I love to read. I've blogged about books I've loved before and writers who have fascinated me. I've made it more than clear that despite Kindles being so much more efficient in this day and age, that I really can't bear the thought of losing the suspense of turning the page to find out what happens next. I love the feeling when you reach that final page, the satisfaction of slamming the book closed on the table and that temporary feeling of not knowing how you'll fill the void now it's over... Until you pick up the next book in the pile. Perhaps it's something to do with studying for a degree in English that really makes me a traditionalist when it comes to reading. Whether it's a crisp new copy from a bookshop, or a battered old classic from the library - they each have their place and are all welcome on my bookshelves. It was a pretty sad thing to say goodbye to a whole box of books before coming travelling - I sold them at car boot sales and online to pay for my trip - a worthy swap to get them a new home - but I do always feel sad to say goodbye to books. I'm a bit of a hoarder and I can't lie, I've always had a dream of having a library of my own one day. A place of peace and tranquility to escape the madness of everyday life in the pages of a good novel.
The only problem is, loving books in paper form just isn't very practical for travelling when you only have a backpack to hold all your worldly possessions. When packing I had to be realistic about how many books I could justify slipping in my bag when I knew how much I would have to carry it around in Asia - in the end I packed just three books including my Thailand travel guide. It was a heartbreaking decision for a girl who used to pack half a suitcase of books for a two week holiday, but I comforted myself in the knowledge that I would have my iPad and could read online if I became desperate. I made myself read slowly, which wasn't hard with so much going on around me to distract me from the books, and for a while it didn't bother me whether I had books with me or not. But once I settled into travelling life and started having all this time to fill, I dived straight back into the pages of my books for entertainment. But when I ran out of books, that was the moment I panicked.
The good thing is that there are so many other travellers out there in the same position, so, if like me you are a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to holding a good novel in your hands - don't worry! If you're planning a big trip to Asia you'll find countless books piled up in hostels that have been left behind by travellers past and you'll find book shops all over with huge collections of books available for purchase, or even for book swaps. There are lots of options for refreshing your collection and as well as picking up books from these sources, you'll also meet lots of travellers along the way who will be looking for other travellers to swap books with, or even those who just want to give books to a new home to save from carrying them further. I found that I met several travellers along the way who were about to visit countries I had just spent weeks passing through, while they had just come from my next destination - often we swapped travel guides and provided each other with top tips and hostel recommendations to go with them.When my books came to an end, I was in Thailand and desperate for something new to read so I swapped one of my books and picked up a new one, which I later left at hostel for someone else to read. Another time, when I was in Vietnam, I spotted a book I had wanted to read for ages in a hostel and got so excited about it that the guy who ran the place told me I could have it. My best book swap actually happened when I was in Cambodia and stumbled across a tiny little bookshop attached to a cafe and couldn't believe my luck. I struck gold and found copies of Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - both books I had been wanting to read for a while and just days after I had been reading an article about the man himself. Then after a bit more digging, I found a perfect copy of Shantaram, which is based on a true story and is one of the most beautifully written books I have read for a while. It's my book of the moment and one I had been eager to read ever since chatting to a guy in Vietnam who was reading it and hearing his rave reviews. I'm just a few hundred pages into it and I'm gripped by the amazing use of language and imagery, and it even has me curious about what it would be like to visit India, a country which hadn't really been on my radar before now.
Having these books has been a bit of a lifeline for me on long journeys and lazy days, and I know many other travellers who feel the same. I always feel that the mark of a good traveller comes in the form of the book he or she is reading - often it is easy to misread people at a first glance. But a look at the cover of the book they are reading tells me all I need to know about a person. While travelling it is so easy to get lost in a repetitive lifestyle of laying in the sun all day and drinking all night, but never really stretching yourself, or challenging your mind. Just like it's important to exercise your body, it's so important to keep your mind active and how better to do that than by reading and delving into a whole new world in the pages you hold in your hands? Other travellers are a fantastic source of book recommendations - I now have a whole list of books I need to read and will have to pick up a couple soon. I'm intrigued to see how book swaps work in Australia - or if they are even a thing out here!
What are you reading at the moment? Any good travel book recommendations? What do you prefer - a real book or a Kindle?
This year has been a particularly good year for me in terms of actually watching stuff and seeing them through to the bitter end. I'm not the greatest at watching TV series or knowing what everyone is talking about from that latest episode of (insert current series of the moment here). I hold my hands up and say I never watched Breaking Bad and Gossip Girl... my only defence is that I was too busy and that I'm far too easily distracted to remember to catch up! I always start out with good intentions, but then end up missing an episode and forgetting to catch up, before you know it I'm a series behind and lose all interest. But this year, something magical happened. I gave up on my laptop and got an iPad that has changed my life. The boyfriend signed me on to his Netflix account, and since then I haven't seen the light of day.. Okay I'm not that bad, but I have seriously been loving watching things at my own pace. But which series have hooked me in?
