One of my all-time favourite authors, Stephen King once recommended that writers should be prolific readers. The many benefits of this are obvious-improved spelling and grammar, meaningful thought and inspiration provocation, the experience of different genres and techniques and the opportunity to relish in the art which writers respect. Storytelling is something I hugely enjoy, whether I am writing, reading or watching films, but for this blog post I’d like to go over some of the books I read and enjoyed in 2015. I won’t contain any spoilers in case you want to read any!
Doctor Sleep-Stephen King
Now, this book took me a long time to complete, and was even interrupted half way through by another book on this list. But why? Stephen King is one of my favourite authors as I have mentioned, and the prospect of this story, a sequel to The Shining set in the future with an all grown up Danny Torrance, sounded fantastic. I confess I found the book slow to start. This usually doesn’t trouble me, but with so many stories introduced and not yet interwoven, I initially found it hard to keep tabs and understand why certain incidents and characters were relevant. But, when these mysteries start coming together and making sense as a whole, Stephen King blew me away. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The plot was thrilling and the characters hugely personable. I especially liked Danny’s transition throughout the novel and the quieter moments in the hospital where he works. Returning to some of the themes and issues from The Shining, Doctor Sleep was enough of a departure for me to enjoy on its own, but provided enough nods to satisfy my appreciation of the previous book.
The Fault in Our Stars-John Green
I recall sobbing through the film in December 2014 but did not get round to reading the book for an entire year. Browsing my bookshelf I was looking for a meaningful piece but something refreshing too. I read the first few lines at a glance and wandered off with it straight away. This book resonates with me in particular as I have for a long time now tried to find something (a film or book) to help me articulate my thoughts on cancer. To tell me something real about cancer. This is due to my mother’s experience with the illness a few years back. I’m afraid My Sister’s Keeper (the film and book) did not cut it, although I like Piccoult’s work usually. This though, hit the nail right on the head. For those who don’t know, this book focusses on the relationship of two teens who have cancer. It was honest and heart-breaking but demonstrated humour and hope too. It helped me understand how changeable and fragile we are and that in truth, “oblivion is inevitable” and there is nothing we can do about it. Rather than stifling, this was inspiring, as the characters experiencing these revelations are much younger and braver than myself and the acceptance of this overall truth was freeing.
Far From the Madding Crowd-Thomas Hardy
Now, I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have already covered this wonderful book, and recent film adaptation in a previous blog post (which you can read here.) Having seen the film and found it to be not at all what I was expecting, I decided to give the book a chance, and found a lovely copy in my local Oxfam Music and Books store. I often fear with older literature that I won’t follow it as closely or enjoy it as fully as I would perhaps a modern piece (more on that later!), and Hardy has a reputation for being difficult to read but I found that I didn’t struggle with this one at all. I found the characters to be beautifully realised (flaws and all) and the countryside perfectly described. It delved into the depths of key human emotions and sufferings and articulated them in a way that was at times grim, but very real. Then on top of all this, we have Bathsheba, who to me is one of the greatest literary heroines I have ever encountered and a true inspiration for the feminist cause.
A Christmas Carol-Charles Dickens
So speaking of authors who have a reputation for being difficult to read, Dickens’ reputation proceeds him also in this matter. My love of films and books often go hand and hand, and like The Fault in Our Stars and Far From the Madding Crowd, I am often introduced to books through films. It is one of my Christmas traditions to watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, which I have done since childhood. In 2014, my in-laws took my husband and I to see an amateur production in Yorkshire which was lovely, and was one of my first experiences of this story without Muppets in. This year, my father asked me for some Christmas gift ideas, and I asked for some hardbacks, including A Christmas Carol and other Christmas writings by Dickens. It’s a lovely edition and I started reading it on Christmas Eve. Once again, my concerns about this story being a bit inaccessible due to its age were completely unfounded-plus my edition has some rather helpful notes in the back! This book was appropriately disturbing and emotionally charged. His use of language is also completely beguiling and rich and successfully creates any emotion he wishes to conjure in his reader. Overall, I found the experience rewarding and humbling and may make reading the book itself a Christmas tradition!
So, what books will I read in 2016? Well, I am currently finishing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but haven’t yet decided what will be next (I’ll keep you posted). In the meantime, I ought to go back to the business of writing, but knowing that my time spent reading, is time well spent, according to King anyway 🙂