What’s in a Book?

I’ve had a craving, burning hunger of late that just won’t go away. It’s been with me for some time now and it’s not for a good meal or a devilish bakery treat (those go without saying).

I’m talking about the need to read…… all the books that keep accumulating on my list, shelved in my memory or on random pieces of paper about the house.

There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling as diving into a good read and letting ourselves surrender to its words. I love it, but never seem to have enough time for reading books these days.

I’ve become accustomed to reading (even skimming) more ‘articles’ or blog ‘posts’, in quick digestible bursts these days; at the kitchen bench while stirring a pan, by the tub while the kids bath, and if lucky the 10 mins or so before my eye lids crash at the end of a day.

Pleasure can be found in reading full stop, but I reckon especially in books; whether fiction or non, fantasy or philosophy.

Books fill our lives with not just stories, but experiences, memories, images, adventure, an appreciation for others and at best, life lessons.

“We should read not just because it makes us interesting and attractive but because it can open our hearts and minds to so many things”. (whytoread.com)

Luxuriously wandering the shelves of a book shop recently, while chatting with girlfriends, made me consider (and not for the first time as an English teacher) what makes a ‘great’ read?

One worthy of our ‘valuable’ time.

While there is no shortage of popular fiction out there (I’m a fan), there are some reads that just seem to stand the test of time and become woven into the fabric of our society.

Literature it’s called, and for all its supposed importance and influence, it’s a curious realm to define and one that intrigues me.

So what makes it into this realm, who are these Literary Greats and what have their works offered us?

Why have they remained when others have not? And do they really offer us more than any of the others out there?Classic books

I’m just about to begin ‘A Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley, what was once a set school text and often on those ‘Books to Read before You Die’ lists (which incidentally are always very subjective).

That’s me, never read it but feel like I should. Not just so that I have a point of reference when others mention it at a swanky dinner party (of which I am yet to be invited), I also happen to like this genre ‘Dystopic fiction’ so am happy to indulge.

I think it’s fair to say that of the ‘Literary Greats that exist out there (and this in itself is always up for debate) there are some common elements they all share; a lovely turn of phrase, they push/ed the boundaries of their time, offer deep insight into us as humans, context influenced them profoundly and they deliver a powerful message (or universal themes), which still resonate today on some level.

Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ was written during an age of intellectual, artistic, social and scientific upheaval.

Her novel originally published anonymously (females still considered inferior beings!) delves deep into philosophical and ethical issues for the individual and mankind. She also helped create a new genre (Science Fiction) but in its day, her novel was considered nothing more than popular fiction.

‘Twilight’ is a great work of Popular Fiction too, but I’m not sure it had any profound message to impart on the people of our world?

It did offer that most appealing of all universal themes ‘forbidden love’ and escapism at its best, so maybe that too should be valued?

Likewise, William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ can be read on varied levels, as a boy’s adventure story or a parable of our flawed humanity. Interestingly, this novel was not popular fiction in its day.

Only years later (after going out of print) did it make its mark on a world still coming to terms with post-war fall-out. Either way, its message is bold and brilliant (I think, anyway).

Maybe then the power in reading any book lies not in the ‘greatness’ of its esteem, but in the messages we choose to take from it?

But then again, maybe it’s also just about purpose? Am I reading for pleasure or for enlightenment?

Those books that have left their mark on me, like a valued friend, have often done both these.

They draw me in, provide insight and guidance, comfort and sometimes even offer a well needed reality check.

They inspire, provoke and intrigue.Book

That’s what great literature, BOOKS! do and I’m always left wanting more.

Now……. just to solve that tiny issue of time. Maybe there’s a book in that?

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The Fear Factor

There’s this book that sits on my bookshelf (yes, I officially have one now!) and it’s titled ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’.

I remember buying it quite some years ago in London and I don’t think I ever really read it from cover to cover (must do), but the title alone grabbed me.

Yes, it is somewhat of a classic in the self-help genre and while full of wisdom, interesting vignettes and research, it is those simple words on the book’s cover which have stuck with me.Feel the fear book

I have over time I’ll admit, altered them somewhat to suit me (‘Stuff it. Just do it!’ is more me) but it is amazing what I have been willing to and capable of doing, once these words were uttered.

Now, you may scoff but I’m a shocking flyer. I mean, anxiety central, get me drunk fast, kiss the ground when we land, kind-a-flyer.

I pity the poor travellers (random and friends alike) who’ve had the misfortune of sitting next to me; the rampant woman who feels compelled to hold their hand and make meaningless conversation, in an effort to forget that she’s in the air.

