With World Book tonight, who better to have a chat with about his favourite reads than the lovely Paul O'Grady? As an avid reader and an author himself, Paul has revealed his top tips for 'book-block' - something which The Reading Agency's research has found affects over half of us Brits!
Tell us about a time when you have experienced ‘book- block’ – the inability to finish the book you are currently reading. How did you overcome that experience and start reading again? What one piece of advice would you give to someone suffering from ‘book-block’?
Paul: I was reading ‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton and I’ll admit that I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, but as I was half way through, instead of giving up on it I persevered and by the end I understood what it was all about. It’s very well written and conjures up interesting images which really make you think. For me that is what a good book should do, so I was glad I stuck with it! So, if you get book block my advice would be to persevere (unless of course it’s driving you round the bend and really is boring you to tears – then I’d suggest you do call it a day and find something to read that you actually like). Reading is meant to be a pleasurable experience, not a chore.
Which three books would you recommend to someone suffering from ‘book-block’? This can be any type of book, e.g. a short story, book of poems etc.
Paul: Read something you’re interested in, be it tropical fish, torrid romances, novels or film star biographies. Don’t force yourself to read what everyone else is raving about just for the sake of it – read books that contain subjects and situations that you know will capture your imagination. If you like poetry, then Edna St Vincent Millay is a good read; Leonie Frieda’s biography of Catherine De Medici is a book you can really get stuck into and learn something in the process, and anything by Peter Ackroyd is guaranteed to keep you glued to the page.
Tell us about a time when reading has been a transformative experience e.g. helped you through a challenging time in your life.
Paul: If I need to take my mind off things then I’ll re-read E.F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books. When I was working in a club in Copenhagen, to pass the long winter days I got stuck into Jilly Cooper (not literally!), as well as the entire series of the Miss Read books, which someone had very kindly left in the room we lived in. A really good book about the history of just about anyone and anywhere always holds my interest, as does a dip into The Borrowers by Mary Norton, which I’ve read regularly since it first came out in the year dot.
How do you decide what to read next? E.g. recommendation from a trusted friend, browsing in bookshops, reviews online, in papers/magazines.
Paul: I tend not to be influenced by book reviews, as I like to make my own mind up. I love having a good root around a well-stocked bookshop, where I usually spend a fortune – I’m the same in a second-hand bookshop too, so my house is full of books as I can’t bear to get rid of any of them!
Reading is a necessity for me, I’ll read the label on a sauce bottle if there’s nothing else around.
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