Despite not having read any of Lionel Shriver's books, I have noted her journalism, seen her on tv review shows and recently attended a Q&A session where she spoke about her new novel 'Big Brother'. I have formed an impression of her.
She spoke, at London Book Fair last month, about the fact that the novel was based on her brother who died of an obesity-related illness. Personal details do make the book more distinct, especially in the light of a number of titles recently being published on this subject. But Shriver said she didn't want to use her family to sell her book.
I was intrigued by a recent profile of the author which appeared in The Sunday Times. This article highlighted the author's own health and fitness regime, in the light of the subject of the new book. It revealed that she only eats once a day, at supper. And she has a formidable exercise routine: 130 press-ups in two sets, 200 side crunches, 500 sit-ups, 3,000 star jumps and 500 burpees in 39 minutes. She wears the same clothes all week to save on washing and never turns on the central heating. Fascinating! Is this enough, now, to get me to read her books? Watch this space!
There are a couple of books which have been published recently called 'Weird Things People Say in a Bookshop' and I've got an entry I'd like considered for number three in the series...
A customer came into the shop the other day and asked my colleague if we had a particular book. She was very clear about the title. It's called 'The Man Who Jumped Over a Fence with His Slippers On', she said.
The computer wasn't working so my colleague was unable to look up this specific title, but he carefully wrote it down on an order card and promised to get back to her once he had located it.
In the meantime, he said, was she sure it wasn't the bestselling book called 'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared'? Yes, that's it, she said, without a moment's hesitation.
I was fascinated by a comment made by the singer, Sinead O'Connor in The Times recently. She acknowledged that she had revealed so much of her personal struggles in articles over the years. "I don't do regret," she said. In fact, she believes it is her job as an artist to lay herself bare. "Artists are here to do your madness for you. We're here to say the things you can't say, because you have to go to work and you don't have time to go to the nuthouse."
You don't hear it so often these days, or perhaps I'm mixing in different crowds, but there was a point when if I asked people what they were reading, they would say 'oh, I don't have time to read'.
Now, everyone seems to be reading but it's a case of not having enough time to read all the books we want to read.
During the Christmas break there was considerable media interest in an article by the novelist David Nicholls who decided, when realising that his 'to read' pile of books was becoming precariously high, that he would wake up earlier in the morning and use the extra half hour to read.
What a lovely way to start the day.
I don't feel quite myself if I haven't got a good book on the go. But I remember when I started my first job and I was startled to find that months had gone by since I last picked up a book. The new challenges and routines meant that the day was comprised work, eat and sleep.
Then I met an elderly, and hugely inspiring and energetic, couple, who told me that they had compiled a list of the books they wanted to read before they died. It was a long list and, even being generous with the three scores year and ten, and attempting to complete a book a week, they knew they would not realistically be able to fulfil it and had to readjust.
From that moment, I vowed to read a book a week myself, though not following any list, just as the fancy took me. And I would record each book, with my thoughts on it, so that I would never run the risk of not knowing whether or not I had read a book before. That was some 20 years ago, and the journals have stacked up on my shelves. In 2012 I read 72 books.
But quantity isn't quality! Arnold Bennett in his book 'How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day' advises thinking as well as reading. He says there are people who "take to reading as better men take to drink. They fly through the shires of literature on a motor-car, their sole object being motion. They will tell you how many books they have read in a year.[!]
"Unless you give at least 45 minutes to careful, fatiguing reflection...upon what you are reading [he goes on], your 90 minutes of a night are chiefly wasted. This means that your pace will be slow. Never mind.
"Forget the goal; think only of the surrounding country."
I would like to say this is my resolution, but with towers of books all around me demanding to be read, it may be some months before I become more contemplative in my reading matter. And I still want to read at least 52 books this year...
If you want something done, give it to a busy person - so the saying goes.
Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger was certainly busy in 2010: the phone-hacking scandal, Wikileaks, in addition to the regular demands made of him in overseeing a national newspaper. But it was also the year that he had set himself a challenge of learning to play Chopin's Ballade No1, in twelve months.
His account of this task, the book 'Play it Again', was given to me to review and, at first glance, it didn't seem a particularly accessible volume. Its size and the density of text, along with technical details about the music made it rather formidable. However, the book is presented as Alan's diary and insights into his life proved fascinating, inspiring and compelling.
Escaping into his life I found as appealing as any light novel, or self-help tome, and it left me feeling I could achieve anything. If he can make time and maintain discipline to achieve his goal of learning this piece of music, what is stopping me from....
Something to ponder though. Who is cooking Alan's meals, doing the washing, paying the bills, arranging the diary? If he is truly achieving all of these chores as well as maintaining his high-achieving life, I will be completely in awe. And the answer to making more time? Get up earlier. He refers to Arnold Bennett's book 'How to Live on 24 hours a Day'. It's next on my reading list!