In other words, you can find some absolutely brilliant hidden gems if you are willing to look.

Of course, this was a lot easier a decade or two ago, when lots of mid-late 20th century literature was easily available in charity shops and second-hand shops. Yes, finding and buying books is ten times quicker and easier using the internet, but it lacks what made shopping for older books in the 2000s so interesting – serendipity. The fact that you don’t know in advance what old books will be on a shop shelf and end up accidentally discovering all sorts of great authors, amazing novels etc… because of this.

I mean, my interest in 1980s horror fiction (which reignited my love of reading when I was a teenager) was sparked because I happened to find an old Shaun Hutson novel on a market stall when I was about thirteen. I hadn’t expected to find it there, but I did. So, yes, finding hidden gems was a lot easier a decade or two ago than it is now, but there are a lot of hidden gems out there if you read older fiction.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Why Movie Novelisations Exist

Well, I thought that I’d talk about movie novelisations again, since I happen to be reading one at the time of writing. I am, of course, talking about Neal Barrett Jr’s 1996 novelisation of a gloriously cheesy late-night B-movie called “Barb Wire”. Although I’ll probably review the novel tomorrow (when I’ve finished reading it), what I’ve read so far is better than I’d expected. And this made me think about why movie novelisations exist.

Of course, the original reason for movie novelisations was that they allowed people to enjoy a film at home before VHS, DVD etc… were invented. After all, up until about the 1980s or so, once a film left the cinemas, it was pretty much gone (unless it was re-released, shown in a cinema club, shown on TV etc..). So, movie novelisations were what existed before home video did. Yet, although they unfortunately aren’t as common as they were in the past, they still exist these days. Why?

Well, there are probably several reasons. The first is, as shown by the novelisation of “Barb Wire”, they can be better than the film. Although I only have vague memories of watching the film on TV during the early-mid 2000s, it was a rather cheesy – and somewhat sleazy – “so bad that it’s good” mid-budget action movie. Of course, since the novelisation can’t rely on special effects or celebrity (after all, it just uses words), it actually has to focus more on the characters and the story.

In other words, film novelisations have to rely on substance rather than style. The characters have to be good characters, everything has to be described well, the story has to be an actual story etc… In other words, film novelisations tend to feel a lot more well-made and consistent than films can sometimes do. After all, a good film novelisation still has to work as a novel. It has to be something that, theoretically, someone who has never seen the film can still enjoy.

Secondly, film novelisations tend to have more depth than their source material – which is good for fans of the film. Since films are a visual medium that can only show time in a linear fashion (eg: one second of film takes exactly one second), they can often only show the surface of a story. The written word, on the other hand, can do things like showing people’s thoughts, showing backstory, describing things in detail etc… Which result in a deeper and richer story when films are adapted to the page.

Not only that, the events of a 90-120 minute film probably won’t fill that many pages when translated directly to the page. So, an author will usually have to add extra stuff in order to write something longer than a novella. Although this can sometimes just result in filler content, it usually means that stuff from the film is more well-explained, there are interesting extra scenes, there’s more detailed backstory, there’s more characterisation etc… Which all result in a much deeper and more satisfying experience when compared to the film. So, fans of a film will usually get even more out of it by reading the novelisation.

Thirdly, film novelisations are a safe bet. Although books are unfortunately less popular than they were even two decades ago (thanks to smartphones, social media etc..), publishers and readers alike choose film novelisations for one simple reason. You know what you are getting. If a publisher wants a book that will sell, then choosing a popular film will make people interested. If a reader just wants to relax with a book or choose one quickly, then one based on a familiar film is usually a fairly good choice.

Fourthly, novelisations can be great for authors too. I mean, I can think of a few authors (eg: S.D.Perry, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Diane Carey etc..) who specialise in writing novelisations and spin-off novels. They usually have a fairly prolific body of work, regular publication etc… And they are good at writing these types of stories. So, if an author knows what they are doing, then they can have a fairly good writing career with novelisations.

Fifthly, they are good for reading and literature in general. Yes, they might not be the kind of “high brow” or “literary” fiction that people talk about when they lament the fact that people don’t read as much these days as they used to. But, they are a brilliant gateway into reading for people who might not otherwise choose to pick up a book. Because they tell a familiar story and are written to be entertaining, they’re more likely to tempt someone into reading a book (and, if they like it, maybe reading others) than a traditional novel.

