In this new blog series, I ask my friends and family to talk a little about their current reads. I figured it would make a change to look at the reading habits of people who read a lot but don’t blog about it usually.
Today’s answer comes from my friend L, who I have worked with for about six years. She takes part in Viking Age re-enactments – the fighting part as well as the living-history part – and we originally bonded over hula fit classes. She was also a large part of the reason I wanted to learn to knit, because since I have known her she has taught herself from scratch and is now making all kinds of fancy items. Here is what L says about what she’s reading…
My answer is complicated as at the moment I’ve started many books at once. The one I turn to daily is the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (the third in the series). A few months ago I came home from work a bit early with a visual migraine. When I get this, the back of one of my eyes starts hurting, the lights seem a bit intense and then I get dancey flashy lights at the periphery of my vision that gradually make their way to the front of my vision. The best animation I’ve found of this is on Wikipedia. It becomes hard to read as the words are moving, and all I want is to not have light in my eyes, so at 5 pm one weekday I ended up with all the lights out, laid down on the sofa, with my arm over my eyes trying to block daylight out, and feeling a bit queasy with a sore eye. A sleep usually fixes things, but it was so early that I didn’t feel like a nap, and that’s when audiobooks occurred to me. With a half-opened eye I explored Audible, looking for something that was comforting (as I was feeling sorry for myself) and not too hard to follow.
I eventually settled on Stephen Fry reading the Harry Potter series, and since then I’ve got into the habit of falling asleep each night with Harry Potter playing on my pillow as I drop off. I read the whole series several years ago, in paperback, and in the meantime I have watched all the films annually in the run-up to Christmas. It’s an annual treat, and I still find them exciting and comforting to watch every time, despite the scripts being incredibly familiar to me. I have been reminded on listening to the audiobooks, though, that there is an awful lot from the books that I had forgotten, as the films have become the reality for me. So I have been enjoying hearing the forgotten parts of the stories, and a surprising number of one-liners that make me laugh out loud.
In terms of physical paper books, which I am not reading actively at the moment because the audiobooks have taken my bedtime reading slot, there are four. One is Hild by Nicola Griffith, which is historical fiction. As you know, I have got massively into Viking Age re-enactment at the moment. I am pretty ignorant about history in general, and think learning about that period would only work for me from the point of view of reading stories about people rather than reading about historical finds or who were the leaders in various parts of Britain, etc. A friend recommended Hild as being – unusually for literature of this type – from a woman’s perspective. I am several chapters in and have enjoyed it so far, in so much as it plods along nicely; I’m not desperate to know what happens next. And it mentions the kinds of crafts I’ve been learning about and practising and seeing practised myself. What I’ve found, though, is that I immerse myself so much in this hobby at the weekends and in the evenings sometimes that I do want to switch off from it when I go to bed!
It is partly for this reason I think that my copy of Laxdæla – one of the Icelandic sagas – is also semi-abandoned by my bedside. That, and the fact that it’s a very odd reading experience compared with modern stories. It’s very much “this happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened” and we are introduced to characters at a rate much higher than I can keep track of. I had decided to try this one as I had heard that it has the most female characters in (if not actually approaching gender balance) and one theory is that it was written by a woman. I thought this woman’s perspective might suit me better than a man’s, plus I was on the lookout for a suitable name to use for my character from that period.
The third physical book I have started is Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. This was bought following a trip to see Rushdie speak about it. It was intriguing but as I am in the habit of reading at sleep-time, Stephen Fry’s telling of Harry Potter is just far too tempting.
Finally, the fourth book I am picking up every so often – usually on a non-work night – is Akira. I stayed at friends’ a few months ago who had the whole series in the spare room I was sleeping in, and as I need something to read to send me off, and I’m not sure the audiobook habit had started by then, I pulled the first one off the shelf, having seen the film a few decades ago when I was a kid. A few years ago I read the Deathnote series and loved it – I could hardly put it down – and I have since been hoping to find a manga story that appeals to me even half so much as that does. Akira doesn’t meet this criteria, but it is intriguing in its own way and I do plan to keep on going with it at least to the end of the first volume.
Thank you L for your full and eloquent answer to my fairly vague question!