Reading and Social Media

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the affect social media has on my reading, in terms of what books I buy, which books I decide to read next, and which books I write off, be it from bad reviews or a lack of online presence.

To put this into a bit of context, the book I’m currently reading is Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – a book that has had so much attention on social media that it would have been impossible for me to have missed it. There are my reasons why I would have normally picked up this book; for one I was at a launch where the UK Publisher announced it last Summer, and the bookshop I used to work at featured it as one of their books of the month. The book is high fantasy, my all-time favourite genre, so of course there are many reasons as to why I may have picked up this book on my own. However, I know without fail that the reason I’m reading it right now is due to all of the attention it has been getting on social media. Readers around the world are picking up this book, adoring it, and immediately going to Twitter and Instagram to announce it to the world. The hype and excitement that has been built has only increased – the book reaching the number 1 bestselling slots in so many charts was really only the beginning. So from all of that attention, along with the nagging of one of my best friends, I went out, bought the book, and decided it was going to be moved to my ‘to be read now‘ pile.

giphy-16
giphy

My experience with choosing to read Children of Blood and Bone isn’t an unusual one, as I’ve come to realise. I am very aware that I will rarely go into a bookshop, pick up a random book, and read it (to clarify, when I say ‘random’, I mean walking around, reading various blurbs, and going with the one that I think I’ll enjoy the most – not just strutting up to any old shelf, blindly selecting a book, and going with it). What I read is normally determined by what I’ve heard about the book, and my main source of information is social media. Yes, my friends play a big part, but even when I think back to something everyone has told me to read (such as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), I was still very much aware of how the book was being received due to online platforms. If I see a negative review on Twitter, Instagram, or even Goodreads about a book I’m planning to read, quite often I’ll push it back on my list of what to read next because of that review. Similarly, if I watch someone talk about books on Youtube and they mention a book I have and gush non-stop about it, I’ll likely bump it up on my list to read it sooner.

There are positives and negatives of this kind of approach to reading. On the negative side of things, it does mean that maybe I’ll miss out on a book I would like, simply because I’ve seen other people dislike it. I do feel a sort of nostalgia when I think back to how I picked my books when I was younger, walking into a bookshop and drifting around, selecting two or three books all of which I’d never heard of before. Sometimes this would work out fantastically, and sometimes it would be a disaster, but I’d still read a wide selection of books that I probably wouldn’t pick up now.

Yet equally, there have been plenty of times recently where I’ve picked up books that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for social media. Take Eleanor Oliphant, a book I really wouldn’t glance at twice, except there was so much press and positivity around this one title, not to mention the sometimes melodramatic proclamations of adoration, that I had to pick it up just to see what the fuss was about; and I couldn’t be happier that I did. There’s also another recent read of mine, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, which I mainly liked the look of because of the cover, but I’d heard so many things about it that I decided to read it sooner rather than later. Whilst reading is a solitary sort of activity, social media creates a community of readers who can gush to each other to their heart’s content. Whilst working in a bookshop, I was never at a loss for who to talk to about the books I was reading, and even though I still work in a book-focussed environment, the presence of the online community is a great one to have. Sure, you may have similar tastes with someone, but there’s nothing like finishing a book and finding someone else who has also finished, just so you can scream about how it ended, be it good or bad, and have a discussion.

giphy-17
giphy

Reading is considered a more traditional sort of hobby, and despite the upsurge of technology-related reading products, there’s nothing quite as organic as cracking open a fresh, physical book and turning it’s pages. Still, this doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t have a place within the realm of books. Clearly, social media is now one of the main ways we market a book and get the attention of potential readers. Social media, no matter what you think of it, is a powerful tool, and one that we are starting to utilise in so many ways. As much as I am an advocate for the physical book, I cannot deny that ebooks and audiobooks and the like have brought in a whole different group of people to reading – and what could possibly be bad about bringing books into someone’s life? The same, I feel, is with social media. Sure, there are negatives, but the positives far outweigh them, and I for one am grateful that no matter what, someone out there has a book recommendation for me that, 9 times out of 10, I’ll end up loving.

Advertisements

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while – or even if you’ve read one or two posts – will know that I love fantasy. The adventure, the different worlds, wonderful characters that have been imagined – but, above all, one of the main reasons I love fantasy is because I can read it so quickly. Not because the writing is easy to skim over or that i can rush through without needing to savour – the opposite, actually. Usually it’s the fantasy genre that has me hooked, has me reading late into the night, vowing to just read one more chapter, or even setting aside hours (or even a whole day) just so I can read it. The thrill, the excitement, the cliffhangers…those are things that I’ve usually only really felt with fantasy.

Then, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine came into my life.

4034199E00000578-0-image-a-2_1494528692460

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than fine?

There has been a lot of hype around this book, especially from some of my friendship circles. I had wanted to read this book last year, simply because it would have worked with my challenge to read a book that has a character with my name in it. Then, this book completely blew up, winning prizes and adoration from all over the world. I decided to pick it up when I was in a bookstore last month, and last weekend thought it would be a good time to start it.

