I love reading.
I should say that I love reading good books. And a good book is one that teaches me something, or makes me look at the world in a new way, or takes me to a place I hadn’t imagined before.
Good novels can do the last two of those criteria. Good biographies can do the first two. Good SF can do the last two. Exceptional books can do all three. But, even if a book does only one of the above, I will still enjoy reading it.
I became a reader in my early teens, and the book that tipped me over into being a book-worm was “All Quiet On the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. This was required school reading, and frankly, I’d rather have been outside playing football, than reading boring school stuff. But, at that time there was this thing called the Vietnam War, and I had cousins and school friends who were involved. Something in this book made me realise there was a dimension to life that I hadn’t considered, and that it could affect me and those around me, despite the fifty years that had elapsed. Why hadn’t we learnt?
Why could someone write a book like this, and no-one take any notice and allow things to happen just like they had before?
I discovered teenage idealism. I discovered that the human condition was what drove most of the authors I read to writing what they did.
The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.
I then started to devour books.
Some years earlier I had done a speed reading course which taught me remarkable reading skills. It took a desire to read to make what I had been taught into something useful. Today, some large fraction of a century later, I still read at around one hundred pages an hour – and can quote you from the book afterwards, if you think I am just skimming at that pace.
I will read anything that anybody suggests. Until recently I never left a book unfinished, working on the belief that if an author went to all that trouble to write it, the least I could do was finish it before passing judgement. Unfortunately, my Kindle does seem to recommend crap, and most of the unfinished books have come in the last few years when I have paid attention to their recommendations. But they are few, luckily.
Here is what I am reading at the moment, recently finished books, and a set of the favourite books I have read.
As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories - and a terrifying brush with her own mortality - sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who've faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she's learned about coping with life's unexpected blows.Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don't know we have.
'An all-action court drama' Sunday Times on Summary Justice
She was found hanging in a dingy London bedsit with a blood orange in her mouth. Diane Heybridge, a young woman without a past or much of a future, has captured in death the compassion denied her in life. For the prosecution, this seeming suicide is nothing more than a bungled killing and a disgusted public looks to Court 2 of the Old Bailey for justice. Her callous, jilted partner Brent Stainsby stands accused of her murder and he's turned to the maverick legal team William Benson and Tess de Vere to defend him. However, as the trial unfolds it soon becomes clear that there is far more to Diane Heybridge than meets the eye. She wasn't the weak and downtrodden victim now being presented to the jury. She was capable of a sophisticated form of vengeance. By the same token, Brent Stainsby isn't who he seems to be either. He's hiding a motive for murder unknown to the police and may well be playing a deadly game of poker with the judicial process. What began as a simple trial rapidly turns into a complex search for the truth beyond the confines of the courtroom...