Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Have You Ever Read a Book That Changed Your Life?

Once in a while a book comes along that has a profound influence on you. So much so that the experience of reading it actually compels you to make changes in your life. Personally, this has only ever happened to me a handful of times, but just last week I finished a book that left me feeling empowered and ready to tackle some of my own demons. I'm talking about a little pocket classic titled Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. This delightful nugget of wisdom was originally published in 1986 and at the time created a mini revolution in the way people approached the art of writing. I purchased the book from a paranormal romance author on one of my fortnightly book buying jaunts for my second hand bookstore. It immediately went into my satchel and I've been carrying it around with me, reading a chapter here and there, for the last month. Last week I finished it, and after years of arguing back and forth within my own mind about whether to attempt to write, and usually losing, I finally put pen to paper in and honest and real way.

Writing Down the Bones is not a manual on how to write. It's something much more. It's about being honest enough to free the writer hidden within yourself. It's also about leaving yourself enough room to explore the craft fully and breathe your own life into it without censorship. It talks of the physicality of writing and the importance of total immersion. It teaches you to embrace your failures as much as your successes, and to that end it's not just teaching you about writing but also about how to approach life in general. 

I could go on and on about the things I've learned from this book, but there is one quote in particular that resonated the most - "I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it" ( pp71). This is a truth that I've only recently come to grips with myself. Reading it in print elicited a physical reaction, as it helped me to not only understand what I was good at, but to accept these things as gifts, and to embrace them fully rather than fighting them. I can now say with conviction and contentment that I'm a leader, a teacher, and a writer, and those are the things I want to pursue in my life. 

To say that this book alone got me to this point would be naive. The reality is that this book found me at the right time and helped push me over the edge of a cliff that I was already leaning over. It may not have the same impact on you. However, it is my belief that writers of all sorts will find some, if not many, gems of wisdom in this book. Its' short, punchy chapters also lends itself to re-reading. I can easily picture myself picking it up every now and then in years to come when I'm struggling for inspiration.

If you've read this book I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I'd also love to hear what books have impacted on you so much that they've made you take steps to change your life, no matter how big or small.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The National Year of Reading and My 2012 Reading Challenge

If you're not already aware 2012 is The National Year of Reading in Australia. Many of my customers and friends have been asking me just what this campaign is all about and I've had to admit to being ignorant of exactly what the initiative is trying to achieve. Now, having done some research, I thought what better way to answer your questions than to blog about it. 

Basically, The National Year of Reading is all about helping people to discover the magic of books, or if you've already got a solid relationship with the written word, it's about finding new inspiration in the books you choose to read. The slogan of the campaign is "Love 2 Read" and the focus is all about Australians becoming a nation of readers. Statistics on literacy and fluency within the Australian population are not flattering and in response to these findings the initiative has identified three goals to help change the reading culture of our country. The goals are listed below and have been copied directly from The National Year of Reading website.
  • For all Australians to understand the benefits of reading as a life skill and a catalyst for well-being;
  • To promote a reading culture in every home; and
  • To establish an aspirational goal for families, of parents and caregivers sharing books with their children every day.
There are events happening all over the country in support of the campaign. If you'd like more information on these events, or the campaign itself, I suggest you click through to The National Year of Reading website
Personally, I've decided to do my little bit to support the campaign by setting myself a reading challenge for 2012. As a book seller you would think I read a lot and I do read quite a bit, but not as much as I would like to. The truth is that I'm sometimes so busy with selling books that the time available to read them is just not there. So this year I'm aiming for more of a balance. Last night I set myself up an account on Good Reads which is an international social networking site for book lovers. Good Reads have a reading challenge widget, so I used it to set myself the goal of reading 100 books in 2012. That's about two per week and I'm already right on track. You'll notice the widget on the right side of my blog showing you this information. I'm pretty confident I can reach the target and depending on how I'm going might even raise the bar half way through the year. This is something anyone can do, so if you're looking for something to do to support The National Year of Reading, or if you'd just like to set yourself a reading goal for 2012, why don't you join me on Good Reads and set-up an account. You can view my profile by using this link - http://www.goodreads.com/readinghabit.
If you're doing something else to support The National Year of Reading in Australia, I'd love to hear about it, so make sure you leave a comment here. As a business, Reading Habit Online Second Hand Bookstore will be supporting the campaign by striking up a relationship with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, but more on that later.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

What Books Did You Get for Christmas?