Please tell me you have all been watching this? I used to be addicted to CSI - I'm not sure if loving programmes about sick individuals is normal, but I know I'm not alone in this so no judgement here. I find the whole psychology of murderers and others who commit serious crimes really quite fascinating, and I love how fast-paced and gripping the programmes are. The Killing in particular has a brilliant way of keeping you completely detached from the murder itself, yet you really become attached to the characters - I adore Holder. But I also love the twists and turns - the way you're convinced one thing has happened and you know who is guilty, and then something happens that turns all your expectations on their head. It really is very well-written and I love the way it has been filmed - so dark. I've been watching the American version, but I hear the Danish version is even better - it's definitely on my list to watch that one as well. Just as a sidebar, me and the boyfriend also steamed through Luther this year - which I absolutely LOVED. It helps that Idris Elba is ridiculously sexy, but the story-lines are also brilliant.
Orange Is The New Black
Easily the best series centred around an all-female cast for years, in fact I don't remember watching another that I found quite as engaging since Sex & The City. The characters were brilliant, funny and original, the story was completely unlike anything I have watched before, challenged the viewer and kept us hooked from the beginning to the end. Everyone my age was watching and loving it - and I don't think I have heard such a buzz about a programme since Breaking Bad, but this offered a totally different viewing experience. There's something very different about an all-female cast that really provides you with a totally different storyline, if the same had been done with an all-male cast I'm sure it would have been a very different programme. I wasn't really that bothered about the main storyline that followed Piper, but I loved the bits between her and Crazy Eyes, and all the supporting characters - they were all so funny and worked really well together. I really can't wait for the next series.
The Passage & The Twelve
Sadly, this hasn't been such a good year for reading. As a former literature student I am embarrassed to admit how few books I have actually read this year, but again, the time has got away from me and working three jobs does cut back on your reading time. I certainly plan to more than make up for it next year while relaxing on a beach in Thailand, and already have a huge reading list of books to finish over the next 12 months. I am pleased that of the few books I have read, some of my favourites have been among them including one that I never thought I would have the chance to read. I've still managed to read some pretty interesting and diverse books - one series about the drug smuggling industry and life in prison in Bali based on a selection of interviews conducted by a journalist in the nineties - these were a fantastic read and I would really recommend them (Hotel K, Snowing in Bali). I also really enjoyed re-reading the Hunger Games books ahead of the release of the latest film, and I re-read some of my favourite books by Margaret Atwood - Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood - ahead of the release of Maddadam (a sequel I never even realised was being written!)
These were all brilliant reads, but my absolute favourite of the year had to be reading a book called The Twelve, which was the sequel to a book that I happily declare as one of the best reads I have found yet, The Passage. This dystopian horror story was released in 2010 by Justin Cronin, beginning in 2014 and spanning more than 90 years, the novel details an apocalyptic and, later, post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by vampire-like beings who are infected by a highly contagious virus. What begins as a project to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by an unnamed species of bat in South America eventually becomes the virus that transforms the world. The story follows colonies of humans who attempt to live in a world filled with superhuman creatures who are continually on the hunt for fresh blood. It's officially one of the longest books I have ever read, and yet I never once saw my mind wandering from the plot. Even Stephen King has described it as "enthralling", and I spent every second of reading time picturing every scene as though it were already a movie. Cronin is amazing at creating a whole world in your mind and it would clearly be fantastic on screen - the rights have apparently been sold to Ridley Scott and it is in line for a screen adaptation - I can't wait!
I was ecstatic when I stumbled across The Twelve, a sequel to The Passage, while in Waterstones one afternoon and immediately bought it and took it home to start reading. Apparently it is actually the second book in a trilogy - so I have more to look forward to - and is also planned for another screen adaptation by Ridley Scott. What I love about this book is that it is not set further into the future, but it actually takes a leap back to the start of the plague and answers all those questions readers were left with about the origin of the plague at the end of The Passage. You meet the creators of this deadly virus and see the full horrors unfold through the eyes of whole host of new characters, including the virals who are spreading the virus and are creating factions of the vampire-like characters. If you love dystopian literature like I do, you're in for a treat - even horror fans will adore the author's writing style and imagination. Take all those sickly vampire stories and unimaginative films like Twilight, and lock them away please - I like something a lot darker and more twisted with a storyline you can really get your teeth into. I like a read that really challenges me and forces you imagination to run wild - if you like the same, you'll love this.
This post is also my entry to the #Currysfiresidefiction challenge to write about my favourite film/TV show I've watched this year and my top reads. I had to steer clear of films because quite frankly I've seen so many amazing movies this year, I only just managed to narrow it down to these books and TV series!
I'd love to hear about your favourites from the year in case I've missed any. Why not leave a comment and share your top picks?