The Peripheral - William Gibson
Loved this imaginative tale about the future connecting directly with the distant future through some crazy wormhole. I read it after seeing a 3d video where Bill Gates recommends it - and wasn't disappointed. Gibson is one of my fav authors, and he continually comes up with the goods. Read it if you want your mind expanded.
Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Just read this imaginative dystopian tale about a ‘fireman’ who burns books to stop the population from thinking and rebelling, but has a change of heart. It’s very prescient, particularly on stupefying mass-media consumption. A good, quick (3.5hr) read, worth the investment.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Brutal & compelling dystopian fiction. Like being in a slo-mo car wreck. The narrator says near the end: "I’m sorry it’s in fragments, like a body caught in crossfire, or pulled apart by force." Not planning to watch the TV series.
I hit on a fantastic was of scheduling my reading time by working out how long it will take me to read a particular book. I wish I’d done this when I was at Uni, studying Eng Lit & Lang. Ploughing through Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Sterne, Joyce… Putting in the hours.
So, you know how a DVD, Netflix or Amazon movie tells you exactly how much time is left? Well, for my last three books, I worked out roughly how many pages I can read in 30 minutes. I doubled it to get my hour rate. Okay, stay with me.
Then I took the total pages in the book, and divided it by the hour number. The figure is roughly how long it will take me to read the book. It's also meant I can keep track of how long I have left, at any one point, by taking the pages left and dividing them by my hour figure. So simple!
The results are:
There you have it. Life changing, in a small but satisfying way. You can try it for free if you like!
I love reading. Here are 10 books that have influenced my writing over the years, and a sense of why I've loved reading them.
#10 - Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock.
This mind-bending series is wildly imaginative, set in a dying, chaotic world where humanity can create, destroy and time travel at whim using power rings, but finds itself utterly bored until…
#9 – Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.
Forget the Clooney movie (though Tarkovsky comes closer), Solaris is about a planet that communicates with the orbiting astronauts through neutrino-based replicas of close/dead friends. Mysterious and beautiful.
#8 – Gateway by Frederick Pohl.
Gateway is a tantalising tale, tracking the discovery of an intelligent alien race. Ahead of its time, it covers AI butlers and digitally-encoded after-lives. I loved the awe-inspiring sense of mystery and discovery.
#7 – The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien.
You HAVE to read the books. The movies aren’t enough. Only the words can adequately convey the impressive array of characters, terrains, cultures, domains, philosophies, humour & jaw-dropping vistas. Aah!
#6 – Neuromancer by William Gibson.
Cyberpunk classic Neuromancer makes the reader work hard: catching future-lingo and future-techs- brain-enhancing 'microsofts', visual implants and webrunners who live in the virtual world. Way ahead of its time.
#5 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams.
The Earth blows up, a restaurant at the end of the universe, an infinite impossibility drive generator, a depressed robot: what’s there not to love? Proves you can combine sci-fi with outrageous humour.
#4 – Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson.
This one's so ‘out there’ in its vision of the future, it’s a dystopian inspiration. Anarcho-capitalism, an avatar-packed MMO VR world, massive hyperinflation, bio-warfare and corporate-owned suburbia. Stunning.
#3 – Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
Hard to pick my fav Dickens (I also love Our Mutual Friend) but this has it all: legal plot twists (conflicting wills), intrigue, danger (spontaneous combustion) and loads of great characters. A masterful work.
#2 – Generation X - Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland.
A big-hearted story about Gen Xers telling each other life stories. I found the book in a discount bin in the 90s. It was my intro to one of my now fav writers. He’s a sharp culture-vulture and really funny.
#1 – Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake.
Castle Gormenghast is a sprawling, decaying, gothic labyrinth. Its deliciously-Dickensian inhabitants are its strength: scheming Steerpike, wild Fucshia, Lord Sepulchrave and Titus: the boy about to inherit it all.
These books - and others - have been a huge influence and help in writing the 5fingers series, including book 5 - 5fingers: freedom - which is being launched September 29th 2018. Come to the free launch event if you can!
How about you? What's your favourite book? Let me know - comment below!
Today I’m speaking to two sets of people: ones who want to read more books, and parents who are wondering: how can I get my kids to read more? I have three school age kids. From month to month, they love reading, hate reading or are indifferent to reading. Regardless, I try to model persistent reading to them, and encourage them to learn to love books for themselves. Here are my top tips.
1. Let your kids catch you reading. Read in different places, chairs and rooms. Sit on the stairs and read, read while you’re snacking or in bed. Make it the culture of your house to have piles of books around, and dip into them! Children tend to do what they see modelled to them.
2. Read with them. Not just when they’re toddlers or early years. Carry on reading with them as they approach their teenage years. Do it today. Read a chunk, then let them read a chunk. Set a regular time to read – morning, after school, early evening or late evening - whatever works for you.
3. Pick a book and read it as a family. We’ve done the Lord of the Rings, The Magic Faraway Tree, and Narnia, among others. Reading something almost every day is a challenge: sometimes we don’t feel in the mood. But we keep going and it's so worth it!
4. Encourage your kids to read to you. I have seen my children’s reading levels and comprehension rise over time as we’ve asked them to read out loud to us. We do the voices, sometimes use accents, and try to put expression into our readings. It’s great fun!
5. Read widely. Both on your own and with your kids, because variety is the spice of life, right?
6. Have switch-off days. Maybe pick the odd Saturday or Sunday. Turn off the TV, computers and phones and read as a family. Why not?
7. Create reading spaces. Bean bags, cushions, light music, candles. Comfy, quiet, relaxing...
Love life, love reading! JRx
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Joshua Raven, novelist. Read about my writing and my life here. And have you discovered 5fingers yet?