Ways to Read More

Girl Reading

If you are stuck in a reading rut and would like to find more time to spend with a good book, try joining an online book group. Unlike a traditional book group where you all read the same book at the same time, an online book group will connect people all over the world through a dedicated hashtag so they can share what they are reading. I like the flexibility and the enthusiasm of the two groups below, and they are both full of gorgeous, welcoming readers.

The Year In Books
The Year in Books was started by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees and is an ongoing project open to everyone. You can join in at any time, and can participate via your blog, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest. The Year in Books (#theyearinbooks) is about making space for reading in our busy lives, and is a way for us all to discover more books (and lovers of books).

The aim of the project is to read (at least) a book a month during 2016. At the start of the month Laura writes a post about what she is planning to read that month, and includes some thoughts about the book she has just read. You can share your reading, too – via #theyearinbooks on Twitter or Instagram, or check out the Year in Books Pinterest board for inspiration.

Read Watch Play
Read Watch Play (#rwpchat) is similar to The Year in Books, but every month has a theme. There is a blog run by a wonderful group of Australian Librarians that outlines the themes and is home to a monthly reading group of people all over the world (many of them librarians).  As well as sharing their reading on various social networks through the hashtag, there is a scheduled twitter chat at #rwpchat on the last Tuesday of each month. You are welcome to use the hashtag to talk about your reading and to join in on the chat each month.  Because people tweet from all over the world the twitter chat is a staggered discussion starting at 8.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 9.00pm New Zealand Time, 6.00pm Singapore Standard Time, 12.00 noon Central European Summer Time, 8am – 10.30am, 2pm – 4pm GMT.

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Chick Lit

(FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK THEY LIKE CHICK LIT)

marilyn reading

Chick Lit is a term many of us love to hate.  As Lucy-Ann Holmes said in her excellent article – hate the term, love the genre.  But for those who don’t like the genre, or are still biased against women’s fiction: forget about the publishing marketplace and how booksellers think they will best sell books, and forget the notion that all contemporary women’s fiction is ‘fluff’.

The following books are all moving and/or funny in the ways we like our fiction to be, giving us a little escape and inspiration with our recreational reading.  They are also, however, equal parts: quirky, unexpected (in that they often subvert your standard romance conventions), and very, very clever.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Bellwether by Connie Willis
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
The Time Traveler’s Wife  by Audrey Niffenegger
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fantasy

(FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK THEY LIKE FANTASY)

tough guide fantasyland map
I’ve always been one of those people who are a bit snooty about fantasy, eschewing anything with dragons or magic and generally fearing that most fantasy will be cookie-cutter high fantasy of the medieval European variety – with barbarians in the north, exotic desert people in the south, and some sort of quest in between.

That said, I was fascinated by the Calormen scenes from the Narnia stories as a child, and Ged’s growth in A Wizard of Earthsea still offers so much to me, even as an adult.  I also just simply adore the presence of just a little bit of magic and mystery in my everyday world, something urban fantasy does so very well.  And for those who love their history, you can’t look past the complex and deeply realised worlds of Guy Gavriel Kay.  I often wish Kay’s wonderful alternate histories, set from Moorish Spain and Tang Dynasty China to Byzantium, were more widely known.  If you enjoy political intrigue and complicated plots told from multiple perspectives, Kay is an excellent choice.  His stories and characters are also deeply moving: I don’t think I have ever cried more in my life than in the final chapters of Tigana or The Lions of Al-Rassan.

So if you love fantasy and have someone in your life that you would like to convert, or if you are deeply suspicious like me, but are looking for a little complex and fully realised escapism in your reading, try some of the following:

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Science Fiction

(FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T THINK THEY LIKE SCIENCE FICTION)

1024px-Landscape_of_science_fiction_Luc_Viatour

As a lover of literature and science fiction, I find it frustrating when helping a library customer who wants something literary and thought-provoking to read, but who turns their nose up at science fiction.

I am lucky to have a mother who shared all kinds of reading options with her daughters, but who has always especially loved science fiction. This meant that as children we read novels about life in space (like Enders Game, Calling B for Butterfly, Growing Up Weightless, and Orbital Resonance), and some wonderful young adult dystopias (like The Giver, Rocco, and Winter of Fire).  I remember dipping into adult science fiction in my teens when I started to raid my mother’s bookshelf, and my observant mother payed attention to my growing list of favourite books and started to supplement with gifts of books she thought I would enjoy (the summer I was fifteen and received Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin as a present will always remain a watershed moment).

The ability to imagine the world differently (or to see the world through new eyes) is something I cherish.  I think science fiction does nothing if it doesn’t offer us a lens through which we can examine ourselves, and so I continue to try to reduce the stigma science fiction carries for some readers by sneaking in a speculative read that I know will still have general (or niche) appeal.  Here are some of my favourites:

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