Reading Rule book

This is something of an ’Is it just me?’ post – and one where I expect that it actually is just me.

But, the thing is,  I have a whole range of self imposed rules regarding what fiction I can and can’t read.

I don’t know how it started or why – but there’s been this list in my head for as long as I can remember regarding what I can read and how and when. It’s a list which sounds odd to me when I see it written down – and until now I haven’t had it written down, it’s only been in my head.

If I were to analyse it I suppose I could come up with sound reasons for some of these rules, even if they sound odd to other people. They impose discipline for example, they make sure I finish what I start, they make sure I read widely and well – and so on.

This is a rulebook which only applies to fiction – I can do what I like with non-fiction.

Here goes – and in no particular order:

I cannot borrow books

– either from the library or from other people, I must buy them, read them and then put them on my book shelves.

I cannot start reading a new book until I have finished the one I am reading

– I must finish each book I start, even if I don’t like it. If it’s boring I will persevere until the end, then hope the next one is more interesting.

I will not read more than one book by any given author

There are always so many fantastic authors I’ve not tried yet, I always feel I have to move on. Sometimes I promise myself I will revisit a favourite when I have time – but there’s always someone new.

I will lend my books out to special people

– but will fret and secretly seethe if they do not give them back to me. For example, my brother, an engineering contractor, once borrowed my copy of Martin Amis’s Money. When I asked for it back he said ‘I’ve left it in the office’. When I said ‘well why don’t you pop to the office and get it?’ He said, ‘the office in Nigeria.’ I was not happy.

Once I’ve read a book I must keep it

– on my bookshelves, in case I ever need to look at it again, which I rarely, if ever, do.  If someone has left my copy in Nigeria I must buy another copy and keep that on my shelf instead.

So there we go. I think I probably have other weird reading rules as well – these are just the ones which are top of mind for me at the moment. Ebooks, I have discovered recently, are exempt from my rules plus, the rules only apply to fiction. I can do what I like with non-fiction books – borrow them from the library or a friend, read them two at a time, chuck them when I’ve finished or leave them on a table in a sub-Saharan African state. The world is my lobster.

What I would say though is that rules are made to be broken – and I have broken all of mine at one time or another. I just don’t like to.

Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God. You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

26 thoughts on “Reading Rule book”

  1. I love your rules, Chris. I suffer from not having enough. I tend to read to death the authors I like, neglecting to try others. I lend books and lose track of them (apart from my Aickman collection, which I wouldn’t let out of my sight!) Although I couldn’t live without my home being lined with bookshelves. My wife reads more than I do, so we can barely move for books!

  2. hahahaha. I am the COMPLETE opposite – borrow books from library (prob coz I used to be a ;librarian) always have at least 3 books on the go – different genres. Give books away to Oxfam regularly. ooh the opposite list is endless. Yup, you are weird..But nice.

  3. I’m with you on the ‘must finish what I’ve started’ one. For the rest, I used to be very particular about getting books back, but I don’t seem to worry about it so much now. Don’t know why. I like your list, though. It speaks of a special kind of love for books, even if it is confined to fiction. I think I might have been inclined to over to fetch the book in Nigeria myself…good excuse for a quick trip to my favourite continent!

      1. I don’t know why it’s just fiction – but I think it is because those books are more important to me – I have an emotional attachement to them, wheras with non-fiction books I see them more as a collection of facts and information, however good, engaging and well written they may be.

  4. I think it is good to read more than one book from an author. It’s the imagination factor and bringing it (fiction) to life. I like your post and look forward to more reads in the future.

  5. I see nothing odd in these rules. However, I never lend books or music to others, they have a way of never returning home.

  6. great topic! my rule: if i haven’t been properly grabbed by page 50 then it’s straight to the charity shop…and, this is a bit more neurotic, i make a pile of every (fiction) book I’ve read in a year, then on new year’s day i can pick 5 maximum to keep, the rest i give away…

  7. I don’t buy a book unless I know I’ll want to read it again (exception is EBooks, got tons. Got tons of hardbacks, too, mostly pre-Ebook); give it 50 pages and then chuck it out the door; read 2-3 books at a time (one hard cover, one Ebook, one nonfiction), read everything by favorite authors; track down borrowed books like a hitman after a squealer. There.

