I love to read. I always have. I guess the biggest problem I have had in the past is finding the time to sit down, switch off everything else and just read a book. I have always been far too busy to just sit and read. However, these days I take no greater pleasure than sitting down and just reading. Turn the lights down low, lie on the bed, light a few candles and just drift off with a good book. I’ve been reading a lot of late. The type of book really depends on my mood, but I must admit I am always drawn to books that use simple language and are concise. Short sentences. Short chapters. Short stories even. I guess by making this statement I’m leaving myself open to the accusation that I only read books that are simple in tone and content. This is not the case. I am all for more complex literature. In fact, I like the challenge that such a writing style creates. However, my own preference – the way I write myself if you like – is for short sentences. Short, sharp chapters. The same applies to music reviews I guess. I cannot stand reviews that sound like the author has swallowed a thesaurus and spewed it back out onto the page. Long, detailed paragraphs that seem to say a lot, yet say very little. I want things to be sharp and to the point. Often more complex literature tries too hard to sound prolific and intelligent. As Raymod Carver was taught, why use 15 words when you can say what you’re trying to say in 5? I love that. I really do. Taking all this into consideration I’m sure my favourite authors and books will come as no surprise to you:
Chuck Palahnuik: The author of Fight Club. I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled across somebody who writes such fascinating stories as this man. I think he pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable to write about with every book. I own all his novels – except fight club as a friend ruined that one for me – and I would say that possibly my favourite book of all time is his novel ‘Survivor’, which I would recommend everyone checks out. Choke is also good and of his more recent work, Rant is a particularly good read.
Willy Vlautin: Perhaps better known for his work with Richmond Fontaine, Willy Vlautin has 3 widely acclaimed novels to his name. Much like his music, the content is dark. The stories are always heart breaking tales but are also filled with hope. Not many authors have had the emotional impact that he has on me. Much like Raymond Carver his style is exactly what I love. Short chapters. Short sentences. So much said with so little. So much depth. So much beauty. Really brilliant writing. If I had to recommend one of his novels it would be his debut ‘The Motel Life’ which is a heartbreaking tale but one that will leave you wanting more.
Raymond Carver: A hero to many authors, it was Raymond Carver who really is the inspiration behind the idea of conveying as much as possible with as little as possible. His short stories are something truly wonderful. Elephant, the last collection of short stories he ever wrote, is a special book. Much longer than most of his shorts, this collection did suggest he was working towards a novel before his untimely death from lung cancer. He revitalised the short story and his work is nothing short of brilliant. I can read story after story without ever tiring of his words. Simple in form and structure his work is stunning in the complexity of the stories that are put across. As he once stated he was, as a writer, inclined toward brevity and intensity. Lovely stuff.
Alan Bissett: Death of a Ladies Man is a fantastic novel. I can’t really say that I own everything that Alan Bissett has written because I don’t. However, I have read this book. I have seen the Shutdown, the award winning short film he made with Adam Stafford and I have been fortunate enough to see him perform from his new play as well, a performance that was just brilliant. Anyways, his writing is intelligent and the story told in Death of a Ladies Man, of a school teacher who views himself as a role model by day but is a womaniser at night. His self destruction as he battles with both, is just brilliant. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Other books I would recommend would be ‘Black Like Me’ by John Howard Griffin. If you’re a football fan ‘A Season With Verona’ by Tim Parks is a fascinating study of football fans and Italian society. Anything by Irvine Welsh really, though if you have not read ‘Porno’ then you really should. ‘The Seven Days of Peter Crumb’ by Johnny Glynn is a really disturbing read and then there’s the excellent debut by Adam Thirwell entitled ‘Politics’. Anything by Stephen Fry is a good bet. Tim O’Brien’s work always gets me too. And then there are the excellent ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘Killing Pablo’ by Mark Bowden. Also, local Scottish author Doug Johnstone’s latest novel ‘The Ossians’ is a good read. Not forgetting the classics. Just remembering some more contemporary authors who appeal to me. Some fictional, some non-fictional. All great reads. Check them out if you get a minute.