Reading Motivational: Read What You Like, Sometimes

Don’t run from your tastes.

Don’t get scared away from reading because you refuse to, at least occasionally, indulge in something you really like to read. If you embark on the journey toward wisdom and set out to read the 100 best novels ever written or the 100 greatest works of literature you may never have a sense of your own reading identity.

I, hereby, give you permission and even encourage you to read something that other people consider less than sophisticated if you will enjoy doing it.

Reading is not the same as taking your vitamin or eating your broccoli.

Be careful about being the person that wants to have read something, instead of the person that wants to be reading something.

Be in the moment with your reading. Ambition is fine. Ambition is natural. Living in a state of constant anxiety, however, is unnatural.

You will never read everything. Stop worrying so much about what you haven’t read and focus on what you are reading.

Be present in your reading. You will find the experience more rewarding and relaxing. You will also find you get more joy and knowledge from the experience.

Book lists

Books lists are fun, in theory. Systematic reading a stack of suggestions based on their literary merit is fun, in theory. Use lists to discover interests.

In practice, though, the best way to read is where your mind and heart are at the time. That is where you want to be so your focus will consume less energy.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure or indulgence?

Photo: Some rights reserved by Viewoftheworld

20 Poetical Considerations in Honor of National Poetry Month #NaPoMo

April’s National Poetry Month (hashtag #NaPoMo on Twitter). That means I get to tell you everything I know about reading poetry. I only know 20 things, though, so don’t be overwhelmed.

1. Poetry is best read quickly and with total immersion. Also, read poems slowly. Is that a contradiction? Good. Ask Walt Whitman about contradictions. Read his Song of Myself from Leaves of Grass.

2. A good place to start to study how to read poetry is Mark Van Doren’s Introduction to Poetry. I hear it is out of print, though, so it may be harder to find. If anyone has a good reliable source, leave it in the comments! I won’t sell my copy.

3.  T.S. Eliot tells us one of the main functions of poetry is to give names, however, complexly metaphorical the names might be, to emotions that have abided for a long time unspoken in the heart. Can you see that as being true in the poems you read?

4. Be prepared to read poems multiple times. Good poems sustain many close readings without losing their impact.

5. Memorize poems! Read them so many times that you have them fully committed to memory. Don’t sit down and say, “I’m going to memorize this today.” Instead, just read them daily and gradually you will be one with the poem. Zen, right?

6. Read John Stuart Mill’s What is Poetry. I think it is available free from several places online.

7. Try to find and catalog poems for all situations. Find a poem for heartache, a poem for grief, a poem for love, a poem for inspiration, and so forth. That way you can look to them when you need them, for strength.

8. Why did Plato ban poetry in the ideal state? Think about that.

9. Look at the poem as a whole, sometimes, even though the parts are so beautiful.

10. Expect to see some intentional ambiguity. Poets love that trick! They use it to make you think.

11. Take the time to really dwell in any “aha!” moments that poems inspire. These can stick with you for life.

12. Read poetry out loud to hear how it sounds. It was written to be read in this way.

13. Read Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean?

14. Here are some fancy terms you can play with on your own time, if you want: (1) paraphrasable content (2) rational structure (3) image structure (4) metrical structure (5) sound structure (6) syntactical structure.

15. Here are some more: (7) pyrrhic (8) spondee (9) trochee.

16. Structure doesn’t mean rhyme and poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. Even if it doesn’t rhyme there may be some beautiful repetition of similar sounds to look out for.

17. More terms: (10) alliteration, (11) cacophony, (12) assonance? When you see these in a poem, ask what these things add to what a poem means? Do they emphasize anything?

18. How many sentences appear in a line? Are there any grammatical patterns repeated? How does that add to the meaning? The poet did this for a reason, why?

19. Poetry can be read in one sitting. For that reason, it’s not a bad place to start to exercise your reading muscles!

20. Goethe: “Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and- if at all possible-speak a few sensible words.”

Good online resources for free poems:

a. Poem Hunter 

b. All Poetry

c. Bartleby.com

My favorite poem: T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.

