I have always read for pleasure. I was never one of those people who resented the books I had to read for school or university – I did choose to study English lit after all. But I must admit I looked forward to the time after my degree when I would be free to read whenever I wanted to.
And that is what I have aimed to do ever since – reading by whim, not feeling bad about setting aside a book I’m not enjoying, or choosing a gripping crime novel over a slower, more “literary” alternative.
Except of course, my reading wasn’t entirely free. I have some self-imposed logic behind each choice. There are books I have agreed to review, selections for book groups I attend, reading challenges I’ve signed up to. And even beyond those, the reasons for my choices are not purely pleasure. There’s also self-education – expanding my horizons, reading books I feel I ought to read and literally learning stuff – and the guilt of the TBR, that I really should read that book my Dad bought because I put it on my Amazon wishlist 10 years ago in an ambitious moment.
Reading just for pleasure is surprisingly rare for me. And it’s also hard to pin down quite what that means. Because there is a certain enjoyment in racing through an easy, pacy read, but they can be badly written and the effect is not unlike eating junk food – very tasty initially but even before you’re done you feel bloated and dissatisfied.
I have not read many books this month. I am, however, part-way through not one, not two, but three books. And for the first time in a while I’m riveted by my current read. I have missed that feeling.
This month we have again been busy. We went to the Great British Beer Festival (many beers, but it felt odd drinking them in a conference centre) and to the Science Museum (always excellent), revisited Reading University campus, watched 1987 film classic The Lost Boys on an outdoor screen at Bristol Zoo (bats flying over the audience added to the atmosphere and walking past the lions at night is genuinely a little scary), did a treasure trail around Bristol Harbour and celebrated our 15th anniversary. So maybe it’s not surprising that I struggled to find time to read.
I chose my online moniker more than 10 years ago when I joined Flickr. I ran through various options, including some I had used before, such as “The onion girl” – the cheesy idea that there are many layers to me, shamelessly stolen from a novel of the same name by Charles de Lint – but none felt like me until I hit on “Nose in a book”.
It’s not an original term, and I’m not the only “Nose in a book” on the Internet, but it’s a phrase that has described me all my life. As a young child if I was going to flout rules, there was probably a book involved: reading through my meals despite the “no books at the dinner table” command; reading in bed long after lights out (I always had a torch and books stuffed down the side of my mattress); even reading when I had invited a friend over to play, and leaving my sister to occupy the poor guest. My parents, being reasonable sorts, didn’t actually mind this type of rule-breaking (though some of my potential friends probably did) and would tease me gently about it.
I’ve read three Jane Austen books and so far not been blown away, but I keep wondering if she’s a writer I’ll appreciate more as I get older. She’s certainly not flowery, which I have less and less patience for. And she’s smart, which I do like. It’s hard to talk myself into reading a book that I suspect I’m not going to enjoy. But I have heard good things about Mansfield Park, so maybe I’ll give that a go.
July was a quieter month than June was or than August promises to be. Which meant I finally got to spend a few lazy days reading for hours on end, which I often miss out on in the summer. I think our next free weekend is in September, and no doubt that will get booked up soon!
One thing we did do in July was go to see Raghu Dixit live. Tim and I were complete newbies but a friend had persuaded us to join her and I’m so glad she did. He and his band are hugely talented and super upbeat. It was a really good time, and an interesting experience being at a gig where I didn’t understand the lyrics to any of the songs (well, except one line in one song that was in English). But we did still have a stab at singing along when Dixit encouraged us to.
We spent the last week of June in Scotland, in the small town of Oban on the west coast. It was beautiful, and relaxing, and did I mention beautiful? Our hotel room looked out over the water and we watched some stunning sunsets from there. We went for walks, read our books, took thousands of photos (literally thousands) and enjoyed the fantastic scenery.
It’s another month when I read a lot and blogged little. It’s not that I lacked things to blog about – a fantastic open-air Manic Street Preachers gig, the Wonder Woman film, a wonderful holiday in Scotland – but I was too busy doing those things to stop and write about them!
My reading this month was…eclectic. The standout was The Girls by Emma Cline, a very creepy book about a girl who joins a dangerous cult in 1960s California. Cline manages to convey how these on-the-surface unappealing cult members reeled in the vulnerable with just the right words and promises. It still gives me shivers thinking about it!
I will share some more pics from my Scotland holiday once I’ve sorted through at least some of them, but for now, above is a very well named bookshop in Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull. It was a pretty good shop, too.
I love lists. I especially love lists of books where I can tick off the ones I’ve read – which usually, though not always, makes me feel good about myself. I have a few lists that I have created myself, such as the Luke Cage Reading List, plus I have my own version of the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge, heavily edited by me on my many rewatches of the show (which have actually become much rarer for me since the frankly disappointing Netflix reboot).
The only list that I have set myself as a goal to complete is the Classics Club, and even that one is open to being changed over the five years of the challenge. I’m currently a little behind on that but at halfway through the challenge period I’m not too worried.
Every few years I do a quick count of how many books I have read from certain prize lists (I generally do best at the Women’s Prize for Fiction) and one day I will actually store that information in a spreadsheet so that I don’t need to start from scratch each time.
Summer arrived! And it was glorious. It probably did my physical health no good, but mentally I was definitely smiling from ear to ear every sunny evening. I do love a sunny evening. I’d take rainy mornings anytime if I could have those long, warm evenings.
Anyway, this month I finally ran my 10k race. It was really hard (turns out I should have tried to train with my brother at some point rather than discovering on the day that he runs just a little bit faster than me – I kept up for 6k and felt like I might die, but then I slowed down and actually made it to the end without walking and with a PB time) but I’m really pleased with my personal achievement and with having been able to raise a decent amount of money for charity.
We took advantage of the bank holidays and nice weather to have some weekend fun. We went to Tyntesfield, a National Trust property just outside Bristol with nice gardens and remarkably tame cows. We spent a long weekend in Liverpool noodling around museums and art galleries, and concluded that there is too much there to see and do in just one weekend. We went to Cardiff for the Diffusion photography festival, which included some really impressive stuff. And we spent lots of time hanging out around Bristol harbour, particularly the redeveloped Gaol Ferry Steps, which is such a nice place to be.