Yes, I know it’s an irrational fear. Yes, I’m aware you’re more likely to be killed by a bee than die in a plane crash. Yes, I’m pretty sure there is medication for it etc. etc., but for me it is still a FEAR that I am yet overcome.

In my defence however, I’ve never once NOT gotten on an aircraft to get to where I needed to go. I’ve felt the fear, and done it anyway.

So, this was me last weekend. Melbourne, first girls weekend away since BC (before children) and I was super excited…….. But that bloody flight!

Yep, let’s just say it didn’t go incident free. If it wasn’t for Nathan (our amazing flight attendant) literally pushing ‘Happy Hour’ wine our way, it could’ve been a lot worse.

Anyway, personal issues aside now, the point I’m trying to make is that ‘it can be done’. Whatever it is that we might fear, we don’t always need to ‘conquer’ it.

It’s an emotion like any other and admitting that it’s there is natural and just. In fact for me, it’s the fear of being afraid (ironic I know) which is most confronting. Facing it is bloody hard, but not NOT do-able.

You may lose some dignity in the process or wake up with a mild hangover, but it’s good to stick it to that black angry cloud called Fear, who is so quick to dictate to us our direction in life.

So thanks Susan Jeffers for writing a cracking title, (to what I’m sure must be a pretty good book), thanks girlfriends for the hands to hold, thanks Nathan for the wine (it helped a heap) and thanks Melbourne, for having enough of a lure to get me on that plane in the first place. You didn’t disappoint.melbourne

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So, about two weeks ago our TV died. Well actually, I killed it. To be more precise, I snapped the aerial connection cable, so no channel reception. Anyway, you get the idea…. TV doesn’t work.

Now this was not a big deal in my books, but the kids flipped out. Actually, that was the reason I broke the cable. My 2 year old has worked out how to turn TV on from the wall and so in my frustration and anger at this TV tug-o-war, I pulled the plug.plugs

My husband and I have always tried, like all parents, to ration the TV in an effort to produce more ‘free-range’ outdoor lovin kids, but even with a balanced diet of TV time, they revere this black box like it was a God, kneel before it, eyes glazed, happy to succumb to its mindless pleasures.

So, yes….I was secretly glad that I broke it for these reasons alone. But, incidentally I’ve found a whole extra hour or two in my evening, which previously that temptress the TV claimed.

I’m also rather enjoying the blissful ignorance that not watching the news, now provides. Ignorance is bliss, I’m happy to admit.

It’s not like there is a lot that is good on Tele these days anyway. We weren’t big commercial station viewers’ pre-TV fallout, but sometimes I was guilty of watching TV (after the kids went to bed) just for the sake of it, simply to avoid ‘doing stuff’.

But that’s just it, now I get that stuff done and more. In an already time-poor society, I’m finding this whole ‘no-TV’ thing rather exciting.Books

I’m baking, reading, talking to my family more and going to bed at a reasonable hour. I’m not rushing to do things by a scheduled time, in order to watch something.

(Just to be clear, we still watch ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Hundred’. I’m not about to cut off all life sustaining, viewing pleasures).

So, on that thought I’m attempting to take the next step…. to unplug a little more in an effort to claim back some valuable time, to do things that really matter or just to make my life a little easier.

Yes, I’m talking all forms of social media. (I’m not even sure I can legally name them, but let’s refer to them as ‘The Big Boys’, to avoid any backlash here).

You may be laughing right about now. That’s ok, I’m yet to do it admittedly.Mobile phone

But, I do know that currently this is these ‘Big Boys’ are the next leech sucking up my valuable time. It’s easy to whittle away an hour or two on social media. And that’s totally ok, if you’re using it to communicate with others, see how they’re doing, catch up and all that.

But I wasn’t. I was just scrolling, more trolling, through people’s amazing lives (far more exciting than my own), watching some link to some site with cats doing crazy stuff.

Suddenly that book on my bedside table I claim I never have time to read, is looking a whole lot more exciting and worthwhile, again.

I’ve discovered it’s so easy to get distracted by those sneaky suckers. I feel like TIME is such a precious commodity lately and this new approach could just buy me back more of my life, not spend it on someone else’s.

So, unplugged it is, for the next few weeks at least (figure I’ll be realistic and reassess where I’m at come June). I’m not going to start or end my day with a ‘quick’ view at a feed on social media and the TV cable in NOT getting fixed.Baking

Instead, I figure I’ll use the substitution method and feed myself a healthy dose of reading, baking (yum) chatter and sleep.

Let’s see where it takes me. Watch this space!

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