Category Archives: books

2013…a reading challenge

My 2013 reads…so far…

I know it’s November, and it’s a funny time of year to be introducing a reading challenge, but this is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now.

Back in January, I set myself a challenge designed to get me to read more. Having become thoroughly fed up with my lack of reading over the previous few years, I decided to do something about it and set myself a challenge – to read 12 new books by the end of the year.

Now, I know a lot of you fellow book lovers will scoff at this measly total. “12 books? I read that in a month!” I hear you cry. For some bloggers I know, that’s pretty much what you get through in a week, let alone a year.

Several aspects have conspired lately to stop me from reading. Firstly, I’ve never been a quick reader. Whereas some can plough through a novel in one sitting, it can take me days to read the same book. I can only read in certain environments, too. While I love to relax on the sofa with the TV off and a good book open, my favourite place to read is on a train. But truth be told, since putting my career on hold to work on the Cypress Branches trilogy, I have found my favourite reading time has vanished. I used to have a fairly decent commute in to work, of between 30 and 60 minutes on the bus or tube, there and back – plenty of time to get stuck in. (I’m a bit odd, in the way that I take pleasure from an announcement of a delay, because it means I don’t have to stop reading yet!)

But working from home for the last two years has meant that precious reading time is no longer available. I have a lot of other interests aside from reading, so without that commute, my reading rate plummeted to the extent that I finished just two books in 2012. An appalling record for a bibliophile, and something had to change.

Without the prospect of a daily commute starting again any time soon, I knew that I would have to make changes in my lifestyle somewhere, so inspired by the many reading challenges I read about in the blogosphere, I decided to set myself a simple, but hopefully achievable challenge.

Over the years, I have amassed a large number of unread books (my ability to buy books at a faster rate than I can read them is a trait I know I share with many others!) so I decided some ground rules had to be laid out:

The Challenge Rules

1. Read 12 novels by the end of December 2013
2. All books must not have been read before
3. All 12 books must be by different authors

I didn’t want to set a theme. I have an eclectic taste in books, and wanted to dip into as many genres and styles of writing as possible. I had no real plan, either, and simply pulled a book off the shelf that took my fancy each time I finished one. I wanted to read classics alongside contemporary, sci-fi and lit-fic, light-hearted and heavy. I only bought two new novels this year, too, which means I read more than I bought for once!

So, with some ground rules in place, and a burgeoning library offering up many wonders, I got stuck in to some brilliant reads, and I’m happy to report that with two months of the year to go, I finished my 12th novel a couple of days ago. It’s amazing how a few little changes to your routine can have a dramatic impact on your reading time. A couple of chapters before bed, an hour or two at the weekend, the odd journey here and there, a lazy, rainy day on holiday, all add up and I was amazed at just how quickly I got through my 12 books (yeah, yeah, I know, not that quickly…)

I was also helped by starting a new job which saw me travelling for nearly two hours to and from work once or twice a week, and with the prospect of a new full time job starting soon, I can look forward to even more reading/travelling time in 2014. I can’t wait!

2013 has introduced me to some brilliant (and not so brilliant) reads. I have rated them all on Goodreads, and may try my hand at writing a review or two. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back into the reading habit and hope to read a few more before the year is out. I’ll probably give the new reads a break for now and re-discover some old favourites. I do love re-reading books occasionally, and there are a few on the shelves I’ve been tempted by, but it was against the rules…

As for next year, I have an idea in mind for a new target. But more of that in January. Right now, I want to get stuck into book number 13…

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Back to the Future

As London gets taken over by Olympic fever over the next two weeks, I’ll be embarking on my own adventure, but in my case, and adventure in print.

I’ve been lucky enough to land myself an internship at Hand & Eye Letterpress in East London, a mere stone’s throw away from the Olympic Park (which will make commuting in and out interesting!)

Considering the fact that I have spent the past 6 months emersed in the world of e-publishing, many will probably wonder just what I’m thinking, going to spend two weeks of my summer working for an old-fashioned press, but I can’t express how excited I am to spend two weeks at this amazing place.

Hand & Eye use only traditional letterpress machinery to create commissioned work and to publish books. I’ll be stepping away from the world of KDP, POD and epubs and into a world of hand setting, Monotype composition casters and formes. It’s exhilarating, and I simply can’t wait to get my hands dirty and learn how it’s all done. It’s a world I know virtually nothing about, but its a world which, since I first heard about it from Hand & Eye’s resident printer and typecaster Nick Gill, I’ve wanted to explore and experience. Nick did warn me, though, that once you start, there’s no turning back. It’s addictive, and by the end of my two weeks, I’ll be wanting a press of my own. I’m sure I will, and that’s not a bad thing. 




Despite the naysayers proclaiming the death of the printed word, by the sounds of things there’s plenty of  work coming Hand & Eye’s way. Phil Abel set the company up in 1985 and it has gone from strength to strength, producing beautiful work for designers, publishers, museums and galleries and many other clients of very high repute. Long may the traditions of printing continue, I say. Personally, I believe that the printed word will never die. It may shrink, change, adapt and develop, and we may not recognise it in years to come, but it will remain. After all, printing has been around for nearly 600 years. It’s very different today to what it was then, but I’ll put my money on the press being around for another 600…at least.  

As I’ll be working at Hand & Eye full time for two weeks, things will slow down on the blog and on Twitter. You could say that it’s my summer break, I suppose!

With Pegasus Falling and The Bridge out there for anyone who wants to read them, and me in desperate need of a break from the publicity treadmill, I’ll hopefully return in August refreshed, with tales to tell from the printing press and ready to plunge back into that digital world again. But I may still have ink under my fingernails when I do!

Enjoy the summer, and happy reading,

Mike