Bedtime reading

One hobby I don’t do enough of is reading, at least reading anything that isn’t on a screen. Getting through BuzzFeed and Cracked articles is not exactly in the same league as reading Tolstoy or Steinbeck.

Yet I still read a lot of book, that is not a typo or bad grammar I just seem to read the same thing repeatedly. Anyone with a child will tell you repetition is an integral part of having a toddler. Life with a three-year-old seems to be full of the refrain “again”.

We really want to encourage our kids to appreciate books so they have plenty of them and a bedtime routine that allows for a story. To make sure they read plenty we have bought collections of tales for them to choose. We have the entire box sets of Mr Men and Little Miss, and a compendium of fairy tales. Many books with dinosaurs and a whole range of scatological themed rhymes, not forgetting the essential Dr Seuss. They have plenty to choose from.

Which is why it is frustrating to be rereading the same books for another night. The only positive point of rereading The Gingerbread Man, and spoilers here, is his inevitable doom at the hands of the fox (I wonder if this is the same fox who ‘assisted’ Chicken Licken, Loosey Goosey and co?). It’s a book full of repetition and to read it again and again, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man, is annoying.

It seems to have been the way ever since our progeny developed an opinion. To begin with, I could select whichever book I fancied. In this way I could read the 50 Mr Men series. I would have to fight a wriggle monster but I could still change up the story every night.

Not now. Now the chosen tale is selected by them. I learn that children are amazing, but they are not great with change. Once they have found something they love (In the Night Garden, Leggings, Chocolate) it will be their ‘go to’.

So as soon as a book hits the child’s emotional centre (like Les Miserables would if you were an adult) they put it on the limited rotation of approved texts. This is where The Gingerbread Man sits. It is the latest in a long line of Ten Little Fingers (Review: okay), The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet (Awesome), and The Sailor Dog (Kill me if I have to read it again).

What all these books, and any I read with my children, do is more important than the story. It is the time I get to share with them I cherish. It is important to Me and Mrs G that our children share our love of reading, and I am happy that I can be part of this.

After I have read to them they are allowed to sit on the floor to ‘read’ the book by themselves. A-Rex can’t read but he is learning to retell stories, we can tell he will repeat back the cadence of the tale. If he doesn’t know the story, he can look at the pictures and make it up.

So I read to them time after time, it’s helping them learn. I love it when they look at me and say “again”.


Read me to sleep

I have four bookcases with 600 books. They range from a history of the bible to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson via Marx and bridges. From Roald Dahl to Jose Saramago through Hugo and Melville. Like everything else in my life there is an eclectic mix of topics, they are just sitting there collecting dust.

I could once set myself a target of reading fifteen books a year, and could achieve that. A combination of plenty of alone time and a comfortable toilet seat meant I could power through a book in a week. Parenting has slowed my reading to a crawl. I love reading, but what can I do to read more?

I used to read on the train to work but what happens when I reach my destination and I haven’t finished? So I can’t read Game of Thrones on the locomotive, I would go sailing by my stop and spend an evening on the rail network.

First thing in the morning is not that conducive to doing mental tasks, especially those that require visual acuity to do. My eyes and brain are too tired to process the words on a page. Considering tome in my satchel is “The signal and the noise”, about using big data to forecast events, then I may just call this a losing battle.

Perhaps I should read at night before I go to sleep, but reading excites me. Whether it is because I’m reading an enjoyable novel or an interesting piece of nonfiction having a glance at a book at night only wakes me up. I suppose I could try something less exciting, or boring, but do you know what they call those books… Man Booker prize winners. I’m looking at you Life of Pi, a book so boring it makes me angry I even read the back cover blurb.

Seriously, don’t bother with Life of Pi.

It should be good sleep hygiene to turn off a screen and pick up the sheets of paper that don’t burn into your brain and keep you awake. Yet I’m buying more and more digital books just so the next time I move I don’t have to pack them all up.

Just like the train ride, I also don’t want to reach a point where the book is smashing into my face because I’m too tired to stop reading an exciting part. The stress of a Red Wedding is not the ideal preparation for a good night’s sleep.