    1. That is a whole bunch of rules! Though quite different from mine which just goes to show… something or other. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a hardback – I had a thing about it being the words inside which counted not the book itself so I wouldn’t buy them, and still won’t I suppose.

  8. Wow – what a great discussion! I’ve lost many of my principles around books/reading over the years. I’ve always been dragged into new technologies: I’ve been one of those why do you need mobile phones, digital cameras, and I will NEVER have an e-reader. Until I was given one.
    I love a hardback, and love living in the UK where books are so much more affordable than in Australia.
    I try to use libraries as often as possible as I’m scared of more closures and think any usage will hopefully help their cause.
    I never fold pages and can’t help feeling a little disappointed in someone if I find out that they do. And I can’t be in a book club. Unfortunately if I don’t like a book, I tend to find it difficult to sit at the table with people who did.
    I recently heard a rule which I loved: read an author’s collection in order of the publication dates and you go on their journey with them.

    1. I didn’t know books were more expensive in Australia – top fact! Wonder why that is? I like libraries too – but only for non-fiction books which don’t have to comply with my web of weird self-imposed rules. I don’t approve of page folders either!

  9. I can’t borrow books, either! Somehow it becomes less of a personal choice. I cannot enter into its world if it belongs to someone else, or if it smells of someone else.
    I also cannot start reading a new book until I have finished the last. However – and this has only ever happened on a few occasions where a book has left me totally cold and uninspired – I have been known to put something away until a later date. Invariably, I don’t go back.
    I could never contemplate not reading more than one book by any given author. Take Cormac McCarthy for example, only reading one of his books would deny me the countless ways he takes my breath away. However, I am very choosy.
    I do not lend books any more. I have lost countless treasures over the years and I simply refuse. I even reject requests from my own mum.
    Once I’ve read a book, I must keep it – but only if it has truly meant something to me. I have been known to buy ‘holiday reads’ and give them to charity. Going on holiday with children does mean that there is less head space and peace and quiet for books that sweep you away. I still have my collection of books I read as a child/teenager. They bring back such distinct memories.

    1. Funnily enough though I can borrow non-fiction books – I often get those from the library – heaven knows how many hands they have been through and as for smells, best not go there. I take your point about much loved authors and reading more than one of their books – I have done it and will do it again – I’ve broken all my rules from time to time. I think it was Geoffrey Rush if I’m not mistaken, in the second Pirates of the Carribean film who said ‘these is more as what you might call … guidelines.’

  10. I have to own my books, although I’m adapting to ebooks because of price/space/convenience. If I love an author I buy everything they ever wrote. When I read a really great book, I want to cry at the end because I can’t stand letting go of the characters. I dream about the book. I examine characters’ motivations for way too long. I flip back and forth to see if I missed some subtle foreshadowing. I MARVEL at those who can write fiction. Hats off.

    1. I’m reading ebooks a little too now – no problem for non-fiction though I am struggling with buying novels in that way, I need the book in my hand.
      I empathise with the way you get involved with the characters in a book and I do that too, with books I really love. For me I suppose writing came from loving reading so much – but it does take a lot of time and practice to get good at it – I suppose what kept me going was loving books so much.

  11. I don’t lend books, not only because they are precious, but because it takes away royalty from the author. I nearly aways finish a book and won’t start another before doing so. I love to see my books on shelves easily accessible to guests as talking points. I keep annual lists of books I read during the year just like Louis Lamour describes in his book ‘Education of a Wandering Man’. Your blogs are always interesting thanks.

    1. Thank you Sharon – very kind of you! Yes the royalty issue isn’t one I had thought of until I had my own book published but lending does have that effect. It was brought home to me as I watched work colleagues pass around a single copy of my book to read 🙂

  12. Love this! I also do many of your rules especial the secret seething if someone doesn’t give me back a lent book! I once lent out a book to a good friend who’s small daughter ripped and coloured in it!!!!!!!!! I felt sick.. Never lent her a book again for the sake of our friendship! Hahaha.. I do like reading the same authors though especially if their writing style is suited to me, infact I yearn for them to write more.

    1. Yes – I know the one author one book rule is a strange one and I sometimes break it, I suppose its aim is to make me read more widely and find writers I would otherwise not have discovered.

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