Here is a good poem to read, as an Introduction to Poetry.

What is your favorite poem? Share in the comments.

Any poetry reading tips of your own?

Photo by Paul Jarvis.

The “No Bullshit” Reader and Reading Rituals

The “Bullshit” Reader

One of the great things about writing for your own blog is that you get to research terms like “bullshit.” My research indicates the first person to use the term “bullshit” was T. S. Eliot. Between 1910 and 1916 he wrote a poem entitled “The Triumph of Bullshit.” The first stanza read:

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ’s sake stick it up your ass.

There’s a scene starring Maya Rudolph in Up All Night where she has to read a book to prepare for an interview with a popular non-fiction author who has written about the economic collapse. As she sits down to read she spends time preparing her tea and getting comfortable in her chair. She adjusts her position several times and scoots around in her chair. I think she even has on a snuggie. She reads the front cover and the back cover. Just about the time she starts to read the first page she’s ready to quit and does. Her character is the epitome of the bullshit reader.

Bullshit equals nonsense. Bullshit is something you can just as well do without. Bullshit includes any wasted movement and energy which leads to excuses.

The “No-Bullshit” Reader

The no-bull shit reader, on the other hand, doesn’t care where he is or what he’s reading. He just wants to read. He can read just as easily on a crowded subway as his favorite easy chair. To read, he needs only a book and a few spare moments. The book, he always has. For that reason, he finds time.

The no-bullshit reader has no problem finding something to read next because he has to read to stay sane. It’s not a matter of finding the perfect time so much as it is finding any time. It’s not a matter of finding the perfect book, because most books will do.

The no-bullshit reader is an efficient reading machine. His back may hurt and his eyes may suffer because he never reads in the proper light, but he gets his reading done.

Reading Rituals

This issue, however, gets a bit more complicated when you consider reading rituals. Rituals are things you do the same way every time. In that way, they become habit. Sure, they are symbolic in nature, but they trigger certain thought patterns and they can reinforce certain behaviors.

One man’s ritual is another man’s bullshit. Reading rituals are a grey area.

I go through phases. I fall in love with my Kindle for a few months and then transition to real books the next few. I will read mostly in bed one week and in my chair the next. When the sun comes out in the spring, I try to read in the hammock when the mosquitos aren’t swarming.

If I do anything the same way every time, it’s having a notebook and pen to jot down a quote or thought that comes to my while I read. Sometimes, in a bind, I’ll substitute an email note from my smartphone, but I always feel a bit naked without my notebook and pen.

The test is whether the action helps you get your reading done. The ultimate goal is to read. Don’t engage in self-deception. If you aren’t getting your reading done, abandon anything that may be bullshit.

How do you draw the line between bullshit and ritual? Do you have any reading rituals?

Photo: Some rights reserved by dullhunk

Why Read: For Education and Experience

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.

The beauty of reading is, “You can use the powers you acquire from books to live better yourself and to do something for the people around you.” – Malcolm X

The purpose of this essay is to discuss the idea of reading and to provide an additional reason to read, if you need one. We have already discussed reading for pleasure and education is, in my mind, the second reason to read as I set out previously. The third is perspective and we will discuss that reason soon. Remember, there is overlap between the ideas. So, don’t get hung up reading for too narrow a focus. Ideally, you’re reading for more than one reason every time you sit down with a book.

For now, though, let’s think about reading for education.

The things I remember are the things that are connected to some other sensation, emotion, or idea. Connections I can’t make in life I can make through books. In that way books are tools used to pass on education and experience.

I will never go to war. I will never command an army. I will never spend time in prison. These are, however, potentially valuable experiences. To empathize with others I should know something of what these things are like.

I will lose a loved one. I will be the butt of a joke. I will be ridiculed. I will be the dumbest man in a room. I will be hurt by a loved one. I will hurt someone’s feelings. I will have my feelings hurt. I will die. To prepare for these experiences I can ignore them or I can prepare through the kind of education books can provide.