Honestly? When I started reading it, I wasn’t so sure that I’d like it. I didn’t really like the main character, couldn’t see myself connecting with her, and read the first few chapters very slowly over the course of three days. Then, it hit me. One evening, I decided to read for a bit, only to find that I wanted to keep reading and reading and reading. Soon enough, I was staying up late to read it, and cleared my Sunday of all plans so I could read all day.

Eleanor Oliphant, the character, first comes across as a pretentious, snobby arse, one that no one would like. She’s treated poorly by the people around her, which is the only thing I originally sympathised with. Then, she started talking about her damaging relationship with her mother, snippets of her upbringing, and the negativity she faces from her appearance as she has visible scars. Ever so slowly, I began to sympathise more and more. Her life is regimented; wake up, go to work, eat a meal deal for lunch, wait for work to finish, go home, drink, then sleep and repeat. The loneliness that echoed between the pages was too loud to ignore, and the more you lose yourself in the world of Eleanor Oliphant, the more you feel that suffocating sadness that she seems to perceive as normal, that that was her lot in life.

Eleanor, and the other characters you (and her) are introduced to over the course of the novel begin to steal your heart. I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion, and felt completely swept up in this world. With a deep discussion on mental illness and the effects loneliness can have on a person, never before have I realised how important basic human interaction is. Sure, I have fantasies of reading all day and not leaving my bed, but if I had no one to talk to? That would be crippling in a way I can’t really imagine, something I’ve never before thought about having to go through.

This book is so important, if just to show you how even a little bit of kindness can go such a long way in making someone’s day so much better. I loved this book, and would highly recommend it to everyone and anyone. Yes, it’s sad, but it also makes you feel so incredibly grateful – at least, that’s what it did for me. It made me grateful for the people in my life, the friends I see frequently, my flatmate, my family, even my dogs (although I’m always grateful when it comes to my dogs). It served as an important reminder about what truly matters in life, and all I want to do is return to the world of Eleanor Oliphant, if just for a few chapters to check in, and hope that she’s doing alright. I’d read a sequel in a heartbeat, so beautifully crafted were Gail Honeyman’s characters, and so great my love for them all.

Books I’m desperate to read

I’ve been terrible at keeping up to date on blog posts since starting full-time at work, which of course wasn’t helped by me going on holiday, but I’m back and hoping to post more than I have been. So, to get back into things, here’s a post about all the books I wish I had more time to read – because my problem is that I want to read all of these books now. (What a nice problem to have).

First up is a book that has been on my list for a long, long time, and that is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Ever since reading Neverwhere, I’ve wanted to read as much as I possibly can from Gaiman and instead I’ve read nothing more. American Gods sounds like a book that I’ll adore, but my problem at the moment is launching into another chunky read – which is clearly a trend I have, as another book I’m desperate to read is called Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Another chunky read, this book has been recommended to me again and again by my colleagues and I so want to start it, but the size is making me nervous. This is a ridiculous thought, however, as some of my favourite books are huge – take A Little Life, one of my all-time top books, which is a monster. There’s just something about big books that gets me this way – before starting all I think is ‘oh man, this is going to take ages’, but as soon as I’ve finished the feeling of pride and sense of accomplishment is so high that I wish it was longer.

 

IMG_1412
A snap I took at work, because these books are just so pretty (and This is Going to Hurt is marvellous)

Whilst we’re talking about big books and Neil Gaiman, I am also desperate to read his Norse Mythology. I adore mythology, a love that has only been encouraged by a degree in Classics where my dissertation was all about myths and most of my modules were on ancient literature, which encapsulates stories and myths. Now that I’m out of uni, I’m not learning about new myths that are more ridiculous than the last, and I’ve always been interested in Norse mythology. When Gaiman released a book on the subject, I was so excited that I immediately bought a copy – but have not found the time to actually read the thing. You can be sure though that, as soon as I do read it, I’m not going to stop talking about norse myths for a good long while.

I’m normally pretty bad at reading non-fiction, which is why I want to read Norse Mythology so badly, but after asking around even more friends recommended Maggie Nelson’s Argonauts to me. This is an author I have heard so much about, and one friend of mine mentions Argonauts in most conversations I have with her, so I’m sure that it’s one that I need to pick up pretty damn soon.

 

I’ve spoken before about my sheer love of book covers, and I need to do another post about it pretty soon to show off all the new pretty books I’ve acquired which include, drum roll, a set of Virginia Woolf books. Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, A Room of One’s Own, and every other Virginia Woolf is something that I just need to read. I’ve read parts of them for uni, but never sat down and appreciated the whole text – which Woolf deserves.

 

IMG_0093

I bought the above edition of His Dark Materials towards the end of last year/beginning of this one, and read Northern Lights earlier this year – and loved it. Yet everyone has told me that the sequels are on a whole other level, which just makes me think that they’ll become my top top favourites, considering how much I loved the first one. Couple that with the fact that the new Philip Pullman is being released next month, these books are ones that I want to read as soon as physically possible. (Just as soon as I’ve convinced myself out of reading five others).

And so concludes the books that, at this moment in time, are at the top of my TBR pile. At this rate, I’ll have planned out everything I’m reading for the rest of this year (not that that’s a bad thing…). Let me know if you’ve read anything I’ve mentioned, or have recommendations because of course what I need is more books to add to the pile!