Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leaders who are readers

Just a quick thought, and this is spurred by the previous question posed in this month's Literary Blog Hop.  What if all our great leaders around the world were asked a mandatory question/s: what are they reading at present? and name one influential book you have read?  Would their answers sway you in any way?

 I know that Barack Obama releases his reading list and I think most people on the planet know what Oprah reads - who could be considered an influential leader. Do you know of any others?

However closer to home is an article from last year asking some of our Melbourne leaders what they read.  For me their choice in reading is very telling.    I'm not saying that there is anything good or bad on the list but I will dare to say the list seems somewhat predictable.  I'll allow you to be the judge. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Literary Blog Hop - March 2012

Welcome to the Literary Blog Hop hosted by The blue bookcase

How do you find time to read, what's your reading style and where do you think reading literature should rank in society's priorities?

Hmmmm time to read.  If you take a close look at the dates of my recent posts you will see that my time has been very short lately.  I'm desperate for more time to read.  At present I usually only read at night and since I am so tired by the time I'm in bed I only manage a few pages before it's lights out for me.  This question could almost be described as intuitive for me as I have been trying to create additional pockets of time to hastily fit more reading in.  As I have been reading a real 'page turner' this hasn't been that difficult to do and I have also read my novel whilst having my morning coffee.  This time is normally saved for me getting through reading the weekend newspaper, that comes big and thick with many supplements and usually takes me a whole week to get through.  So even though I've taken up my novel during this time, the bits of newspaper I want to read are sitting there banking up.  Not enough hours in the day!  Two small children (four and two) do not make for leisurely reading time.  There's always somewhere to be or something to be done.

Now that I've addressed the time issue, my reading style is predominantly reading fiction, and I have to be in a relaxed state of mind, hence the reading at night.  I hate reading only a few pages at a time and I envy people who say they devour a book in one sitting.  Oh to be able to afford that kind of time.  I also get stroppy when it is suggested I am a slow reader - this has never been an intentional slight and usually has occurred online from people who do not know me - but I am an extremely fast reader only I do not have much time at present to get through books quickly.  In addition to reading fiction, depending on what I am studying there will be texts and articles to read that will be predominantly set reading for a course.  These usually act as a platform for further reading and then I find my TBR pile and list just grows and grows and grows.  I like making lists for various things and my TBR list is no exception.  I use Librarything to organise it in a satisfactory way and I feel panicky flutters within if I notice my bedside bookpile growing any lesser than a four or five book stack as I then need to start scouting around for more to add to it!

Reading literature in society ranks at about a ten for me.  It is of the highest priority.  I am a Librarian and I am studying to become a secondary English teacher.  The thought of molding young minds towards a literary bent excites me.  I'm sure many of you have heard of the merits of reading to babies.  When I brought my first born home from the hospital, his first 'awake' time was devoted to me reading a Mr Men book to him whilst he looked up at me in wonder and then began to hiccup with excitement.  I'd like to think it was excitement over a book but of course it would have just been due to hearing mum's voice.  Why a Mr Men book you may ask?  Because it is small and light and easy to hold whilst holding a newborn and it has very solid primary colours in their illustrations.  We are frequent visitors to the library and we average about four picture books each night before bedtime.  My son and I broke the record of him being the youngest ever to attend our Library Storytime. - Hey you have to go somewhere when you're at home with a baby and I can think of no better place.  Alighting the flame of curiosity that is aroused when seeing books and wanting to read them is a priority for me with my children.  I consider this my duty as a mother.

On a more somber note, my son has recently experienced some bullying and although it is very new it is of course traumatic for him.  Together with his teacher, we have been strategising ways in which to deal with it.  One course of action we talked about was introducing some books that dealt with differences in children and acceptance etc.  The reason why reading should be ranked as a high priority in society is because it teaches empathy.  It is only when readers place themselves in other's shoes that can you truly digest another's feelings and hopefully make your way as a thoughtful and considerate human being. Aaaaah boy was it good to get that off my chest!!!!  Thanks for another great question, I've madly typed for about ten minutes so I know how enthused I am about this topic.

What I've been reading lately...The illusion of murder

Have you seen that old Hollywood movie, The Great Race, starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis?  In it Natalie Wood admirably portrays the feisty nineteenth century reporter, Maggie DuBois, dressed to the nines and always looking a million dollars as she races around the world and reports for her newspaper along the way.  I have read that Maggie DuBois is loosely based on Nellie Bly.

So it was with this in mind that I read The illusion of murder, but as I was reading I couldn't quite picture McCleary's heroine (true life) character Nellie Bly to Natalie Wood's portrayal of Maggie DuBois.  That is I kept waiting for Bly to be as feisty as Wood's Dubois.  And somehow this detracted from my reading of the book.  In my last post I wrote about how when a book is critically examined it is nothing but an autobiography of the critic who is writing it.  Firstly I need to say that I completely agree with this notion, and my precursor to the character of Nellie Bly comes from watching the movie, The great race.  Secondly I need to point out that my blog posts regarding what I read aren't meant to be read as a critical reading.  They're just my thoughts and views about what I have just read.  However, perhaps in trying to distance myself from trying to be too critical, I'm only showing that you cannot?

The illusion of murder is written in the first person and present tense.  As I read I kept thinking why not write in the third person and show a more omnipresent view?  I'm thinking this may have worked a little better.  The book is well written and there is some nice smart dialogue, but maybe in the third person this dialogue would have been allowed to shine or taking a bird's eye view the characters could have been fleshed out a little more, rather than just depend on one view point?

This book is reminiscent of Elizabeth Peter's series featuring Amelia Peabody, and I love the Peabody series!  Author McCleary has probably come closest to writing something in this vein, and since I love the series so much, I'm always on the look out for 'like' books to Peters

Nellie Bly is touted as being the world's first investigative female reporter and McCleary has taken this exceptional historical figure and based her story line on true events when Bly raced around the world in 1889 in an attempt to beat Jules Verne's fictional hero Phileas Fogg's time of eighty days. For those wanting to know more about her a good website to try is Nellie Bly Online.

My final thoughts is that The illusion of murder is a good read.  I haven't read the first book, but it didn't seem to matter too much.  If I spot the first book sitting on a shelf somewhere I'll be sure to read that too.  Oh and did she beat Fogg's time of eighty days?  You will have to read it to find out.

I discovered that Egypt is a land of both mystery and magic, an exotic place where trees talk and men turn staffs into snakes, so it should not have come as such a surprise that death would also be mysterious in this ancient, haunted land of pyramids, mummies, and the eternal Nile.
That I could meet a bizarre end in this strange land has not occurred to me until now as I stand, frozen, staring down at the long black snake I've stepped on.
I don't dare lift my foot; I can't even breathe; I just stand stiffly in place, the toe of my shoe pressing down on the serpent as it thrashes and tries to coil.
Darkness is closing in as a burning torch on the dirt a few feet from me fades.  When the bundle of sticks burns out, there'll be just me and the snake - in the dark.

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