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We’ve moved!!

Because this blog is growing, and because I am growing rather fond of it, I have decided to shift it to it’s very own space, with it’s very own domain name. For everyone who has subscribed to the blog, don’t worry! I have switched the feed so you should be receiving updates as normal. And I will also leave this blog live in case there are any links to the blog, however if you come to this site after today, thebooktiger.wordpress.com will no longer be updated.

However, The Book Tiger is continuing her quest over at http://www.thebooktiger.co.uk, so why not come over and join us.

Hopefully I have managed the migration OK, but if I have missed anything or messed it up, you can contact me via any of the ways outlined on the contact page. Otherwise, see you over at The Book Tiger…

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Victorian humour? Is it possible? I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but Jerome K. Jerome proved in Three Men in a Boat that it was indeed possible. Despite my normal aversion to ‘funny books’ (in particular modern funny books) there were moments I actually laughed out loud whilst reading this book. It was ‘Murphy’s Law’ in prose, with delightful observations on the world which haven’t lost their relevance despite more than a century passing since the book was first published.

Jerome set out to write a river guide which soon turned into a charming story about the boating antics of the working and lower middle classes in London. The three men are himself and two of his friends as well as a fox terrier, Montmorency, to whom Jerome gives a wry humour and a personality which perfectly suits the group. After spending an evening contemplating their respective illnesses (none of which they had of course), the three friends decided to take two weeks in a boat along the Thames, with idyllic ideas of pleasure, freedom and nature. Thus decided, the journey begins…

This book isn’t fantastic because of its plot – in fact the plot is thin at the best of times. It is fantastic because of the observations made by J and his friends whilst they travel. Whether it was the fun of the three trying (and failing) to open a tin of pineapple chunks, or the observations that because Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn courted in several places, it must have been intenseley frustrating for everyone at the time because every single place they went they would have run into the two wayward lovers, or the delicious description of how they loved to hold up the steam launches by pretending they couldn’t hear them, until they were being towed by a steam launch and then they felt justified in cursing all of the selfish boaters who held up the steam launches by pretending they couldn’t bhear them, this book was constant amusement. Of course, the trip wasn’t as idyllic as they wanted, but that never seemed to dampen the spirits of the main characters. In that respect, they were truly delightful.

Three Men in a Boat paints a lovely picture of the way leisure time was spent during the 1880s. Despite the fact that leisure time was earnt through long hours and hard work, it was used as a way to transcend class and, just for a few short hours, pretend that they were men of leisure with all the time on their hands and the beauty and history of the river in their grasp. In contrast to classics such as Dickens, which paint a miserable picture of the poorer classes of London, Jerome chooses to show them up as happy, carefree and full of humour. It was a lovely contrast.

Rating: 8/10
ISBN: 978-0-14-144121-4
Publisher: Penguin (Classics)
Year: 1889
Date Finished: 16 April 2008
Pages: 178

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I found this article recently, which estimated as an aside that an ‘extraordinary’ reader, who manages to finish an average of a book a week, will only be able to read about 3000 books in their lifetime. I calculated that at a book a week for approximately 57 years, so starting at the age of 13 and living (and reading) through until 70 years old. 3000 books…

Goodness. Is that all?

That’s just not enough.

The article goes on to talk about how, due to this limitation, it is so important to choose your reading carefully and not to waste your time on ‘bad books’. But I kept getting caught on how few 3000 books actually is. Just to put it in perspective, I own nearly 1000 books – which would make up a third of my lifetime quota already. I would love to read my way through my entire book collection (which grows at a rate of 5 – 10 books a month) but still allowing myself to get distracted by library books, book club books, borrowed books, re-reads of favourites and the plethora of other reading material that is out there. Which then begs the question. Am I simply being unrealistic?

I am in no place to estimate my own life expectancy, nor my ability to continue to read until I reach it, but of course I hope the prognosis on both will be good. But being well into my 30’s already, I am a long way past the 13 year old starting age. Can I start my 3000 all over again please?

Realistically, I can read more than a book a week, which increases my numbers. I have joined the 75 book challenge over at LibraryThing in conjunction with various other reading challenges this year, so that ups my total by 50% at least. Then there is always the example of this lady who is looking to read 200 books this year. She’s certainly defying the average.

The problem is, there are so many admirable books out there. There are so many exciting stories to read. There are so many fascinating things to learn and amazing things to discover between the pages of books. Even some of the ‘bad books’ merit a read. I have spent time with books that reviewers have slated and been pleased I made the effort. I have persevered with books I started out hating and not been sorry. Of course, there were some which I was sorry and hated all the way through, but how would I have known the difference if I hadn’t persevered? Now I wonder, has that one bad book has taken up one of my precious quota?

As much as I hope for immortality to achieve my quest of reading everything in the Amazon catalogue, being a realist I am not really holding my hopes up. In the meantime, all we can do is our best.

3000 books just isn’t enough.

I had better get reading.

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There is much talk nowadays about books going the same way as music, and electronic book readers replacing traditional paper books. Because of the iPod revolution, very few people are still buying CDs (or records…remember them?) and along with the changes have come the battles over copyright, illegal downloads and file sharing. An article that I recently read in Business magazine suggested that what with the release of the Kindle from Amazon, books could be going the same way. Although not available yet in the UK, despite my eagerness to own an iPod (and my inability to be without it now), I certainly won’t be rushing out to get a Kindle.

Stephen Amidon writes about the new device for the Times Online and comes to quite a positive conclusion, however it is his final paragraph which struck a chord with me.

The beauty and genius of the traditional book is that it is a thing unto itself. It is self-contained. Its limitations are its strength. It has covers, and between them is an entire world created by the interplay between the author’s imagination and the reader’s. Once you connect that autonomous world to the shifting, boundless, hyperactive universe of cyberspace, you run the very real risk of severing that magical bond of imagination…By opening up the book to the limitless possibilities of the digital age, Amazon just might be risking closing it for good.

I love books because I love the fact that the story plays out in my imagination. The instant I open the cover I am transported to another place and can sit in silence, completely unaware that anything or nothing is happening around me, totally lost in the world of the book. I don’t want to have hyperlinks to video, music clips or pictures. I don’t want aides to my imagination. I don’t want anything which is going to remind me that I am actually in the real world. Television does that for me already, which is why I tend not to watch it. Books are my escapism.

Furthermore, and I know I am going to sound like an old traditionalist here, I love the feel of the paper. I love being able to flick ahead, or check how far into the book I am. I love picking up old books in second hand bookstores and finding someone’s old bus ticket or a scribbled ‘with love’ in the cover. And I just adore standing in front of my bookshelves, my head on one side as I go through that delicious decision about what I am going to read next. Nothing in the world could take that experience away from me. It is why I am a book addict.

I had to smile though at an alternative article by Steven Poole of The Guardian. In it, he lists all the things an eBook reader would need before it could truly replace paper books. It is a pretty tough list for an electronic device, and a pretty easy one of the humble book. I had to agree with all of them (except ripping out a page to write a phone number on!). Unlike music, where the primary purpose is to listen to it and really the method of delivery isn’t that important (although the better the sound quality, arguably the greater the enjoyment), books aren’t just about reading a story. They are a whole experience. And I, for one, am not planning on giving that up even if I am the last woman standing hugging my old book collection to myself.

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