Likewise, spin-off novels can do this too. When I was going through one of my “not reading much” phases in 2011/12, I ended up binge-watching various series of “Star Trek” on DVD. When I ran out of episodes, I vaguely remembered that there were spin-off novels. I ended up reading a few of these and really enjoyed them. In fact, when I got back into reading regularly a year or so ago, I was initially reluctant to read any “Star Trek” books because I considered them to be “what I read when I’m not reading”. Yet, I still ended up reading them occasionally again for the simple reason that they are just enjoyable, relaxing books.

So, in this age where books are less popular than they once were, novelisations and spin-off novels are absolutely great for showing people how much fun reading can be and for getting people to actually pick up a book.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Some Thoughts About Film Adaptations Of Novels – A Ramble

As regular readers of this site know, I tend to prepare these articles quite far in advance. So, very early this year, I was surprised to read that there is a modern US film adaptation of an “edgy” 1990s horror novel I’d reviewed quite a few months earlier called “Piercing” by Ryu Murakami.

Although I haven’t seen the full film at the time of writing, the trailer (which is probably “not safe for work”, hence the lack of a link) seems to have kept the disturbing premise of the novel and even seems to have kept a lot of the novel’s grim farce and unsettling psychological drama too. Yet, even though it looked like a good adaptation, I found myself reluctant to put the full film on my “to watch” list. This, of course, made me think about film adaptations of novels.

One of the strengths of the written word is that it makes the reader use their imagination. A novel is a personal experience. Every reader’s memory of a story – the compressed collection of images, moods and impressions that lingers long after the final page has been read – will be different. So, one of the problems that film adaptations can have is that they will inevitably be different from this. After all, cinema is a mass medium where everyone sees the one identical interpretation of a story.

This, incidientally, is why I refuse to watch some film adaptations – like “The Beach” or any of the “Jack Reacher” films – since I’m worried that they will overwrite my amazing memories of the novels they are based on. Yet, when I saw the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s excellent “Shutter Island” several months after reading the book, I found it to be a really good distillation of how I imagined the book – with the only problem being that I already knew the ending (which I won’t spoil here. You need to read or see it for yourself).

However, all of this also extends to everything surrounding a novel. Because novels are things that the reader has to co-create using their imagination, they are strongly linked to the time and place that they were read and to the imagination of the reader at that point in their life.

This is probably one of the reasons why I’m reluctant to watch the adaptation of “Piercing” since, although I only read the novel a few months earlier, I chose to read it as a way of feeling nostalgic for a time – about a decade earlier – when I read several other books by the author. Of course, even the best film can never quite capture that exact feeling of personal nostalgia.

On the flip side, reading a novel after seeing the film adaptation is actually a rather fun experience. In addition to being able to gain a deeper insight into the surface-level drama of what you’ve seen on screen, the fact that you will probably imagine the characters in the same way that you saw them on screen makes the process of reading feel a little bit more concrete. This is kind of hard to describe, but it’s strangely relaxing to read a story where you already know what the characters look like – it’s like part of your work as a reader has already been done for you.

Another difference between film adaptations and novels is how they are made. Novels are created by one author, the product of a single imagination given the freedom to be as unique, quirky and creative as possible. On the other hand, films are a team effort that cost millions to make. As such, there’s much more of an incentive for a film to have mass appeal or, at the very least, a wider appeal than the original novel. In principle, this is a good thing, but it can often end up losing or changing what made the original novel so interesting to read.

However, the best film adaptations actually use this to their advantage. For example, the 1980s cinematic masterpiece “Blade Runner” is both visually and stylistically different to the excellent novel that it is based on. These changes allow for a lot of amazing creativity that works really well on screen, whilst still keeping many of the core elements of the story.

And, this thing about the core elements of the story is probably one of the most important things about film adaptations. For example, although it would have been cool to see a cinematic version of the gritty late-night 1990s Toyko setting of Murakami’s “Piercing”, one of the surprising things about the trailer for the film adaptation is how well it seems to transplant the atmosphere, themes etc… of the story into what I presume is modern America. Yet, the trailer still seems to be very clearly based on the novel. If a story can jump from one time and place to another and still retain a lot of what made it so dramatic, then it is a good story.