I may make a decision that means life or death for someone I care about. I may be called upon to give my opinion on a matter that’s important. I may find myself defending the weak. I should prepare and books are the most efficient way to do so, outside of, perhaps practical experience. Getting practical experience, however, is not always possible. To fill the gap I must read.

Let’s explore this idea of reading for education in the context of eight ideas.

Education Leads to Self-Confidence

It is only when you have read enough that you know who you are. Then, you can become yourself, finally. Only once you become yourself can you be a benefit to other people. The process of becoming yourself requires self-education. You must conquer your own demons, your own shadow. Only then can you share that with the world.

How do you test yourself? How will you know when you are ready to share? How will you know when you are educated enough to contribute? Use books to test yourself. The greater the book the greater the test. Do you know and understand more than your neighbor about it? Can you use the book as a tool to solve your own problems? If the answer is yes then you have something to offer the world. The educated wield books like warriors wield swords.

Educate Yourself to Educate Others

The education you read for is not just your own. Children with parents that read turn into readers. Children watch what you do and do that when they are bored. Do you want your children to be educated? If you do then you must be educated yourself. You have to put in the effort to make yourself a light for your children to be drawn to.

Education Is an Evolutionary Advantage

The kind of education you read for can be an evolutionary advantage. Reading allows us to imagine things before they happen. In that way we can prepare for what may yet come. Our survival does not depend on being the strongest, fastest, or most durable. Our continued survival depends on being the best planners, the most imaginative. We rely on our ability to imagine what could happen and then enact a plan to survive it. Use your evolutionary advantage. Reading is imagining. Reading is practice in creative planning.

Books are the Most Patient Teachers

Have you ever had a patient teacher? Maybe you have. If you have you are blessed. Write them today and thank them.

Have you ever had the benefit of endless time, unlimited access, and an endless supply of the brightest minds the world has ever known? Yes, but if you aren’t reading you are letting those teachers sit in empty classrooms and give lectures to empty chairs. Books are the most patient teachers. Take advantage of them.

Being Educated Feels Good

What does it feel like to read a book and understand it? You feel smart. When was the last time someone called you smart? If it has been more than a week you may need to read more. Maybe the better question is, when was the last time you called yourself smart? If you can’t remember then you need to read. I’m not talking about vanity. I’m talking about reading to have the ability to make it through every day with your head held high no matter what happens because you know you have contributed and you will contribute more because you are improving. That is a powerful feeling.

We Need Educated Heroes

What is a hero? Joseph Campbell has probably done the best job of explaining the myth of the hero. (You should read him, by the way.)

What Joseph Campbell says is, “a hero is someone able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations.” I’ve mentioned this before, but the statistics point to the need. A third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Forty-two percent of college graduates never read another book after college. Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (Source: Jenkins Group).

People don’t read after they finish school and most houses don’t buy books. You are a hero struggling against this historical limitation.

Does your city have a particularly uneducated feel to it? If you have noticed this then you are a hero, but only if you decide you are going to go get knowledge and then bring it back to your city. If you accept the quest and then return with some form of knowledge then you are a hero. Be a hero. Bring reading back. Are all heroes welcomed with open arms? Not in modern society. Be prepared for detractors but be a hero anyway.

Access to the “Great Conversation”

There is a conversation that has been going on since man came into existence. It started with tales, “grunts from the hunt.” Now, we have endless volumes of electronic books to carry on the conversation. You can’t just jump into the conversation anywhere, though. That would be rude. At the very least, you would get some strange looks. You would likely be dismissed until you listened for a while and got up to speed.

If you read, you can learn what you need in order to participate. The beauty of this conversation is, if you are smart about how you participate and smart about how much you know about the conversation that happened before you jump in, then you can be a part of the conversation even after your body is dead.

In this conversation you will get to hear from the greatest minds that have ever existed. You will get to hear the opinions of the thinkers you most admire. Then, if you truly read their words and understand what they have to say, you can match yourself against them and improve their ideas. What more lasting tribute can you imagine? Your contribution can assure your favorite thinkers remain part of the conversation for centuries to come.

