Following the surprising success of my post, Do you keep a record of books you’ve read? back in November, much has happened. One of my lovely readers introduced me to goodreads and I have built vast virtual bookshelves of books I have read, want to read and am reading. I have discovered the name of the book I remembered (but couldn’t name) and its author. I have even faced up to the number of books I have bought or been given that lie on real bookshelves, quite literally gathering dust as they remain unread. I even set myself the official and public challenge of reading a set number of books before the end of the year.
There’s nothing like the threat of public shame and humiliation to get me moving!
This is all fantastic and makes me very happy (well, with the possible exception of how many books I own that I need to read, especially when I’m bombarded by tempting titles on special offer every time I walk into my local bookstore or browse Amazon…). So how am I doing? Well, here we are just past Midsummer and I’m halfway through my list, reading book seven (having got sidetracked by book six – Fifty Shades of Grey – which I read on holiday in just two afternoons flat it was that good!). I don’t think that’s bad going, considering I’m a time-starved working mum who didn’t actually start this process until the end of January. In other words, technically speaking, I’m a month ahead of my target! *Turns round to pat self on back*
Are you sensing there might be another side to this shiny coin, a problem to muddy the waters of my otherwise peaceful reading paradise? Well, you’d be right. The big problem is that book seven has me stuck. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great book. It is a very interesting book.
The book is Alison Weir’s “Eleanor of Aquitaine”. Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with this woman, she lived most of her life in twelfth century Europe. At the age of only fifteen, she was Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers, with territories consisting of a broad swath of France, as we know it today. She married the French King, Louis, and later Henry II of England (him of Thomas Becket fame), and sources show her to be both gossiped about (ooh err Missus!) and respected.
Women didn’t necessarily carve out their own roles in those days and relied heavily on the protection and patronage of the men in their life. So in a nutshell, this woman must have been a force to reckon with. She not only managed to keep herself safe from several attempts at kidnap and forced marriage on the death of her father, but also sweet-talked her way out of a marriage, while her husband was still alive and it was not at all in his best interests to let her go. She even went on to marry one of the most influential and charismatic men of his time and I’m only half way through the book!
I am enjoying it, I am just finding it harder to read in an ‘it’s not really got me hooked’ kind of way. It feels like I’m reading for homework, rather than for pleasure – there’s structure, where I prefer plot and factual description where I prefer believable characterisation. I usually find that factual books are slower reads than novels, unless the writer in question is a natural-born storyteller. I think that is the only real problem. It is important to me that I read this book fast – I need to get through my list in time – if for no other reason than to find a dozen books I can eBay to make room and limit the dust in my house!
Nevertheless, I want to write too and I can’t do both as I only have a few hours available each day. I tend to read on the tube and write after dinner/before bed. Some might think I should stick to dusting my bookshelves, ironing the laundry or something else I’d find equally mind-numbing, but I’d only burn holes and knock over expensive ornaments so what’s the point? They say if you want to write well, you need to read (and write!) more.
Research, inspiration, plot ebb and flow, better grammar – whatever the reason, reading and writing are what I want to do in my down time and yet they constantly fight each other for my attention.
Do you find it easy to strike a balance between time you spend reading and time writing?
What is your ratio?
© Mayfair Mum, 2012