So, in this sense, I can see why people often view a film adaptation of a novel as the ultimate form of praise. If a novel can survive the adaptation process and still result in a compelling film, then the underlying story is a good one. If all of the author’s uniqueness can be removed and lots of details changed, and it still results in something recognisable or compelling then this is a testament to the author’s skill.

But, at the same time, there’s something a little bit disturbing about seeing film adaptations as the ultimate literary award. Anyone who has read a lot of novels will probably find amazing ones that they feel deserve the full adaptation treatment and deserve to become a part of popular culture, yet never get adapted.

If adaptation was the ultimate award, then there would be a lot more novel adaptations in the cinemas. Yet, all of your favourite un-adapted novels still remain as brilliant as ever. They still remain things that linger in your imagination. Things that you judge all novels you read afterwards in comparison to. Things that make you want to write stories that are even half as good. Things that quite literally become part of your memories of a particular time in your life.

So, yes, film adaptations of books are complicated things.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three More Reasons Why Reading Is Better Than Gaming

So, a couple of nights before writing this article, I was watching random gaming videos on Youtube and found myself feeling nostalgic for the days when I played more computer games. By contrast, the novel I’d planned to read just felt kind of “drab” and “ordinary” compared to all of the cool fan culture that surrounds gaming.

[Edit: This article was originally prepared before I got a slightly more modern refurbished computer, which can actually play some modern “AA” and indie games. So, whilst I no longer have the same anger about modern system requirements as I did when I wrote this article (and have slightly toned down these parts before publication), the point probably still stands.]

But, although there are a lot of good things to be said about gaming, I thought that I’d argue the case for books today. In particular, why they can be better than games. I’ve probably talked about this before, but I felt like revisiting the subject. Even so, apologies if I repeat myself during this article:

1) Single-player, offline fun: These days, games seem to be drifting more and more towards online multiplayer, which is great if you’re a highly social person who also likes the length and times of your gaming sessions to be dictated by other players. If you aren’t, then it isn’t so great.

Likewise, there seems to be more and more of a requirement for games to be constantly online. Whether it is modern internet-connected consoles, constant “updates”, DRM requirements for some games (which can also be used to exclude users of classic computers), greedy things like micro-transactions or even the dreaded “software as a service” rental model, games are moving online. Even if you’ve got a good internet connection, then this is still an extra thing to rely on, an extra thing to go wrong and/or an extra thing to get in the way.

Books have none of these problems. By their very nature, they are a solitudinous form of entertainment that can be enjoyed at the reader’s own pace. Likewise, because they are made of paper, they don’t need an internet connection either. In other words, they’re more like the classic games of the 1990s in this respect 🙂

2) System requirements: I’ve talked about this many times before, but it is worth repeating. Books don’t have system requirements 🙂

Yes, an older or more linguistically-complex book might take longer to read. But, if you can read, then you can read it. You might have to look up unfamiliar words or make a guess from the context they are used in. You might not understand literally everything about a “difficult” book. But, if you can read, then you can read pretty much anything.

Now, compare this to computer games. They have system requirements.

If you want to participate in current gaming culture or if you just want to play an interesting-looking new game that you’ve heard about, then you’d better have splashed out on a powerful modern computer before you even think about playing it.

In other words, games have a load of extra barriers to entry that books don’t. The greatest irony of all is that, unlike games, modern books will often be written in a more “readable” way than older books are. They are something that is actually easier to pick up and read.

Likewise, if you can’t afford a new book, then it will usually either be in libraries (although, with the current UK government, maybe not), come down in price over time and/or eventually appear on the second-hand market. By contrast, unless you only want to play older games (which are often better) then you’d better be able to splash out hundreds or thousands on the “right” kind of computer before you even buy the game.

3) Variation: This is less of an issue these days, thanks to the awesome popularity of indie games (even if they often have ridiculous system requirements, despite their “retro” graphics), but one of the main reasons why there is such a popular fan culture around games is because there aren’t that many major games.