A Full Education Prepares You For Death

Our life prepares us for our death. If we read we remember that the world did just fine before we came around and we learn that the world will be just fine when we leave. Before we were born we weren’t miserable. We weren’t even conscious of our existence or non-existence. Reading tells us that many good things still happen when we are not around.

We also learn that we can leave a lasting legacy if we try. The legacy need not be for the entire world to be important. If our families benefit, it is a worthwhile legacy. They will want to know what kind of person we were and whether there was something they can learn from how we lived our lives. Write them something to pass on what you’ve learned. They will read that.

Conclusion

As a reader you are an example to all of man kind. You show them our potential. Set the right example and people will flock to you out of admiration and out of the desire to learn. This is what the best writers accomplish.

Be more than a lump of organic existence. Take yourself, through education, into the plane of ideas. Reading is, free, guaranteed passage into the plane of ideas.

Your good fortune is the access you have to knowledge. Everywhere you look, there are books. Our struggle is no longer one of resources. Our struggle is of resource management. Time is one of those resources that must be managed appropriately. Read to make the best use of your time.

Next time you must answer the mental question, what should I do? Think about this discussion.

How has reading educated you? Is reading for education and experience a valuable reason to read, in your opinion?

Photo: Some rights reserved by Dell’s Official Flickr Page

Books Are Meant to Be Shared

This is an essay by Jessica McCann.

Long before Hermione Granger mesmerized little girls with her cleverness and magic, a little witch who lost her broom right before Halloween captured my heart. The Littlest Witch by Jeanne Massey is the first book I recall reading entirely by myself. I was in second grade.

My family had just returned from a trip to the public library, and I promptly disappeared into my bedroom with an armload of books. I’m sure I read them all. But there was something about The Littlest Witch that gripped me. I adored it.

For days after, I plotted and schemed to come up a way to keep the book, rather than take it back to the library. Alas, when the due date arrived, my mom made sure all the books were promptly returned. I consoled myself with the thought that by returning it, some other little girl would get to enjoy it, too. It was an epiphany. Books are meant to be shared.

Fast forward 30 plus years. My debut novel had just been published, and I was making the rounds to local bookstores with review copies in hand. I was wearing my metaphorical marketing hat, trying to sell books. The Arizona State University bookstore was among the places I visited, since I had done a lot of freelance writing for the university through the years. I was on campus around lunch time, so I grabbed some food at the Memorial Union and found a shady place outside to eat and people-watch.

The MU was a swarm of students and faculty — texting, typing on laptops, talking on cell phones. They all seemed so busy, so plugged in. All I could think was what a perfect day it was to sit in under a tree and read a book. My marketing hat had apparently blown away on the spring breeze, and my reader hat magically appeared in its place. But the only book I had with me was my own…

That’s when my second-grade epiphany echoed in my head. Books are meant to be shared. So I pulled out one of the review copies from my bag, opened it to the inside cover and wrote a note: “Books are meant to be shared. Please read this, if you’d like, and then leave it somewhere for someone else to enjoy.” I gathered my things, set the book down on the bench beside me and walked away.

That was about a year ago, and since then I’ve left behind a few more books in public places (books I had read and wanted to share, not my own book). I have also since discovered Bookcrossing.com, a fun social media site that encourages people to share books and tracks where those books have been.

Why do I love sharing books this way? In my mind’s eye, I can picture someone accidentally sitting on the book, then picking it up, cracking open the cover and getting swept away by the story. I also agree with Book Crossing’s way of thinking: “Your book doesn’t want to spend its life on your shelf gathering dust; it wants to get out there and touch lives!”

Now that’s magic.

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Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her nonfiction work has been published in Business Week, The Writer and Phoenix magazines, among others. All Different Kinds of Free is her award-winning debut novel. She welcomes interaction with readers and writers at her website and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).

Photo: Some rights reserved by on.earth

140 Characters: Twitter Fiction and the Art of Concise Writing

This is an essay by Tucker Cummings.

