Discussion: The many lives, travels and adventures of a bookworm

Discussion: The many lives, travels and adventures of a bookworm

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies”, said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one” – George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

I have read many books over the years – fiction, non-fiction, biographical, action, adventure, historical, futuristic, comic books, horror and fantasy. A lot of them I have read until they become battered, dog-eared, with spines broken and covers and pages coming free from their bindings (though not an issue for my Kindle books). I haven’t read any of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books, though I am a massive fan of the TV series. But I will. That said, I found this quote, and it really resonated with me. We wake up, eat, go to work, do chores, go to bed, repeat. But as readers, the second we open the cover, we slip in to the lives of the characters so well-represented in black and white on these pages. We live vicariously through them, or even alongside them if the descriptive narrative is that rich! But this quote for me doesn’t quite go far enough. It isn’t just the thousand lives we live through books, it is the myriad locales and exotic, alien, barren, urban or otherwise, locations that we visit, inhabit and explore whenever we pick up a book.
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As a child I visited Badger’s House and Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows and crept through Mr. McGregor’s Garden with Peter Rabbit. In later years I experienced the horrors inside the possessed Overlook Hotel. I’ve walked the halls and classrooms of Hogwarts and strolled through the alleys and streets of Diagon Alley. And one of my favourites – I’ve wandered the cobbled streets of Ankh-Morpork and enjoyed a bar brawl or three in the Mended Drum.

The best authors create characters we connect with. They make us laugh with them, love them, loathe them. A good character is entertaining, a great character is real. The same goes for locations. If we can almost hear, smell and feel the surroundings, a book is far more engaging. The worlds created in our minds, constructed from varied combinations of the same twenty-six letters of the British language don’t have to be real. But if those letters are made in to words, and those words combined in just the right way, well, then they create something so vivid in our minds’ eye that the locations might as well be real.

Some people say reading a favourite book is like slipping in to a comfy pair of slippers. When I open my favourite books, I get a sense of going home – visiting a location I feel I know, somewhere I could walk blindfolded following my other senses thanks to the vibrant description. And when I read about characters in books I have read many times before, it’s like visiting old friends again. On a level, we know them, and how they work, what makes them tick, if the author has made them deep, multidimensional even.

So yes, a man who reads lives a thousand lives. But he also travels a thousand roads, in a thousand countries, worlds, galaxies, universes. He travels thousands of realities. A well constructed, brilliantly written book isn’t just an escape from reality, but it can be a whole new and wonderful place to visit, with different adventures to enjoy!

Who are your favourite characters and locations in books? Where do you go, and who with when you take your most loved book off the shelf and open the cover? Let me know in the comments section. 🙂

Discussion: Enjoying books in all their forms

Discussion: Enjoying books in all their forms

This post is something a little different, something I hope will become a bit more of a feature in the future here on L-Space books. Rather than a rundown on the books I have read and my thoughts on them, this post is aimed at generating discussion between you, the readers, and myself. And I really do hope you will all join in and engage.

20150702_061011In the beginning, some bright spark – a German goldsmith by the name Johannes Guttenberg – invented the printing press. This allowed mass production of pamphlets, literary material and books. Okay, so maybe a large portion of the global population was mostly illiterate at the time, it still sparked the birth of the printed word. This was around 1440. And things continued in printed form for quite some years to follow.
Nearly 500 years in all. In the 1930s, full-length novels started to get record onto long play records. This was done for people with visual disabilities – primarily war-blinded soldiers from the First World War, and those blind who could not read braille. Spoken word recordings of literature were made during the 1950s for mass release. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that audiobooks as many think of them came to be. It was at this point, the first cassette audiobooks came onto the market.

And then, of course, technology evolved even further in the decades that followed. Now e-books enter the fray. A form of written word book that is produced in an electronic format. These can be read on computers, and in more recent years, e-readers, tablet devices and smartphones. These allow a book hundreds, or even thousands of pages long to be contained and carried in dedicated devices only a few millimeters thick, and a fraction of the weight of the physical book. They also mean vast libraries of books can be stored, transported and accessed at a moment’s notice.

So that’s the background, thanks for bearing with me. And here’s where the discussion starts. I am a member on a number of book and author-related forums and social media groups. I see a large number of comments and memes relating to e-books and e-readers. Or more to the point, how you aren’t a real bookworm if you use such devices. Many are posted in jest, maybe to get a rise out of others, but a few posts are genuine. There are similar numbers of posts regarding audiobooks and how they are wonderful for people who cannot read or have conditions restricting their ability to hold a full-length book.

That’s a fair point, but surely e-readers also hold similar benefits. Fair point, they are no good to those who cannot read, but they can still be helpful to those who can’t hold a full book but can hold these devices briefly. And here’s the added bonus, compared to film adaptations or audiobooks, you are still reading the written word.

I treasure my Kindle higher than many of my other possessions. It means I have entire book series’ on hand. 40 or so books of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series? The whole of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series? All in one compact device that I can carry with me and access almost anywhere. and thanks to smartphone and tablet apps, I can read in even more situations, where I may not have my Kindle. If someone tried to take it from me, I may just commit a capital crime. And do you know what? I’d welcome the solace to read, I’d ask the prison warden to put me in solitary as long as I could keep my Kindle with me.

BUT – I. Still. Own. Books. That’s right, you really can have your cake and eat it. Sometimes my Kindle isn’t appropriate – comic books, graphic novels and so on. I have a shelf in my front room, lined with special edition books. I will hold my hand up, I don’t read these, that’s where I have my Kindle versions. But they certainly aren’t museum pieces never to be touched. I take them down from time to time, to look at the beautiful covers, open them, feel the pages, smell that smell that only books have, enjoy them. Some are signed copies of favourite books and authors. But these weren’t bought to sell on in years to come for profit. They weren’t bought to pass on and be kept in darkness. They take pride of place in my home, for me to enjoy. To take down and look at, and smile.
20150702_065830In this modern world, why can’t I read books on a Kindle and still be a bookworm? I still love the words, the stories, the worlds created as much as I would in a real book. I enjoy the people, the locations, the vivid images the words produce. At the end of the day, isn’t that what reading and being a book worm is really all about?

Do you use a Kindle or similar device? Do you listen to audiobooks – whether because of health conditions, or in the car or gym? Lets have a discussion, use the comments section below to let me know your thoughts. I want to hear from as many of you as possible and get a conversation going! 🙂