So now the only time I get to read is around 7pm when the Feliciraptor goes to bed and she gets her bedtime story. I’ve already read The Tiger that came to Tea and Dr Seuss so instead I will read some of my own books, I have a rather interesting one on quantum physics and the last Game of Thrones I’m still working on. It will be a strange childhood for them.


Boring Books

In recent years I have lost the reading bug, being married means I have other things to do at night than curl up with a good book. For instance, making lunches and doing the washing up. As a result, I have to be more particular with which novel I pick up. There may be plenty of problems with The Da Vinci Code, but it did something Captain Corelli’s Mandolin couldn’t. Make me want to turn the page, and that is a key factor for a book getting its teeth into me.

I read Life of Pi, and I am told it is a well-written book, but I thought it was rubbish. It won literary prizes but nothing happened, or if it did, I missed it. For me this is the greatest crime any book can commit, to be boring. It helps if it is fun, but some of my favourite books (like The Book Thief or Hey Nostradamus) are oppressive. They still wanted me to finish them because they had a real bite from page one that refused to let go.

This is the problem, I’m not a fan of books that explore the deep hidden truths of what makes the human spirit, or any of that similar nonsense excitedly lapped up by book prize judges. As a fan of genre writing I am constantly frustrated that there are some amazing writers that are ignored, just because they write fantasy (thinking of China Mieville here, it’s a literary-crime that none of his novels have won outside of the geeks award circle).

All the time I am being preached at, told how crap the world is out there. Entertain me like a Roman Emperor looking down on a father who will get his revenge in one of many worlds. I want action, or fun, or just something that resembles forward momentum. I don’t care if it is hard to read because it is so literary. I’ve read Nobel literature winners (seriously Jose Saramago is amazing) so this isn’t about being an adjective snob, it’s about stories that have little narrative. If I can read the synopsis of your book on Wikipedia and it still bores me, then I will not invest in reading your 300 page novel.

To help me avoid the boring books the publishing industry has helpfully created a category to allow me to avoid them, they called it the MAN Booker Prize.

Rather than sitting here moaning, I should get my fingers sorted and start writing a novel. The question then arises what kind of story would I write? Will it be a deeply layered mythos like Middle Earth or Bas-Lag? A modern sci-fi parable about the dangers of science or a fantastical hero’s journey across ancient lands? A 500 page novel of danger and thrills, or a 300 comedy?

They say you should write what you know.

So coming soon to all good bookstores…”My life behind the screen”. The tale of a man who sits on his computer all day hoping to write a great piece of fiction that will make him millions, but puts it off and is far too easily distracted by cricket and girls. That sounds so dull and boring… perhaps I have a chance of winning the MAN Booker prize.


Dummies for Dummies

The world is full of stupid people; the results of elections and the popularity of certain TV shows are evidence on this. One publisher has spotted a niche in the market and has guides on everything dummies may want. Look in any bookstore and most sections you will see books with yellow spines declaring a quick and easy guide to that subject.
This weekend I was looking around for a book on Excel dashboards (and have found one – Excel Dashboards for Dummies) but then ended up on Amazon stumbling around the ‘For Dummies’ section. There are loads of them; a quick check says there are over 1,600 different titles.

This piqued my curiosity, what else could I learn about through the medium of Richard Tennant cartoons (is it just me or does anyone else first scan through to find the 5th Wave captions) and lists of ten things? What areas of my knowledge they could enhance from dummy status?

Well, Mrs G loves the Narnia series, no panic… C.S. Lewis & Narnia for Dummies can provide a friendly introduction to the master storyteller and Christian apologist, revealing the meanings behind The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters and his other works. You’ll also discover why Lewis went from being a confirmed atheist to a committed Christian and how he addressed his beliefs in his writings. Different from how to do a VLOOKUP.

No topic is too obscure. Acne, Dungeon Mastery, Clarinet, Finches, Marathon Training, Sustainable Australian Travel, Urban Planning or Parenting. This got me thinking… if I could read a different For Dummies book every week then in a year’s time I would be 52 different areas cleverer (perhaps I should tackle grammar first).

It won’t be as random as I will look for topics that I might have some interest in, and books that I can easily read (at £20 a pop I will rely on those I can read previews of online or at the bookstore).

How dangerous can a bit of extra knowledge be? A whole generation of Leaders appear to understand the world and science based upon a cursory glance on an overview of Climate Change or social policy.