Plenty of people want to become writers, but feel that they simply don’t have the time to commit to writing even a short story. With all the interruptions of the digital age (to say nothing of family and work obligations), finding time to write really can be a challenge. It’s so easy to get frustrated with your writing when you’re just starting out; so hard to not be discouraged by an inability to finish what you start.

These days, there are plenty of ways an aspiring writer can hone their craft and add publication credits to their resume at the same time. And one of the very best ways is to write Twitter-sized tales. These short stories are 140 characters or less (including spaces), and pack a surprising emotional punch.

Despite the limitations of the form, skilled Twitter fiction writers are able to make readers laugh, cry, or shiver as they build worlds and introduce characters. Twitter is home to several communities of avid writers and readers, and they are passionate about promoting great 140-character stories.

There’s no hard and fast rule about what makes a great Twitter tale. Some stories focus on just a moment’s worth of action, while others span thousands of years in just two sentences. Many are humorous, but plenty more are heart-breaking. The form forces you to choose words precisely, and to cut out any extraneous information. More often than not, the title of the work gives the reader enough framing to understand the events in your story.

So, what do you do after you’ve completed your little tale? The most obvious thing to do is post it on your own Twitter account, to share with your own followers. If you can spare the space, adding hashtags to your story will enable other Twitter fiction fans to find it more easily. Hashtags to consider include #vss (which stands for “very short story”), #nanofiction, or #fiction.

Another hashtag is #lqw, which designates that the story contains the word of the day as designated by @Loqwacious. If your tastes run towards non-fiction, rather than fictional tales, consider adding #cnftweet. Each day, @CreativeNonfiction selects one tweet with this hashtag to retweet, and these tweets are then eligible to be included in upcoming issues of the magazine, or in their newsletter.

There are also dozens of Twitter accounts for websites that publish only 140-character stories. Some of the most notable are @OneFortyFiction, @seedpodpub, @sixwordstories, @twitterfiction, @7×20, and @trapezemag, all of which are unpaid markets.

@Nanoism is a paying Twitter fiction market, which publishes three times a week and pays between $1.50 and $1 for stories: not bad, given the brevity of the form. Serialized Twitter fiction is paid out at a higher rate.

@thaumatrope and @tweetthemeat also pay to publish other people’s Twitter stories, though both markets appear to be on hiatus with no word on when they will resume normal publication schedules.

In short: keep on writing, and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to grow your fanbase. Depending on where you choose to publish your stories, your work may be exposed to thousands of people. In addition, there are often contests being held on Twitter by various publishers where you can win cash and prizes with your well-written, 140-character stories.

But beyond the accolades and the prizes, the best thing about writing Twitter fiction is how it can improve your writing. With practice, this shortest of short story forms can help even the most verbose of writers to develop a clear, clean, and concise style. And that’s a skill that will benefit any writer as they begin work on longer projects.

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Tucker Cummings is the author of “The Strange Adventures of Margery Jones,” a microfiction serial about parallel universes. Her work has been featured online at HiLoBrow.com (where she won their Spooky-Kooky fiction competition) and at OneFortyFiction. She also won MassTwitFic’s #vss Twitter Story Contest. Visit her online at tuckercummings.com, or say hi to @tuckercummings on Twitter.

Photo: Some rights reserved by bfishadow

Being a Reader Makes You Part of a Community

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.

“Readers aren’t ‘better’ or ‘healthier’ or, conversely, ‘sicker’ than nonreaders. We just happen to belong to a rather strange kind of community.” Jonathan Franzen from How to Be Alone.

I sometimes think about how it is that I came to read. My mother would read on occasion for fun. Something like a Grisham novel, if I recall. I was read to as a child quite a bit by my mother, father, and grandmother. We would take trips sometimes with my grandmother and stay for a weekend or so and when we would she would read to my cousins and I before bed at our request. There was clearly encouragement to read for fun.

In high school I did not read much, but do remember reading and actually finishing The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger as part of an extracurricular activity I was involved in. I may have read a few other things in high school but nothing I really remember. For the most part I tried to read the bare minimum. I read a book or two for fun and read the Bible out of a natural interest in the stories. Nothing more complicated than a Grisham book, though.

