Posted by: Corri van de Stege | January 5, 2014

Are you a reader?

Rachel Cooke in the Observer today raises the question about reading fiction: are we still reading as much as we used to?  Previously Ruth Rendell argued on Radio 4 that for many reading is an alien pastime.

How sad this is.  I simply cannot imagine not having a book on the go, whether fiction or non-fiction.  The fact that you are reading this blog probably means that you are also a reader.  One of the problems of course is that we are overloaded with new titles and announcements of new books, zillions of books by indie writers as well as those published by the traditional publishers.  How do we keep track of what we actually want to read?

I try hard to stick to a ‘to be read’ list that I create in my notes, and I find the titles by reading reviews on blogs and in newspapers, following up on authors that I love and know, but am also influenced by my own mood: sometimes I simply want to read a spy story, I am not always in the mood for literary fiction, sometimes I want to read a non-fiction book because reading it will satisfy a curiosity I have, for example the book by Aslan that I reviewed previously and the various books on myths that I have read this past year.  Most of the time though I tend to stick to the so-called literary novels, and there are too many of those to keep up with.

Bookshelf 1

My house is full of books, every room has one or more bookshelves, and the creeping lack of space was a good reason to buy the kindle, which I find really helpful in particular for those books that you know you will never read again, and that you read can read from beginning to end.  I like most of my non-fiction books in the touchable turnable-pages version so that I can leave sticky notes or underline or easily go back to something I read before.  However, for the Mankell’s, the Jo Nesbo’s, and also the literary novels, Maggie O’Farrell, Hilary Mantel, etc, that are just too cumbersome to carry around (think also The Goldfinch which I am currently reading and The Luminaries which I have completed and loved so much that I actually christmas gifted a hard copy to a son, who is not a fan of the kindle, but who then had to reserve space in his suitcase to carry it back to Germany!), for these novels I think the e-reader (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, whatever you are happy with) is just great.

So, despite Rachel Cooke’s wondering as to who can commit to these hefty books when titles are busily piling up on some virtual shelf, I am still one of the group (clearly becoming smaller according to this article) that reads, small and thin or vast thick books, whatever, and from age 5/6 have been a genuine bookwork.  So much so, that when I was a child my elder sister used to complain about my ‘disappearing acts’, when I would withdraw in a shed, a garden, or wherever, with my current favourite book, so that no-one could find me to demand support in the various household chores we were required to contribute to (remember washing up dishes?!)

I think that in order to write you simply have to read, it is the most obvious way to find out what kind of writer you want to be yourself.

Are you a reader?

Bookshelf kitchen



PS: I have now at long last also updated all the links to the books I’ve read in 2013.



  1. A good reading may make the good reader coexist with the characters or themes it deals with. If it does the author deserves publicity, but as you rightly say one must be in the mood for the kind of reading one is going to undertake.

  2. Hi Jose , yes I agree that those are the best books when you feel engaged and can identify with the characters or with the themes. Not sure what that says about me and my love for the odd spy story 😄.

  3. Restless minds always nose everywhere, Corri. Be it spy genre or cuisine…whatever!

  4. I also love the freedom and variety that e-readers bring and it makes ordering books so easy (10 seconds wait rather than 6 weeks). I was going to make a comment about the lack of reading in our society (S Africa is much worse) but instead I’ll comment on your bookshelves. Mine are sadly bare now (in preparation for a move) so it’s lovely to see such a variety of interesting books. I was also relieved to see that our reading tastes are not entirely different and I noticed a few old friends hidden away there.

  5. Hi Pete: nothing worse than moving. I know all about it and have had to leave many books behind moving from one country / part of the world to another… I intend to create some order in my shelves but I actually quite like the disorganisation of books on the read and / or just acquired being more visible! Glad to hear you find old friends on my shelves.

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