Big Fat Book week one

I said on twitter a couple of days ago that I’m enjoying my BFB read so much it almost feels like cheating. After reading Wolf Hall in the spring, Bring Up The Bodies is wonderfully familiar and I am lapping it up. It’s not just knowing the characters and the setting (and indeed many of the events, since this is historical fiction). It’s also feeling comfortable with Mantel’s prose. These books are very different from my normal genre fare and it did take quite a lot of perseverance a the beginning of Wolf Hall. Miss Bates is reading Wolf Hall for this BFB challenge and she has some characteristically insightful comments about how she has found the exercise. I am happy that Miss Bates is persevering and being won over by the book.

Earlier today, there was a twitter conversation about the appeal of the familiar vs. the challenge of the new. I admit, familiarity is one of the main things which appeals to me about genre fiction. I love to know that I can find a particular reading experience, a particular emotional satisfaction, a particular kind of comfort. I used to be a big re-reader, and I am a bit sad that since the arrival of the Kindle I’ve mostly stopped re-reading. New ebooks are much cheaper and more readily available. If I want, I can buy a new book when I’m already in my pyjamas without having to leave the house. I am not good at resisting that sort of temptation, so I buy a lot more new books now. But even when I’m reading new books, I am choosing authors who are known to me, category lines I am familiar with, tropes that are tried and tested. I am a cautious reader and it takes a concerted effort to make me try something different.

So I’m glad for the BFB challenge which made me pick up Wolf Hall in March. I sort of wish I’d read Bring Up The Bodies earlier and chosen something else new this time. I won’t abandon my choice now, though, since I know I’ll be away with limited reading time from July 20th to 30th. I do think I am going to try to be more deliberate in reading outside my comfort zone in the future though. I’m going to compile a short list of non-genre books I want to read and try for one every other month.

How are you getting on with your BFBs? I know Sunita had one false start but is now racing away with her second choice. Feel free to check in with your progress (or lack of it) here, or link to posts elsewhere. But don’t worry if you haven’t got far, there’s still plenty of time.

Summer Big Fat Book Readalong

Back in March, Sunita and Keishon planned to read big books from their TBR pile and invited others to join them. I loved the challenge and took it as an opportunity to pick up and read a book that I had started and laid aside several years earlier, Hilary Mantel’s wonderful Wolf Hall. I liked the accountability and fun of reading alongside others. And I liked having the deadline to aim for. I read a lot of shorter fiction, these days, and I don’t read much non-genre fiction either. Big books can feel burdensome when you’re used to finishing things quickly. If you’ve got a large TBR pile, it’s tempting to stick with the things you can cross off quickly, rather than the hefty tomes which can make it feel as though you’re making no progress. But there’s another thing going on for many readers, I think. Sunita’s talked about that too: The Way We Read Now. Digital content packaged in smaller pieces, with links enabling constant switching from one thing to another. If you’re reading a book on a tablet, are you also checking your email/twitter feed? I love immersive reading. I love sinking into a book and forgetting the world around me. I love reading for so long that I’ve no idea what time it is and I’m only brought back to the real world because I have to go to the loo or get a drink. That’s one of the things I love about LONG books: you can spend a long time with them.

So, with the northern-hemisphere summer, it seemed like a good idea to have another Big Fat Book readalong in July. The rules are the same as before: there are no rules. Well, okay, there is one rule: it has to be a book. Audio is fine. TV miniseries is not. It can be genre fiction, nonfiction, classic fiction, whatever you like. It can be the same book you started but didn’t finish in March, or it can be something completely new. There is no minimum page limit. If it feels like a Big Fat Book to you, it counts. I am planning to read the sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies. We’ll start on July 1st and aim to finish by the end of the month.

I found that having the book on my Kindle really helped in March. I could easily track my daily progress – read 3 or 4% each day and you know you’ll be done by the end of the month. Plus you don’t have to lug a big heavy book around. And if you have a dedicated e-reader, it minimises the temptation to just check twitter again… But you don’t have to do it my way. Some people find that audio books work well for them. Others love the feel of a beautiful hardback.

I’ll try to put up a check in post once a week so we can talk about what we’re reading and how we’re finding the experience. If you’re chatting about it on twitter, use the #summerbfb hashtag.

So, are you in?