A bit less of the knitting?

Today’s Thursday Thrill might seem a bit of an odd one, as it heralds a period of less knitting…

I have been painfully aware, since I took to the knitting frenzy, that my reading time has plummeted – to zero. I have always been a reader, and I truly love books – but it is difficult to read and to knit at the same time. I considered audio books but they really do not cut the mustard – the vast  majority of titles are abridged – and who wants that? Full length books are very expensive in audio form and would be wasted  if  I couldn’t get on with the reader. Really, I have tried. Stephen Fry, Stephen Moore, Martin Jarvis… these voices I can embrace, but a nasty mid-Western twang would see that expensive audio book cast into the bin. It’s not the format for me, sorry.

Although I miss my reading, I do now need some considerable  impetus in order to get a good book out. Today I am thrilled to have taken steps to join a reading group. An online reading group. A self-paced online reading group. An initiative by the Orkney Library and Faber & Faber; this is a really exciting project to be part of. The books will be sent out to me, one per month. I get to read at my own pace, then comment via the blog, or Twitter, or Facebook.

If you would like to be part of a reading group that does not have any meetings then you might be interested in At home with Faber.

Orkney Library & Archive has teamed up with publishers Faber & Faber to launch a new online reading group, which you can be involved in without leaving the comfort of your home. This makes it perfect for people living on the isles, or for those who simply do not have the time to go to meetings.

Library Assistant Stewart Bain explains ‘The library runs a number of very successful reading groups; Kirkwall and Stromness groups have both been running for over five years, and the Monday Night Murders crime reading group has just celebrated its first birthday’

‘We have many users who like to borrow reading group titles but for various reasons don’t come to the meetings. As part of Reader Development in the library we wanted to give as many people as possible the chance to share their views on books with others. Because we already have a blog, and use Twitter and Facebook, an online reading group seemed the obvious next step’.

‘I met Susan Holmes from Faber at an event in Glasgow last year, got in touch with her about the possibility of an online reading group, and At home with Faber was the result. We are delighted to give people throughout Orkney the chance to read, and exchange opinions on, new and classic titles from this prestigious publisher’.

If you take part in At home with Faber you will get a new book posted to you every month, which can be read at your own pace, there is no deadline to meet. Comments on the title can then be left on the At home with Faber blog http://athomewithfaber.blogspot.com, or using e-mail, Twitter and the library Facebook page.


This is great for me. I’ve tried reading groups before and always feel like the poor relation of the group – the least educated and informed. The illiterate thickie. At least online I may keep my blushes private.

Don’t get me wrong about the illiterate thickie thing. I am educated. I may have failed my A levels (for good reason) but I caught up, got myself a degree and a post graduate qualification… but I was a Scientist at school and a techie thereafter. I was good enough at English  but loathed English Literature lessons, despite the fact that I read both avidly and widely from very early years. The problem for me is that I find reading an intensely private experience. I internalise my reading. It is a dream world for  me and a private space. I could never get along with discussing my interpretation of, or feelings about, a book – and I never settled to the idea that I, as a reader, could possibly hold a view about the author’s intended meaning. Who knows what was in their head? My reading and interpretation is coloured entirely by my experiences and my personality. How could there be a right answer to those stupidly loaded questions in a Lit exam? It makes no sense whatsoever to me. I ran a mile from English Lit as soon as I possibly could; therefore I lack the tools and the language to discuss books sensibly in an educated forum. I belong strictly to that class of reader that knows what it likes.

And what I likes is to read, and not to talk about it.

The fact is, I do not belong in a reading group. Perhaps online will work better for me.

The first book is by Barbara Kingsolver – The Lacuna. This is quite interesting to me – my only brush with Ms Kingsolver thus far was in reading some extracts from The Poisonwood Bible on a creative writing course that I did. I did not enjoy what I read. Is  she “not for me”? or was it an issue of reading extracts without  first “getting into” the flow? Time now to find out!

It is not clear to me whether this group will be all-fiction or if non-fiction and poetry will be included – I do hope that they will. I had a look at the Faber web site to peruse their fiction author list. It is a long list (almost 800) and I  made it only as far as the G’s. Some names I saw that appeal to me include Alan Bennett, Brian Aldis, Stephen Fry, Ray Gosling, Michael Foot… but, oh, my – William Golding! Perleeeese do not make me read Lord of the Flies again. I could not bear it! Ack! That one book single-handedly propelled me out of English Lit and into the German classroom!

By the way – you do not need to be a library user, nor an Orcadian, to enjoy following Orkney Library on Twitter (or indeed Facebook). Follow now, and I promise you a treat. No dry and dusty librarians here, but a feast of acid wit 🙂


  1. July 15, 2010

    Another person who had to do Lord of the Flies at school, I think it put me off analysing books for life! I like to read, but as my boyfriend pointed out I like books that don’t challenge me, I really do read for pleasure and nothing else. If I have to think too hard about a book I get switched off!

    • July 15, 2010

      I don’t mind a challenging read – but I do become irritated with characters that I cannot like and will trash books because of that. I also dislike books that require me to absorb a completely new lexicon – fantasy worlds where I cannot remember which of many similar sounding names apply to what character, which place… Yes, this applies to LOTR. I never completed it, despite several attempts. I like fantasy books though – just not the ones that require me to take notes as I go along!

      I can enjoy a simple lighthearted read but it must be well written – none of your Dan Brown or JK Rowling crap. It astounds me that so many people will spend money on so much poorly-written rubbish… I like a good wordsmith – a good story is insufficient in itself.

  2. July 23, 2010

    Here in the US there is now a system for downloading audiobooks from the library. This is great, as they are not generally abridged and if you don’t like the reader, just delete it from your ipod/mp3 player. I have had to ditch several books – I really wanted to do a lot of the classics, and some of the readers are too dreadfully dull or have inappropriate accents.

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