In college I had a few literature classes taught by excellent teachers. We were assigned several books throughout the semester and I think there I had my eyes opened to the fact that I might actually like to read. I made English my minor, not because it was marketable, but because I enjoyed it.

In law school I read because I had to. I also started to read other things out of personal interest for escape and relaxation.

The first few years after law school I read nothing and did very little to educate myself aside from studying for Bar Exams and learning how to practice law. This was the deadest reading period of my life.

Now, and for the past two years, I have read at least a book a week.  I read what I feel like at the time.

I recently read Franzen’s Essay, “Why Bother?” which appears in How to Be Alone. Franzen tries to explain how he got the courage to finish his third novel in the midst of a personal crisis he experienced. In process of averting the crisis he asks, what is the purpose behind writing another novel and particularly a social novel?

Franzen relies heavily on the work done by Shirley Brice Heath to explain what helped him rediscover the purpose behind his writing. Heath would follow readers into book stores and interview people reading or buying “substantive works of fiction.” She concluded that people begin to read when they have been shown how to read works of substance by an adult and when that adult encouraged the same behavior. Heath concluded that the child also had to find a person which whom they could share their interest in reading. As I read this explanation I wasn’t entirely sure that fit my own situation.

Heath goes on to explain, however, that there is a second kind of reader, what she calls the social isolate, that from any early age felt different from those around him. Heath explains that this type of reader will take their sense of being different into an imaginary world and create a dialogue with the authors of the books. In essence, the authors become your community. I tend to think this explains my recent reading binge.

According to Heath, the second type of reader is more likely to become a writer. Of course, this was of great interest to Franzen who must have found his motivation to write in this idea. The idea being that there was a community that needed him to write so that they could have that kind of dialogue. Franzen would have dealt with great guilt had he not written knowing that others needed from him what he had taken from the authors that had come before him.

Given Heath’s conclusion, that you find in reading a sense of being part of a community and a way to be both alone and still part of the social fabric that we crave as humans, I question how social media will change this group of social isolate readers? Will social media make the isolate reader more or less common? Possibly less common because there are now other sources for that sense of community. Possibly more common because these social networks will still not satisfy the desire to feel connected and part of a community after all. Time will tell. I don’t think we know yet.

Photo:  Some rights reserved by stringer_bel

The Beauty of Every Word

This is an essay by Emi Howe.

Hello my name is Emi Howe and I am a wordaholic. The actual term for this is “Lexicographer” I know this recondite word, because it is esoteric to my addiction. Ok that’s enough.

I wear the same chestnut brown wingtip boots virtually every day of my life. I collect words in the way that some women collect shoes. I keep them safe in a fabric-bound book and alphabetise them. My Better Half jokes that eventually all I will have is another dictionary. But that’s not true. I only collect beautiful words: Dropsical, Lapidary, Bumptious, Truculent, Quixotic, Obsequious…

You wouldn’t know that I have this affliction. I talk in common words, knowing what people think of you when you go around peppering your vocab with such verbiage. I also constantly lose at Scrabble. I search for something more, there has got to be a better word… while Him Indoors puts “the” over a triple letter score. Game Over!

I collect my words from many places but in the main it is from books. You can imagine reading for me is not the relaxing pastime it might be for most. Pencil gripped, waiting with anticipation for something akin to a goal for football lovers. And I let books find me. I can be quite overwhelmed by the number of books out there that need reading, so this system works well for me.

Let me tell you about a couple of books that have reignited my reading passion of late. Let’s set the scene…

I am a mother of two young charges and in recent years, my reading quota has been replaced by sleep. However, emerging from the fog one day at the library I noticed that we could expect an author visit. The writer in question was Caroline Smailes and always eager to meet writers I set about reading her book. The only one left in the library was Black Boxes so off I went with it.

