Reading the bones

St Kilda, Melbourne
St Kilda, Melbourne

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”  ~ Stephen King

When I moved to Melbourne this year, I decided there were three things I wanted to do in my new life: start doing yoga, sleep more … and read more.

Now this may come as a surprise, given I’m a writer.  I should clarify. I read and write every day in my job. I read reports and academic articles. I devour online news and blogs. On weekends it’s glossy magazines. But novels? A hard-copy book? Until recently I had literally read one novel since 2005. It was Tuesdays with Morrie and it took me months to get through. Since graduating from university after seven years of part-time study I have struggled with books.

As a teenager, I would have three books on the go at any one time. Enid Blyton, John Steinbeck and C.S. Lewis would sit comfortably together on my bedside table. Fiction was my first true love.

But undertaking a degree killed my love of fiction. All that critical analysis meant I couldn’t escape into fiction anymore. My mind couldn’t stop thinking about semiotics and binary opposition long enough for me to actually enter the story. I gave up. Besides, I had already fallen deeply and passionately in love with non-fiction. Enter journalism. Features. National Geographic. But still, strangely, no books.

But I am pleased to report I recently read three books. Novels. Autobiographies actually. I’d always thought they sounded heavy and boring. But actually they are perfect for me. Non-fiction and a novel. Who knew?

First came Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi. Beautiful, mesmerising. My first just-can’t-put-it-down reading marathon in years. Inspired, I looked around. Enter Mia Freedman. One of my idols. She and Jana Wendt were two reasons I got into journalism. Mia Culpa was fun, playful. Loved it. I decided to read Freedman’s autobiographical second novel Mama Mia. Wow.

One 36-hour reading marathon later, punctuated by tears and laughter, and I’ve not only decided to read more novels – I’ve decided to write one. My love of books is back. Big time. Thank you Mia xxx

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Sofia Borgstein says:

    I totally get that a degree can kill your love for fiction. I haven’t been able to pick up Dickens without sighing with memories of Victorian literature analysis. Before getting a degree he was so much easier to read. Looking into the bones and anatomy of fiction makes reading fiction (or certain types of fiction) difficult at times.

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  2. Domonique says:

    Great post Summer! I completely relate and flit between non-fiction and yoga philosophy to trashy mags reading only the picture captions and online news, wellbeing and travel articles….thanks Twitter!
    I can recommend another that fits your bill and includes some yogic inspiration – Poser: my life in 23 yoga poses by Claire Dederer. She’s a writer and took up yoga after injuring her back breastfeeding. I’m still reading it, but so far so good…
    It’s very exciting to hear that your writing a novel. What’s is going to be about? I wish you every success and many clear headed nights ahead. Please keep us posted!
    x Dom

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    1. Hi Dom, thanks for your comment and book recommendation. Sounds good! My novel… well, it will be an autobiography. Ok, I’m not an icon like Mia but everyone has a story right? A friend of mine recently called me a poster girl for single mums – not that I’m single anymore – but it got me thinking.I got into journalism to tell ordinary people’s extraordinary stories to inspire others. So, I’d share my story with the hope it would inspire other single mums to pursue their education and career dreams. What do you think?

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  3. Kat says:

    Love the blog post Summer! I’m so glad for you that you have once again claimed your love for reading novels. There is nothing like getting comfy on the couch/hammock with your favourite drink and getting immersed in someone’s elses life story or a fun fiction novel.

    What’s your preference on reading books now that it’s all moving towards e-readers, tablets and Kindles? Personally I prefer to read a hard copy book, it’s engrained in my roots and there is just nothing like the feel and smell of a new book or an old one that you’ve re-read a million times. I’m all for sustainability and a huge believer in minimising/completely phasing out the destruction of our forests. I do hope that they come up with some alternative to produce these mesmerizing stories in the way that we know them today

    A great and inspirational read, thanks.

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    1. Hi Kat, thank you for your comment. Last weekend was so enjoyable, it was raining outside and I was happily curled up in bed with a book. Bliss! I’ve just ordered Mia’s first novel but I don’t think it will be here in time for this weekend. I’d happily read a book on my iPad, you get so used to reading on screen. But I agree with you. Books are beautiful. I love the smell of old books too. My mum has a wonderful collection – whole walls of her house are dedicated to book shelves. One novel I have read a zillion times is The Infinite Plan by Isabel Allende. I absolutely adore that book 🙂

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