Thursday 5 September 2019

Doing it the Hansel and Gretel way:Finding a path through a forest of tales.

I dread to think how many trees have been cut down to feed my story addiction. In my lifetime, I must have read no less than a forest of books (many I borrow or buy second hand). But how do we know which tales to choose? Which are the right books for us? And how do we know that we haven't missed the one?
Brilliantly, but also unfortunately, books are published at a much faster rate than I can read. There are masses of stories that will never fall into my hands. And yet the power of finding a good book, one that speaks to our soul, is as significant as finding a breadcrumb when you are lost (I know the breadcrumbs were actually eaten but they sound far more magical than stones).
Out of all the stories that were read or introduced to me as a child, all of which I'm sure I really enjoyed at the time, only a few have stayed with me. Looking back, they have become a breadcrumb trail through my past- one that offers me guidance, security and comfort. They have shaped my journey and personality.
Here are a few and I'm sure there are no surprises:
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton -my always and forever favourite.
Ted and Dolly's Magic Carpet Ride by Richard Fowler
The Tiger who came to Tea by Judith Kerr.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
Stig of the Dump by Clive King
The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 But now, with so much choice at my fingertips, how do I find a new set of breadcrumbs to guide me through the forest of books that still await me out in the world?
Here are a few paths I have tried.

1) Stick to what you know
 If you like animal stories, then googling for these will probably become a first port of call. Dynamic adventure tales? Then search for those. This could mean that you become attached to a particular theme, series or author. Most of my reading life has been taken up with series reading. From The Famous Five to Sweet Valley Twins, Harry Potter, The Northern Lights Trilogy and they have all been fantastically enjoyable. Very often with a series, the characters become life-long friends, you have the security of knowing the format, if not the twists and turns and the journey becomes exciting but familiar.
 2) Front covers
Front cover art is phenomenally powerful in selling a book and, particularly when browsing in a book shop, the cover is what sells one book over another. I adore a beautiful book cover and kudos to the fantastic illustrators and publishers out there.
Books that I have ordered,or pre-ordered, partly or mainly because of the cover art in recent months are: Dracula Spectacular by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle, The Land of Roar also by Ben Mantle and Jenny McLachlan and The Way Past Winter by Kiran Milwood Hargrave.

3)Recommendations and reviews
Social media and word of mouth is a wonderful and powerful thing. This is, now, definitely the most common way that I find my next book. A book that is frequently mentioned in my newsfeed and has five star reviews is bound to get my attention, especially if the author is known to me and the cover stands out. Current reads on my list, which have got there solely because of reviews and recommendations are Princess BMX by Marie Basting and Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy. It is certainly a great way to support and learn about up and coming debut authors and keep up with the latest and most popular reads.

But I still can't help wonder about the books I'm missing out on. The ones that may be more quietly-spoken, alternative or ones that don't have the backing of a big social media campaign. Maybe, from time to time,  I need to venture off what is becoming a well-trodden path and search more deeply in the undergrowth. For example, if someone rubbishes their latest read, why not try it out to see if you see it differently. You don't have to finish it. Or have a rummage in the library, a charity shop or second-hand bookshop. Find your usual genre and then choose the book opposite instead. How about non-fiction. Non-fiction is boring? Not the ones that I've read recently. Or, check out a publishers latest list and then choose the one that isn't first to jump out.

Reading books is a fantastic thing to do. For both adults and children, it helps us to learn about the world, see things in new ways and from different viewpoints and draws us into worlds other than our own. And, of course, it should be comforting, exhilarating and enjoyable. But, there is nothing wrong in challenging yourself to find something new, a hidden gem. Just keep an open mind-  don't ever be scared to stray off the path of recommendation. You never know, you may just stumble on an alternative breadcrumb route that brings you home changed!

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1 comment:

  1. What an intriguing and lovely way of writing about books. Just love the analogy of the forest....the breadcrumbs, very Hansel and Gretel. Look forward to the next the forest now to read more!


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