How’s your reading muscle? It seems that a lot of us have been struggling to enjoy our usual daily fix of time alone with a good book, since the first lockdown.
From not being able to find a book that appeals, to forgetting the plot and even the characters’ names, from day to day, bookworms are finding it hard to pick up a book and enjoy a good read.
Sounds like you? Me too. But there are a few ideas I’ve tried that might work for you.
1. Read an old favourite (or three, or all of them…)
These books are your old friends, the stories that you know inside out, with characters so familiar and comforting that turning to the first page feels like coming home.
These books will become your new old favourites:
- The Villages of Villehardouin—Cruising French Waterways by Valerie Helps (Memoirs and travel)
Valerie and Geoffrey buy their boat which they christen "de Villehardouin" and set off on the Canal du Midi, drawing and writing about their journey as they meander along the two hundred year old canal.
- Operation Cain: Shepherd’s Mystery by Sue Woodcock (Crime and mystery)
Three murders are committed in a small Yorkshire village. Seasoned senior officer, Saul Catchpole, and his team, get drafted in to solve them. Operation Cain is launched to find the killer and early on the clues seem to lead to the local agricultural college where, on closer inspection, things are not quite what they seem to be, particularly among the students.
Saul soon realises that the murders are only a part of what's going on, and there is a much bigger picture emerging of drugs, explosives and assassinations of foreign dignitaries. To cap it off, he also comes to realise that some of the people in his own force are not what they seem.
- With Clouds Descending by David Lowe (historical fiction)
The story of the Low family told by a priest who himself is part of the Low clan, and presented as if he were the rector of Ampthill. This semi-autobiographical book is set 130 years in the past and is mainly based on real events. However, there is also a smattering of artistic licence throughout the book. The often amusing and sometimes risqué anecdotes throughout the book are inspired from the diaries of the author that he has kept for twenty-five years (1984-2019). The Low family is quite a large family and full of diverse characters who deal with incidents ranging from floods and riots to murder and war, that are all loosely based on fact. Every family has skeletons in their cupboards; with some families those skeletons are deeply buried. This is not the case with the Low family, which makes this book a fascinating read.
2. Try a book by an author you know and love.
If you’ve read and enjoyed one of their books, chances are you’ll like something else they’ve written.
- If you like thrillers, try Count to Ten by Gibson Dickie.
Amy is cursed by her psychotic impulse to count every good or bad thing that happens in her life. When she reaches her decisive bad count of ten, there's a real danger that her alter-ego, Jessica, will make someone suffer.
The local police force is in a state of flux. Detective Sergeants Holmes and Chappell are thrown together to solve a murder. One inspirational, one meticulous, they are presented with a body more than a week old, limited and contradictory forensic evidence, and no obvious suspect.
- If you like science fiction, try Master Defiance by Blair Wylie.
The aliens are landing! On a post-apocalyptic earth, the human species has reverted to its ancient native ways, surviving and thriving by hunting and fishing. It will be so easy for the strange invaders to take control.
- If you like historic fiction, try Turncoat by Colin MacIver.
Struggling writer, Daniel Baker, grandson of the great Daniel Defoe, wants to make his mark by unravelling the mystery behind the disastrous collapse of plans for a second descent on Britain by Bonnie Prince Charlie following his failed 1745 campaign.
- If you like family stories, try Precious Gems by Sue Brady.
Pearl and Ruby - two precious gems - are friends for life.
For eighty years, from the very first day they are put together in school, Pearl and Ruby are firm friends, through all the weddings, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
But how do you deal with the knowledge that your own life is probably coming to an end, even if it is after ninety years?
- If you like war/history memoirs, try Outside the Wire: A Foreign Service Officer in Southern Iraq.
A fascinating, engaging and thought-provoking glimpse into the challenges and complexities of providing public service in an unstable and often dangerous situation.
Not everyone who serves in wartime wears a uniform. Outside the Wire is a story of one of these men, Danny Toma, a veteran Foreign Service Officer, who spent sixteen months with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Basra, a joint State Department-U.S. Military operation in southern Iraq. Combining humor with an attention to detail, he allows the reader to feel a part of the action and to get to know the personalities of those who were there on the ground - Americans, Iraqis, and British among them. More than just a history, it is also a tribute to the men and women, both civilian and military, who volunteered when their country called upon them and who forged a bond that the passage of time will never break.
3. Try a quickie.
A book of short stories is ideal if you’re finding it hard to remember what’s happened so far. Essays and poetry are great, too.
Some of our short story anthologies and poetry books include:
- Very Very Old by Nik Devlin
There are people walking among us who are two millennia old. Who are they? Where did they come from? They don't even know themselves. Oh sure, they have a secretive, shadowy organisation, VVO, that looks after their interests, has done for centuries, but all its money and technology still won't reveal the truth...
- Cornish Moments by Darren Wilson
The short stories in this collection are all linked by the magnificent backdrop of their setting in Cornwall. Love and loss, tragedy and mystery abound in these tales. From stories set amidst the crowds of traditional Cornish celebrations, such as Helston's Flora Day and May Day in St Ives, to intimate settings of home or local public house, Cornwall is a significant character in all of them.
- Underneath the Willow Tree by Rumyana Whitcher
A collection of poems that speak of the author's deep relationship with nature; they are provoked by feelings of love, sorrow, and by her deep intuition.
4. If you have a book wishlist (and I think most bookworms do), revisit it and pick one to order from your local bookshop (or the publisher ) and settle down in a quiet room with a cuppa and a cosy blanket.
Books to add to your wishlist:
- Much Ado About Benedict by Emma Perle (coming soon) Beatrice, an up-and-coming corporate lawyer, is looking forward taking some much-needed time off during a long weekend stay with her cousin Holly and her family, who are hosting a charity ball at their country house, along with some extra house guests, officers from her uncle's regiment. On arrival, Beatrice is faced with Benedict, a charismatic but obnoxious army captain she had met the previous year, whom she loathes. She's startled to realize that she and Benedict have explosive sexual and romantic chemistry that will change their lives. Inspired by Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, this novel takes Beatrice and Benedict's witty bantering to a whole new level.
- Good War by Terry Dee (the first in a trilogy)
Samuel Plant and John Paige clash personalities in war-torn Germany. Samuel is selfish and cruel, but has managed to survive many years of war. He always puts himself first. The younger, innocent John is honourable, seeking to protect others, even at risk of his own life.
Exploring the themes of love and hate, good war and bad war, winners and losers, Good War follows two men as they navigate life in the days leading up to and into World War II and beyond.
Will they reconcile their differences and find friendship in the end? Only time will tell. Or will time be their enemy?
5. Find some book blogs to read and follow. It’s almost impossible not to catch the enthusiasm and excitement in the stories, news authors as they share their passions and dreams.
A few blogs to follow:
For everything books from genre spotlights and celebrity picks to reviews and author interviews.
Packed with book reviews, this blog describes itself as ‘a space to share book reviews and other book related treats’.
For readers and authors, this one features recommendations for lovers of every genre to discover new books.
This is an energetic blog and website that features book reviews, recommendations and all sorts of other bookish stuff, including author interviews, news and discussion.
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