There is something really special about a good book. Somehow, I find them so much more satisfying and immersive than a film or game. I must have read hundreds, maybe thousands of books in my lifetime, but I am cursed with a memory that allows me to remember relatively few. I suppose the ones I do remember are the ones I enjoyed most.
There are some I remember from an early age. One of them, an illustrated dictionary, I still have. The other, regretfully has long since passed from my possession. It was a Ladybird Book. One of a series of small hardback books that we were all weaned on. I forget the title, it was something like “On the train with Uncle Jack” and it was all about rail travel.
I don’t know if it was because I came from Swindon, but I had an unhealthy obsession with trains so I read this book so much that it was practically falling to pieces. Mum and Dad had managed to apply copious amounts of sellotape in an effort to hold it together and it was just as well, because I probably read that book more than any other since.
Like most children, I lapped up Enid Blyton books. The famous five and the secret seven had my imagination working overtime. I also remember other books about a child called McGurk who was a child detective. Unlike most children, I also became obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and read the complete works from cover to cover umpteen times.
It was only later in life that I developed an interest in fantasy fiction. A colleague recommended the Dragonlance trilogy to me, which I loved at the time but it left me hungry for more. A friend recommended Magician by Raymond Feist which has to rank as one of the best fantasy novels of all time.
I enjoyed the hobbit and because of the seminal nature of Lord of the Rings, I tried to read that too, but I found it interminably slow. Other books I’ve read since have had the same pedestrian pace (such as the Dragonbone Chair trilogy) but for some reason, I found them much less turgid.
Robin Hobb‘s assassin series was absolutely brilliant (until the ending which had me physically throwing the book across the room) and anyone who enjoys humour in a fantasy setting really owes it to themselves to read the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch.
Combining a really good book with an environment that reflects the book’s content can make it seem much more real and relevant. Reading Pirates by Celia Rees whilst on a Caribbean cruse and The Terror by Dan Simmons whilst on a transatlantic voyage really transports you in a way that reading them at home in a comfortable armchair never would have done.
So – what am I reading now? I am struggling with Steve Job’s biography. Maybe it’s because this is the first biography I have ever read, but to be honest I am really struggling. Nothing I have read so far endears me to the man. I can’t take away from his commercial legacy, but I find little in his character that appeals to me.
Time for something lighter I feel…