I’ve never being one for serious New Year’s Resolutions but I always vow to read 52 books in any calendar year. I often don’t achieve that – last year I spent two months reading ‘War and Peace’ – but I think if I can read 350 pages a week I’ll have a good go. A reading life is one of habit and and consistency so, perhaps, if I write about my reading, I will begin to recognise patterns which I can use when encouraging my students to read for pleasure in their lives.
How can we recommend teen fiction to kids when we don’t read it ourselves? This book has been about for ages but I picked up a copy over the holidays and gave it a go. I grabbed ten pages here, another ten there. In coffee shops, waiting in the car. When you have free time on holiday it highlights, more than anything, what makes you a reader. Actively finding even five minutes to get through a couple of pages, I was frantically searching thorough a packed out Glasgow City Centre for somewhere to sit down, eventually discovering a quiet corner in Waterstone’s. Well, not exactly quiet but I did a good job of cutting everything out for ten minutes.
It’s a real page turner. It’s poorly written: full of cliched set pieces and stereotypes. The action never lets up. A lifetime of reading Fleming’s Bond novels and some le Carre highlighted every ingredient Horowitz has used, causing me to sigh cynically on every other page. But, when I was twelve I would have loved it.
What makes a reading life so varied these days is the remarkable number of ways in which you can access books. This one was on my kindle and non-fiction. Quite coincidentally it is concerned with changing habits and I chose to read it January merely because it was next on my list. I hate to admit that I read non-fiction in a different way to fiction. It seems to be more dense at times and I have to take time to focus on every fact. I often rush along with fiction and, on occasion, will flick back to find out about a character or event. My kindle is in my pocket so I get through this one reasonably quickly. Recently in the press it has been reported that kindles sales are crashing as quickly as they rose. It seems the humble book is triumphing after all. Many of us never doubted it. I still carry mine everywhere though. You never know when you’ll have a reading emergency.
Duhigg’s book is superbly written, intricately researched, but slightly repetitive in places. I loved the opening section on recognising the nature of our habits. Cue, Routine, Reward. It got me thinking about how we develop habits as readers and how that might work in classrooms. What is the reward for a reluctant reader? How can we convince them that there is one?
Book three is Neil McGregor’s ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’, recommended by @JamesTheo. It’s astonishing so far.