With Christmas and New Year now fading into memory I thought it time to brag about what books I got for Christmas. It's one of my favourite things to post about on the blog and I hope you'll share what you received with me as well. I admit to doing pretty well in the book department this year, receiving five amazing books as gifts, some of which I've already polished off.

Let's start with Christopher Paolini's Inheritance. I received this book from my sister as an early Christmas gift and had devoured it within 7 days. It's a massive book, but I was eager to read the last instalment in the Inheritance saga so applied myself with more gusto than usual. I definitely enjoyed it and was pleased that the author went with the bittersweet ending rather than the crowd pleaser. As a whole, the series was a good read, but not one I think I'd ever find myself re-reading. It's definitely more suited to the young adult reader and like most books of its' kind tends to get too bogged down in the details for my liking. I'm no longer surprised by how the thickness of each consecutive instalment in a fantasy series increases exponentially, but I am finding the practice more and more tedious. Maybe I'm just becoming too picky in my old age!!

My sister also gave me a copy of King Brown Country: The Betrayal of Papunya. I read this straight after Inheritance and had it completed within 3 days. King Brown Country is, in my opinion, a must read for all Australians. Written by journalist Russell Skelton, it documents the fate of Papunya, an Aboriginal settlement right in the heart of Australia. For those unfamiliar with the settlement, it's the birthplace of the 70s Aboriginal art movement as well as well-known Aboriginal musicians such as the Warumpi Band. By focusing on the rise and fall of this tiny settlement, Skelton shines a light on the plight of Aboriginal people in general. It's a tragic tale of injustice, incompetence, betrayal, abuse, misery, and the consistent failure of Government over decades. Parts of this book really left their mark on me, and though most are content to stick their head in the sand when it comes to indigenous issues, I'm certainly not one of them. The book had a profound impact on me and when I couple it with my experience of reading Tall Man by Chloe Hooper last year, it has given me the impetus to make myself more aware of the Aboriginal cause in general.

After finishing King Brown Country I moved onto another Christmas gift, The Omnivore's Dilemna (by Michael Pollan). I've wanted this book for ages after hearing parts of it read aloud on ABC Radio National and was excited when I received it from my mum. The Omnivore's Dilemna is a non-fiction book that looks at the food we eat in what is now a predominantly fast food world. I've only just started it so I can't give you a review yet, but I promise one in the near future. The other two books I received that now sit awaiting my indulgence are Among the Islands by Tim Flannery and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. The Murakami book in particular is quite daunting....it's enormous!!

Now it's your turn to brag. I'd love to hear what booky treasures you found under the Christmas tree, so comment away.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

January Book Giveaway - The Name of the Star (Maureen Johnson)

Courtesy of our friends at Harper Collins, this month we have a copy of The Name of the Star (A Shades of London Novel) by Maureen Johnson to giveaway.

Sixteen-year-old American girl Rory has just arrived at boarding school in London when a Jack the Ripper copycat-killer begins terrorising the city. All the hallmarks of his infamous murders are frighteningly present, but there are few clues to the killer's identity. “Rippermania” grabs hold of modern-day London, and the police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. In an unknown city with few friends to turn to, Rory makes a chilling discovery…could the copycat murderer really be Jack the Ripper back from the grave?

To enter our book giveaway just leave a comment on our blog. And don't forget to increase your chances by checking out how to gain bonus entries!!

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Entries are open until 5pm EST on Tuesday 31st January 2012. The competition is open to residents of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and the UK. The winner of the competition will be announced on Wednesday 1st February 2012. Good luck to everyone!!