Reading is the most immediate type of travel. Not just geographical travel, but also through time, paradigms, languages, and worlds. The movement does not have to be linear, and so often is not: a chapter might open and end in the same spot, but in-between the first paragraph and the last you have battled Scylla, cooked marmalade, wept over Hamlet’s life and death, and made friends with a signet who thinks he’s a duckling.
It is exciting, it is always new — even if you pick up a familiar book, because you have changed since you read it last and the words have acquired fresh meanings. There is danger to reading; from library fines and limited social life, to the greatest menace of all: the desire to write.
Once you have heard enough stories, it seems almost inevitable that you will start telling them, too. And it is almost inevitable that you will be bad at it at first. Few things have pained me more than my own poetry written at the age of fourteen. It was pretentious and flowery and, as an educated reader, I noticed its faults and, as a novice poet, I could not escape them. Bridging that gap constitutes a writer’s education.
Talking to aspiring authors, Ray Bradbury advised to write daily and to also ‘read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head’. Stephen King, in one of the best manuals on the topic, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, said the following:
‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.’
The sentiment was echoed by my Oxford tutors. At the beginning of each residence we would be asked about our progress with the reading list, and we would pause, make thoughtful faces, and lie that we are done with 60% — at least.
There are no deadlines now and I am lucky enough to still have access to the Bodleian Library. I shall continue my education, and I hope to not just read books, but to start a conversation about them. An opinion different to your own is a precious thing, and this platform should be a place for discussion. Please, never hesitate to share your thoughts, or suggest a title.
Below are the books which have been read and reviewed on Chance & Physics before, listed by genre: ‘Children’s Literature’, ‘Comics and Graphic Novels’, ‘Crime’, ‘Drama’, ‘Fiction’, ‘Nonfiction’, and ‘Poetry’. The titles are given alphabetically by author, and each work is linked to its review and Goodreads profile.
#bibliography will lead you to the same reviews but in chronological order, while #literature is dedicated to publications at large, and #authors deals with the people behind the pages. #a word after a word after a word is about writing as craft.
Now that the pre-flight safety demonstration is over and you have buckled your belts, the journey may begin.
- Kyo Maclear and Júlia Sardà, The Liszts. Canada, first published in 2016. (On Goodreads) Read 29/11/2016.
Comics and Graphic Novels
- Brian Lee O’Malley, Lost at Sea. United States, first published in 2003. (On Goodreads) Read 21/06/2016.
- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep. United States, first published in 1939. (On Goodreads) Read 27/08–06/09/2016.
- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. Canada, first published in 1985. (On Goodreads) Read 12–20/03/2017.