There is nothing like scouring bookshops, amazon and The Book Depository in search of beautiful and fascinating books. I often lose myself for a few hours going from one book to another on amazon and adding to my wishlist as I go. You could call it an obsession, but I think of it as passion. If I didn’t love books, love reading, then what kind of writer would I be? My craft is reading, absorbing good writing and discovering what bad writing might look like (or bad editing, as the case may be). I write from this experience – absorbing words and drawing on the vocabulary that I pick up from different writers. It all gets sent to my subconscious, stored up, creating images and words of its own.
Another thing that I love as much as reading is looking. Looking at beautiful illustration, artwork, journals that use different media and even beautiful fonts, gives me inspiration. The way I see it is that when you start to write, you have to begin by looking at the world. That means stopping, taking stock, describing simple, everyday things using your language. This is something I find I don’t do enough of, and I feel that I need to go back to basics. Going back to basics is humbling – it reminds you to think about the little things in life and how important they are. Its all very well writing about strange new worlds, but if you can’t describe the things around you, how are you going to describe a whole new planet?
The smell of new books, to me, is like fresh sawdust; to me it means ‘new’. When I see or hear the word ‘new’, I smell this fresh smell of new books. One day, I will possibly run out of space for books. I will have to start giving them away or putting them into storage, but until then, I want to cultivate my book collection, and read my way through history books all the way through to fantasy. I want to read outside my comfort zone and discover authors randomly, exactly how I discovered Neil Gaiman one afternoon in a Waterstones in Edinburgh. Nobody had told me about him – this is what I like about random browsing because you never know what you’ll come up with.
I remember one afternoon filled with possibility when my sister and I went to Colchester for the day. We spent the day browsing in Waterstones, drinking hot chocolate in a craft cafe, dreaming about the possibilities of owning our own jewellery, craft, book cafe one day. I think it will always remain one of those things we both want to do – own or run a cafe of some kind. In Cornwall. That sells cupcakes with a ‘cupcake of the day’ promotion. Or beautiful homemade cinnamon buns. Incidentally, Colchester is a lovely place to explore – it has back streets behind the main high street where I think there is a Lush, some interesting shops and restaurants. There is also this lovely noodle bar that we’ve been to a few times. Usually, we go there because there are captioned shows on at the theatre – Colchester’s shows are excellent. Well worth a look!
I’ve just put up a page (next to my ‘about’ tab) which I hope will document all the books I read this year. So far I’ve read Trespass by Valerie Martin, The Style Diaries (about fashion bloggers), and I’m in the process of reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. To be honest, I don’t know why people keep giving it bad reviews, saying its self indulgent and that they can’t relate to her – I know that we pick up non fiction books in order to relate to someone but sometimes, you read a book because you want to learn about other people and what they think, feel and believe. That doesn’t always equate to ‘relating’ to somebody. Some of the best non fiction books I’ve read come from people who are extremely unlike me and my experience of life, such as Stephen Fry. I find Elizabeth Gilbert to be endearing and inspiring – someone who has experienced things and written about her journey. Isn’t that what autobiography is about?
Anyway, I’m going to list some of the books and authors that some people might not have heard of, who are worth checking out, if you like that sort of thing!
Neil Gaiman – writes fantasy, based in the real world with quirky characters.
Natalie Goldberg – author of Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind, and Thunder and Lightning – all very inspiring and important books for writers.
Danny Gregory – an incredible illustrator who has edited and written (and illustrated) some interesting books – The Creative License is wonderful if you want to open up your mind to other creative expressions.
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. About love, loss and a life of music and mixtapes.
Nick Hornby’s non Fiction books – 39 Songs, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree – as well as being a brilliant fiction writer, Nick Hornby is a pretty funny non fiction writer!
Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate books – funny, satiric books about a heroine who has no soul in Victorian London – a supernatural steampunk fantasy.
Nylon books – Nylon Street, Nylon Play and Nylon Pretty – a compendium of fashion and beauty influenced by music, film and street culture by the editors of Nylon magazine. Great for style and beauty inspiration!