What I liked about this exercise is that I had a deadline, I needed to find time to squeeze the words from the pages into my consciousness before the visit, and this is where reading really comes to the fore. When a book starts to rule your life and makes a mockery of any to-do lists or responsibilities you may have. Of course the book needs to be quality, and it was. But what’s more is that I had inadvertently stumbled upon something quite new. The book is written largely as a single narrative, in effect a black box account of someone’s life.

Well that in itself is something to get excited about. I often think that words, language, books are so timeless. They are the one thing that through change, stays constant. They evolve; don’t get me wrong, I baulk on Facebook when I see “well jel”(abv. well jealous) replacing the more refined “truly coveted!”

But to succeed in doing something new and different with words, that’s an achievement. Something I hadn’t seen done since Darren King’s Boxy an Star in 1999 – written entirely in yoofspeak, it was astonishing, exciting and different. And “Black Boxes” beautiful words? Not just one, two… together: Bilabial Plosive. Score!

And so Black Boxes has kick-started me back into my reading world and the train only seems to be increasing in speed. Next I navigated towards The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

This I found in a magazine and immediately ripped the page out for safe-keeping. I was pulled in by the review’s almost tabloid-shocking headline that it was sold for a six figure sum after a nine-publisher auction. Big news indeed! Did it stand up? Well yes of course it did; I still mourn it now, weeks later. It is one of those books that you can’t put down – that sounds like a cliché, it isn’t meant to. What I mean is, once you’ve finished reading it you literally don’t want to put it down and sever the relationship you had, but instead clutch it to your chest.

What made this book so special for me is that it is a beautiful and engaging story with broken characters, ticking all the boxes, but is peppered with…the language of flowers! Traditionally a Victorian employ, the language of flowers was used as a message, daffodils meaning new beginnings, yellow roses meaning jealousy. A suitor had to choose his flowers very carefully for fear of offending the object of his affection, as their meaning would be pored over.

I have a certain passion for anything Victorian as, well… they knew how to do words: Orotund, Lubricious, Corpulence. They celebrated the beauty of words in a way that we seem to have forgotten. As for The Language of Flowers, there were so many beautiful names of flowers but my favourite word: Chartreuse.

All of this heady literature comes to me at a time when the first passion for words is being ignited in my two young children. Yesterday I was trying to explain to my son that the “u” in “duck” and the “oo” in “woof” make the same sound. At least they do in my middle English tones.

We spend time encouraging him to search out letters on the page that are in his name. He frequently tries out words for their poetry, rolling made up words around in his mouth. And the beauty of it, he can’t even read! He’s so excited about words and the bag hasn’t even been opened for him yet. We use books a lot, their storylines as inspiration for play. Tony Mitton’s Sir Laughalot a firm favourite.

And my son too brings me new words, although perhaps not strictly in the dictionary. “Mummy, can you pass the car, you know, the one next to the squelcher.”

Squelcher. n. kitchen appliance used to remove juice from citrus fruit.

Or my favourite, the brilliant “Oh Bumpers!”

Bumpers. int. exclamation of annoyance.

What my daughter of two brings to the table is the knowledge that we don’t need words as much as we think we do. The average two year old knows fifty words, granted understands a lot more, but I can tell you she is perfectly equipped to make herself understood!

So there must be a natural affinity with developing your vocabulary. Perhaps not so obsessive as my closet hoarding of words, but an affinity nonetheless. I don’t know what the future brings but I do know that however much our world changes in the next 2, 10, 20,000 years, there will always be words. Hallelujah!

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Emi is an artist, embroiderer, ferocious scrapbooker, word hoarder and obsessive writer. She studies the books she reads and the films she watches and reviews every one. As author of No Fun Mum, a blog dedicated to finding the “Extraordinary in the Ordinary” world of parenting, Emily hopes to connect parents sharing similar experiences across the globe. Emily writes children’s stories and poems and is hoping to find a publisher before her children are too old to appreciate them! She shares a birthday with Lady Gaga. In her time working in the magazine world, she met many celebrities but was truly star struck on meeting the British Film Classification Director, David Cooke whose signature is one of the most viewed in the UK, appearing before every cinema screened film in the UK. “Me time” for Emi involves ice skating and film photography.