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Look at me, I read books.

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Before this year, I've not been much for reading books. Several years ago I read the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, which consisted of The Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. I must have read those in 2008, having got three copies of The Northern Lights for Christmas in 2007, following the movie adaptation, and since then I've forgotten what happened. I have brought one or two things home from them, but basically just the idea of a knife so sharp that it could cut through any material with great ease (the subtle knife itself). Besides that, I've forgotten the books for the most part.

At some point I read through all the Harry Potter novels as well, though evidently I must have read them pretty carelessly, since I didn't realise Snape was a good guy after all at the end. But I did read them all, maybe sometime between the Order of the Pheonix movie and the first Deathly Hallows movie. I must have enjoyed them to get through them all, though I don't distinctly remember any parts I enjoyed.

I also chose to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë for an essay at school, though I only read the first half. I later read Animal Farm by George Orwell from Septemberish of 2011 to sometime in the early summer/late spring of 2012. I read Wuthering Heights for the fact my mother could help me analysing it, and Animal Farm just for the fact that it was a school book that I'd never read in class before, and wanted to say that I had read it.

That's a brief history of what I consider ancient history, before the point where I really enjoyed books. A history of half-experienced books that I either wasn't invested in, or didn't pay the proper attention to in order to get the most out of them.

The next book I read was one I'd considered reading for a while, and chose out of a long-standing interest rather than any other shallow reasons like 'bragging rights' (in the case of Animal Farm alone, really). That book was A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, inspired by the fact that Tales from Earthsea was such a mediocre movie compared to any other Studio Ghibli movie I'd watched. I'd heard that the author was unimpressed by the movie, and that fans considered the books to be much better (as book-readers unfailingly do). So I read that, from October 2012 until January of this year, and enjoyed it a lot.

If you've ever seen Tales from Earthsea, or indeed if you're a fan of fantasy novels at all, I recommend reading the Earthsea novels a lot. Maybe I'm inexperienced as a reader, but they're very well written and easy to love, as well as quite short. If you've ever seen the Tales from Earthsea movie, then you'll known the character Sparrowhawk. The Earthsea novles are all connected to him in some way. The first, A Wizard of Earthsea, follows Sparrowhawk from childhood to young-adulthood, as he finds his magical ability, goes to wizarding school, which serve as an introduction to the greater part of the book where he embarks on his brief work as a wizard, and then onto his journey to fight a curse he brought on himself during his time at the wizarding school. The second book, The Tombs of Atuan follow not Sparrowhawk, but a girl who meets him, and how he involves himself in her own story. The Farthest Shore serves as the basis of the movie Tales from Earthsea, but I haven't read this one yet.

So yes, I highly recommend these books. They're a quick read, and accessible too. And it has magic (Knuckle).

I read A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan one after the other, the latter being read much faster than the other, but still at quite a slow pace, taking me about a month or so. At some point, there was an episode of Psycho-Pass, in which Makishima Shogo remarked that the world of the show was similar to that of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Since I was thinking on what to read next at this point, I took note of the title, and ordered it shortly before I finished reading The Tombs of Atuan. So continuing with the habit of only finding books through anime, I got it and read it over the course of two weeks. Another good book, though it didn't resonate with me as the Earthsea novels had. I recommend it as well, though less enthusiastically.

I'd been contemplating for a long while, ever since I fell out of touch with the TV series, that I might try reading Game of Thrones. Having read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? so much more quickly than the last books, I figured I can trust my commitment to reading enough by this point to take on as large a book as Game of Thrones. I read it in a month, loving it all but not being blown away, since I was mostly covering old ground that I'd seen in what I'd already watched of the TV series (episodes 1-8 + spoilers people had given away online already).

Between that and Clash of Kings, I fitted in A Murder of Quality by John le Carré just to spread out the series. My dad is a great fan of John le Carré, and I figured it'd be nice to give these books a go to see if I can get into them. It was a good enough book, but not nearly enough whimsy for me. Still holding hope that I could get into this sort of stuff, I planned ahead to go back and read Call for the Dead (which I'm currently reading), and read all of the George Smiley novels, since I did enjoy his character, and he could serve as a bridge into this new ground.

Back to Clash of Kings, which took me another month of reading, while I moved from Dundee back home. New unspoiled territory. At some point while I read it, the Red Wedding happened, and the great boom of internet chatter got the bare bones of the events to me, and spoiled the important details of 'who' and 'what'. Understandably irritated, this fueled me to finish Clash of Kings, and then read both parts of Storm of Swords one after the other in just over two weeks. I passed the spoiler about 130 pages into the second part and plowed through to the end.

All through it, I thought how sweet it would be to be free from the threat of spoilers on the internet from the TV series, and instead have the advantage once I passed the point covered by the TV series. Instead, I've found that it's just instead frustrating not being on the same wavelength as other people. I'm behind most of the book-readers, and ahead of those watching the TV series. I'm not experiencing the book alongside other people, and I've realised that's something that puts me at a certain disadvantage. Everybody watching the series is on the same wavelength, while I'm somewhere between the two points of completion, with few people who I can relate to right now.

So while I would say that the books are absolutely completely undeniably superior to the TV series, I have to say that if you're particularly invested in the social experience that comes with experiencing the TV series with other people, then don't bother reading the books. It's not very fun for anybody if one person watching the show knows what's going to happen next, hanging over the others' shoulder waiting for a reaction to something you're looking forward to. So if you're willing to take it on as an individual experience for a while, or if you aren't as picky as I am about it, then stick with the series. Nothing wrong with sitting waiting for next episodes year after year, having a huge number of people experiencing it alongside you. That's a good way to be as well, maybe better.

So that's that, and now I'm here. I've been reading Call for the Dead by John le Carré since I finished Storm of Swords last week, and been enjoying it well enough, and slowly. Being a bit more moderate with how much I read again, but my casual reading is a lot better than it had been while I read Clash of Kings and those before it. I would read a bit every day or so with Game of Thrones, and The Tombs of Atuan was something I read at night before sleep, while A Wizard of Earthsea was only ever read under rare circumstances; train journeys mostly.

I have a pile in my room for books I've finished, and another books I've yet to read. Sitting in the former are all the books I've mentioned here, and the latter, A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, which will come after Call for the Dead. That, and the two books I got today, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin.

Which leads me to the reason I even started making this vanity post; this picture of those two books. Look at me, I read books now.


Padraig! likes this

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I only skimmed this, but I saw Flowers for Algernon at the end there. I read it as a short story (?) in school a long time ago, goddamn is it depressing. Great read though.

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