After all, “AAA” games cost millions and require hundreds of skilled workers to make. As such, not only are there less of them but they will often be aimed for the largest and most “popular” audience too.

In other words, games are a bit like Hollywood movies. If you happen to like what is “popular” at the moment, then you are in heaven. If not then, although there might be indie games for you, expect to feel a bit left behind.

Books, on the other hand, have a lot more variation. Pretty much any genre or type of story you can think of is covered. If you want a Lovecraftian parody of “Scooby Doo”, a thriller about zombie vampires in a rural village in the 1980s, a hilarious time travel based sci-fi series, a murder mystery set in Tudor-era Hampshire, a “film noir” where the detective is a vampire etc.. Then books have got you covered 🙂

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Benefits And Downsides Of Reading A Lot

Well, I thought that I’d talk about reading books again today. This is mostly because, ever since I got back into reading regularly several months ago, I’ve noticed a few things about reading a lot (either in the past and/or in the present) that are simultaneously awesome and annoying.

1) Your nostalgia will be different: One of the interesting things about books is that they aren’t really “mainstream” in the way that film, TV and videogames are. Whilst this has both benefits and drawbacks (for example, you can find an utterly awesome novel that is better than pretty much every movie/TV show you’ve seen… but no-one else will have heard of it or read it), I thought that I’d look at how it relates to nostalgia.

If you are a reader then, barring a few popular novels like the “Harry Potter” books and “The Da Vinci Code”, your nostalgia will be probably slightly different from everyone else’s. When you look back on the things that shaped your imagination and accompanied you during your earlier years, they will be different to what everyone else thinks about.

For example, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll sometimes re-read some of the old 1980s/90s horror novels that I first found in second-hand shops and charity shops when I was a teenager during the ’00s. These are, to me at least, really nostalgic books. Yet, if I asked a random person on the street what “2000s nostalgia” looks like, they probably wouldn’t mention a collection of 20-40 year old books.

So, if books are your main form of entertainment, then your nostalgia will be different to most other people’s. On the plus side, this makes your nostalgia a bit more personal, unique, meaningful and cool. On the downside, it means that popular nostalgia won’t always resonate with you to quite the same extent.

2) You’ll encounter great books: This is both a good and a bad thing. If you read a lot then, by the law of averages, you are going to stumble across a truly great book every once in a while. This is the kind of book that lingers in your imagination, that feels like “THIS book was written for ME!” and/or makes you not want to finish it because that would mean that the story is over.

When you find one of these books, it is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Because of the added depth/immersion that the written word gives stories and because you have to use your own imagination whilst reading, it is a more vivid and unique experience than finding a really awesome movie, TV series or videogame. It reminds you why you read books and it enriches you in ways that you can’t even put into words. It is amazing.

However, the downside of all of this is when you finish that great book and look for the next book to read. This next book will be judged by the standards of the greatness that has come before it and this means that good or ok novels that you probably would have really enjoyed in other circumstances can sometimes seem off-putting in the days after reading a great book.

So, you either have to search for another great book (and they can be pretty rare) or go through the rigmarole of reading the first chapters of a few other books until you find a really good one that doesn’t seem like too much of a step down.

3) Book piles: Unless you read your books on an electronic device that needs to be recharged, doesn’t include second-hand novels and will probably become “obsolete” when the company that makes it wants to sell you a new one, then you will probably have at least a few book piles.

For those who don’t know, this is when your bookshelves run out of space and the only way to store the rest of the books is in ever-growing stalgmite-like piles that look a little bit like this:

This is a detail from a painting I made of my main book pile a few months earlier. At the time of writing, many of the books on it are different and the pile has grown very slightly taller.

Book piles are awesome for so many reasons. The covers and spines can add extra decoration to a room (unless you need to turn the books sideways to make room for more). They let you see what you could read next and what you’ve enjoyed in the past.

Book piles also make somewhere feel like home too (if you have book piles, you’ll understand this. If you don’t, then you probably never will).

Plus, if you spot a book pile somewhere else then you know you are in the company of a like-minded individual and, best of all, if you’ve got a few book piles then you can find all sorts of buried treasures in them that you’d totally forgotten that you even owned.

