Some words about books and reading

Book love

I know, it’s been a long while since my last entry, but there are always so many other things I could be doing.

While the subject of procrastination is earmarked for a blog at some point, it is also relevant to this story – that which is singularly responsible for the dark circles under my eyes, my tardiness, those crumbs on the bench from breakfast and the mouse-grey dust balls lurking furtively behind the doors and under my bed.

My best friend and confidante, my ally in all occasions whose well worn pages never fail to bring me comfort, joy, lust, enlightenment, anguish, heart ache and excitement.

The book.

Reading is a pass time I’ve cultivated from an early age, with seeds sewn by my dad, who taught me to read and write before I could tie my shoe laces.

As a kid, I read hundreds of books; in the car, on family holidays, on the four kilometre walk to school and back, after dark by the light of my torch.

I look back at that nerdy knobbly-kneed girl, walking to school in West Auckland with her nose buried in a book and marvel at how I was never run over, or teased mercilessly by my peers.

As one of my teachers once put it, I’m a voracious reader. I devour books like food and wine. In great big gulps and swallows, snatching bitefuls at any opportunity.

Like any addiction, I’m always squeezing in “one more chapter” or “five more minutes”, and forever making up for lost time or sleep.

Appreciator of the haphazard book stack

Appreciator of the haphazard book stack

“No reading tonight” Mikey says every night when we go to bed, in hopes he might be able to drift off to sleep without being jolted awake as I surreptitiously turn a page.

And when I reluctantly fold the page to mark my spot for later, I experience an immediate sense of loss as I wonder when I’ll next get a chance to return.

I read and re-read everything.  The labels on shampoo and conditioner bottles in the shower, number plates, the engraving on the cutlery at cafes, the signs at look outs and on nature trails, and the advertisements on the back of receipts.

At some point though, I realised not all books are equal, and there are way too many books in the world than I’ll have time to read in my little life. Consequently, I’ve become a lot more discerning about what I read. If I can’t get into it within the first few pages or chapters, I have no qualms about turfing it out and starting the next book on the haphazard stack on my bedside table.

Ripping through books at speed was something I used to be proud of, but these days I try to remember to make myself slow down and digest the meanings and ideas beneath the carefully crafted words and paragraphs, probably because I’ve gained an understanding of the amount of time, research and double checking that goes into a seemingly simple sentence.

For all the time I spend reading, until now I’ve spent little time musing about the role it plays in my life.  Like fresh air and water, I’ve taken it for granted my entire life.

The forthcoming Marlborough Book Festival is really what prompted this little journey, because I’m more than a little excited about it.

Confession time: I don’t really know what to expect at a book festival (except we receive a glass of wine on arrival, alright!), because I’ve never been to a book festival before, plus I know precious little about the authors and their works, (I haven’t even read any of their books!!).

Here’s a quick run down of the festival:

There are six New Zealand authors at eight sessions over two days, held at the Blenheim Club and the lofty Cloudy Bay “Tree House”.  And of course no self-respecting festival held in Marlborough would be complete without wine.

The authors cover a wide range of genres and interests and come from all around the country. Most compelling for me was discovering that Marlborough is home to some accomplished writers. Featured authors including romance author Barbara DeLeo and writer of New Zealand history Ron Crosbie live in Marlborough, while award-winning young-adult fiction writer Karen Healey, moved to Blenheim earlier this year,

As a novice writer, I’m looking forward to hearing from the distinguished Dame Fiona Kidman about what inspires her, and hoping to glean some tips on capturing the reader’s attention.

Elizabeth Knox has been on a role this year, winning a string of awards and accolades, including the Best Young Adult fiction for her novel Mortal Fire at the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

And Harry Broad’s session will appeal to hunters, farmers and anyone who has spent any time at Molesworth Station.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone.

Personally, I’m pretty chuffed that Marlborough has it’s very own book festival, kudos to those that have organised it.

It gives us an opportunity to let books be the hero, even if it’s only for one weekend.

It’s not just about celebrating books and their authors, but acknowledging that we live in a society that provides us with the means to learn to read, and the freedom to read whatever we choose.

See you there!

Festival tickets cost about $20 per session.  Click here for all festival and ticket details.