Chip off the Old Blog: the Joy of Books

Years ago, I bought my parents a framed print by the Punch cartoonist H E Bateman entitled ‘An Attempt to Evade the Best Seller’ which summed up our family’s reading addiction. I still have it.

Even when I’m writing flat-out, I never stop reading. The TV might go unwatched, the radio unheard and this blog guiltily overlooked, but I will still have at least one book on the go. No matter if I’m crawling into bed at dawn after a plot-twisting night shift, I crave that daily chapter to take me somewhere else for a while. These are often novels I’ve read before because I take precious little in when I’m writing round-the-clock, but my reading reflex is so instinctive I wouldn’t be without them. My Jane Austens have now fallen apart so badly, I’ve downloaded them to my Kindle; Northanger Abbey still makes me laugh aloud, Persuasion makes me cry.

From my first Peter and Jane, through a thousand pony stories, torchlit nights beneath the duvet with Jilly and Jackie, lost weekends with the Brontës to the decades of blissful page-turning which had followed, reading remains my favourite fix. Books soothe me like nothing else.

I buy far too many books – more than I could ever hope to read – and from every available outlet. My favourite spot will always be the traditional bookshop, its shelves striped floor to ceiling with unbroken spines. But I also struggle to leave a supermarket without snaffling a new paperback. No charity shop can be passed without me diving inside in search of vintage romps and cosy crime, ditto National Trust visitor attractions with their second-hand bookshops. I borrow new hardbacks from the library, and I’m hopelessly addicted to 99p eBook deals. My idea of heaven is to be granted a year in which to do nothing but read all the books I own which I’ve not yet found time for.

If I find a writer I love, I want to binge everything they’ve written: Tessa Hadley, Rachel Joyce, vintage Janet Evanovich. Debut authors are terrific – and I appreciate why publishers love them for all that potential – but I want the backlist, and fast. The thrill I felt when I discovered the late M C Beaton’s Agatha Raisin Series ten years ago was overwhelming, almost thirty books at the time and now that the series is being continued after her death, there are more. I’m nearing the end and rationing them out.

Waiting for a favourite author to produce something can be agonising, but when they do I find the wait oh-so-worth-it for the binge-reading pay-off. Above all, I adore big books (The Goldfinch, A Suitable Boy, The Luminaries, Middlemarch, plentiful Dickens and Jilly again). I’ve just come up for air after 1000 pages of the latest Robert Galbraith, borrowed from the local library which prolonged the wait but spread the love. For a week, I was the character in that H M Bateman cartoon. I’m now escaping to Italy with a fabulous new author, figuratively speaking, then racing home to gather up Maggie Farrell, Janet Hallett and Curtis Sittenfeld, possibly squeezing some Agatha Raison sleuthing in between.

One day I will be organised enough to add a page to this website full of book recommendations and reviews. I love getting book suggestions and will never cease being fascinated by what people read and why. My love of reading is the reason I write. There will be much more news on what exactly I’m writing between all this reading next time I blog, I promise. For now, I hope this helps explain why it has been so quiet here of late. Wishing you all lots of very happy reading this spring.

Meanwhile, Country Secrets will be published in August, and it now has its own dedicated page on this website. For more details, please click on the book cover below.

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