Not only that, knowing how to structure a book pile so that it contains the most books possible in the least amount of space whilst also remaining structurally stable is the kind of skill that can come in handy in all sorts of areas. Seriously, you’ll become a better Tetris player at the very least.

On the downside, there is never enough room for all the book piles you need (requiring you to restructure them or send books to the charity shop every now and then), you’ll never have the time to read literally everything in your book piles and non-readers might react with criticism/ridicule when they see even a modest book pile or seven.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Four Reasons To Read Books By Lots Of Different Authors

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this before, but I felt like talking about some of the benefits of reading books by lots of different authors rather than just sticking to a couple of favourite authors. Although this is more of an issue if you binge-read and/or read quickly, some of the stuff in this article will probably apply regardless of your reading speed.

1) It keeps your favourites enjoyable: For the first two or three weeks after I got back into reading regularly again, I became a fan of Clive Cussler. I eagerly binge-read Cussler novel after Cussler novel. But, after reading eight of them, I just couldn’t get into the ninth one I’d planned to read. It just seemed like more of the same. I’d become bored of an author that I really enjoyed.

This taught me a lot. In short, when it comes to books, you can have too much of a good thing. If you only focus on reading books by a small number of authors, then you will probably get bored with them at some point. They will go from being amazing to being drearily mundane.

So, setting yourself something like an “always read a book by a different author to the one you’ve just read” rule can protect your enjoyment of your favourite authors – and help you to discover more favourite authors too.

2) It protects against feelings of loss when you finish a series: A few weeks after I got back into reading regularly, I discovered Jocelynn Drake’s amazing “Dark Days” series. Although I was following an “always read a book by a different author to the one you’ve just read” rule by then, there was often literally just one other book between most of the “Dark Days” novels I read.

Leaving aside the prequel novella, the main series is only six novels long. So, I ended up finishing it within less than a month and felt absolutely miserable when I realised that it was over. After this, I’ve become a lot more reticent about reading more than 1-2 books from any given series within the space of a month.

Not only does reading lots of different authors mean that you’ll get to savour your favourite series over a longer amount of time, but frequent exposure to other authors also means that you won’t get too over-attached to any one series – so there’s much less of a feeling of loss when a series ends because you’ll know from experience there are lots of other great books and/or series out there too.

3) It makes you a better reader (and writer): In short, every author has a different writing style. And, if you get too used to one author’s writing style, then this can make reading books by other authors a bit more difficult. It can make everything else seem too fast or slow paced, too descriptive or superficial etc.. by comparison.

By regularly reading books by different authors, you constantly have to get used to different writing styles and this will make you a better reader. Not only will it mean that you’ll adapt to different styles more easily, but having experience of reading lots of different writing styles will help you to see why an author uses the style that they do.

Likewise, whilst there’s no shame in abandoning a book you really don’t enjoy (and reading something you enjoy instead), having experience of reading lots of different writing styles means that you’ll be more likely to give each book a bit more of a chance. Whilst this might not always work out well, there are quite a few books out there which only really get good after you’ve read the first 50-150 pages. So, you’ll find books that can really catch you by surprise 🙂

Not to mention that, if you’re a writer too, then this will also help you to find your own writing style too. After all, if you’re only influenced by one or two authors, then your writing style will be a second-rate imitation of those writers’ styles. However, if you are influenced by lots of different authors, then it becomes a lot more difficult for the reader to pick out each influence – so, your style will seem more unique and distinctive.

4) You’ll know yourself better: No-one wants to read a book they don’t enjoy. This is why people will sometimes stick to reading just one or two favourite authors. But, pushing yourself to read lots of different authors means that you have to know what qualities to look for when searching for books to read.

After all, if you’re looking for new authors online or in bookshops, you’ll often have to make a snap decision about whether a book is worth taking a closer look at or not. So, knowing what qualities you enjoy in a story (rather than just knowing the names of a couple of authors you enjoy) means that this process becomes a lot faster and easier.

In other words, to know what types of books you’ll really enjoy, you need to know yourself. So, reading books by lots of different authors and asking yourself why you enjoy the books that you enjoy can be a way of finding out more about yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