Addicted to books – my personal list of the best novels to read

addicted to booksOver the last three weeks, after moving, I’ve been busy doing small jobs around the house. Now that most of the tasks I had appointed myself with are ticked off, I’m pretty satisfied. Yet I’m also quite stressed out.

The number one reason for this situation is simple. During this period I read next to nothing. And now, given I’m addicted to books, like a junkie who desperately needs to score, I’m experiencing the usual withdrawal symptoms.

For example, I dream of books. Continuously. At night they appear in my dreams. No more pinups and bombshells for me. No more flying over the clouds–that’s for losers.

No, only books matter to me now. Fat books bursting with pages. Showing me their spines, still untouched, unwrinkled. Books full of stories to read and enjoy. Books alluringly flicking their pages to me, like peacocks. Books that leave me salivating like a Pavlovian dog.

Another symptom of my addiction to books is pretty apparent. These days I read everything I can put my eyes on. Automatically.

Truth be told I’m affected by this sort of illness since I was six. I mean, I read the notice in the lift over and over every time I use it and I’m alone in the car, or with some of those people who like it best when they keep their distance.

I also read every notice whenever I have to use a public bathroom. Those notices telling you how the water is perfectly sanitized and everything squeaky clean. Even if it looks like from the bowl of the toilet could emerge the monster from the lagoon any moment. Continue reading

A truly indissoluble bound: writers and coffee–and what it means for literature

coffee and writers

There’s nothing like a cup of coffee to start your day. That cup looks suspiciously like a teacup tough…

The link between writers and coffee has a long standing tradition. As detailed in Daily Rituals by Mason Currey, many among the most famous and accomplished writers in the world drink coffee, or used to, to fuel their creativity.

Søren Kierkegaard, Voltaire, L. Frank Baum, Margaret Atwood, Honoré de Balzac. This is just a handful of names. The list could go on practically forever.

Legend has it that Honoré De Balzac drank as much as 50 cups of coffee a day. Instead, Søren Kierkegaard used to pour into his coffee a staggering amount of sugar. This wasn’t exactly the most healthy of the eating habits. But, apparently, that sugar rush sharpened the philosopher’s mind beyond belief.

However, when we stop a second and consider how writers have always been particularly susceptible to addictions of one kind or another, this reliance of theirs on coffee looks far from unexpected.

After all caffeine offers a series of interesting perks, and only few minor drawbacks. For sure nothing as severe as any other kind of drug addiction, or alcoholism. Continue reading

A writer’s inspiration – Italian postcards

photographer with camera - writer's inspiration

Picture by PublicDomainPictures

We have all a mountain to climb. Sometimes we get to choose which mountain to challenge. Some other times we aren’t offered such a choice. But of one thing we can be sure. We have all to work our way up, no matter how high or how far the mountain top seems.

This is true when we start writing a new novel. This is true when we start a new story with someone we’ve just met. It’s true of happy periods and sad ones. We can only proceed one word after the other. One tentative step at a time. Really, often even the brightest people among us move like blinds groping in a dark room.

This is why it’s so important to keep in mind that the destination is only a small part of the journey, and that at every step along the way we can capture interesting snapshots. Continue reading

Sculpt your novel into existence the way you like it, but make sure you put a piece of your heart inside it

flowers- heart touching stories

Heart touching stories can change your life for good

Some heart touching stories are so well written that, as readers, we can’t but to feel grateful for having the opportunity to read them.

Indeed, there has been times when I’ve finished reading a book and remained there, staring into the distance at nothing in particular, just savoring that particular mix of joy, sadness, and wonder that for me is the natural hallmark of a great read.

One day, when I was in my teens, I let a friend of mine read a story I had written, and by the end of it she was crying. For me that episode was a revelation. For the first time I realized that using mere words I too could make other people feel what I felt.

But back then when I wrote I relied solely on instinct. I never planned my stories. As a result they were all a matter of hit or miss. Sometimes they worked nicely. Some others they showed a lot of promise and then petered out into yawning nothingness, like wet firecrackers. Yet some others sucked beyond belief.

It took me a while to grow tired of that erratic approach. But I ultimately set out to find a way to transform my natural style of writing into a more considerate one. The following is what I discovered. Especially about how to handle deeply emotional scenes. Continue reading

A writer’s hobbies and interests

mountain top with a tree - a writer's hobbies and interests

It’s essential to have some hobbies and interests to help us restore our vital juices when they’re running low.

I love reading and writing. Actually, some books, I’m so glad I’ve read them I consider myself a lucky person. Just for that.

However, no matter how deep my love for reading and writing is, I could never sit at my desk for hours and hours every single day. And keep on reading and writing.

Fact is, after a while I’ve been sitting my legs need, or rather reclaim, their share of activity. I get restless. My mind begins to wander. And I either find myself rereading whole passages I’ve already read while zoning out on a sort of autopilot, or rewriting passages I’ve written under the arcane spell of the same atrocious autopilot.

Because, if it’s true that practice makes perfect, it has to be of the right kind.

Continue reading

Is your writer’s block telling you something?

dreadful writer's block

Sometimes a writer’s block is the result of our trying to climb a mountain we are not really prepared to challenge

Usually you tend to consider the writer’s block like an obstacle that prevents you from putting down on page your ideas. Or even an obstacle that prevents you from having any fruitful ideas in the first place.

In the first case, you can usually overcome your writer’s block in several different ways.

  • Go for a walk.
  • Have some coffe or a cappuccino.
  • Do some sport, like running or cycling.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Read a book.
  • Listen to music.
  • Try to stick to a routine.
  • Force yourself to write anyway, no matter how shitty your writing is going to be.
  • Cook a meal.
  • Chop wood.

All these solutions can help. And many others as well. But sometimes the dreadful writer’s block you’re experiencing is just the way your body, your subconscious, has to tell you to stop a moment. Continue reading

Linguistics – how we relate to language

woman with paint - how we relate to language

How we relate to language – we paint our faces with it yet we need a tool, a mirror, to see the end result of our efforts.

It has always fascinated me how we relate to language. We use it every day, constantly and quite skillfully. Yet we know little about how it works.

Think of it. We yell at the dog to get him off the sofa. We pause a moment to make sure we have actually scared the damn thing away, then we resume our chatting on the phone with our friend. Later on, when our spouse gets home we say hello to him, or her, and ask about their day. Finally, we promptly adopt motherese to speak to our three year old daughter, who has just come out of her room screaming like a banshee. Or maybe not if we are males. But still adapt our speech to our child’s ability to understand and process information.

With writing pretty much the same applies. We’re able to tell a well written work from a badly botched one. We know when we’re facing a page marred with sheer stupid legalese. We process in entirely different ways an instruction manual from a book of poems. And, sometimes, we even find beauty in all those strangely arranged signs on a page.

Yet, we know little about the deepest mechanics of language.

At first blush this ignorance seems to give rise to a paradoxical situation. In reality, however, there’s no paradox at all. After all to run a 100-meters dash we don’t need to know anything about leverages and physics. We just decide to run as fast as we can and then our brain, mostly on a subconscious level, takes care of the rest. Continue reading