Friday, 3 October 2014

Amazon Recommends

I love my Kindle. An utter bookworm since I was old enough to read, I never thought I'd be seduced, but it snuck up and got me a couple of years ago, and since then I've found the simple convenience of having whatever I happen to be reading at this moment in time sat my back pocket waiting for the flick of a screen to bring it up is quite unsurpassed.

So you catch me reading waiting for the kettle to boil. Reading waiting in a supermarket queue. Reading whilst sat in the car waiting for the wife to finish shopping. You get the idea.

I never meant to stop buying books, but just suddenly found no reason to. The only "real" books I buy these days are reference books and cook books. An electronic convert I might be, but some in some things I still crave the substance and reassurance of a physical page.

The last paperback work of fiction I bought was a copy of Moby Dick. It still sits, languishing unread, on my bedside locker, defeated by the eponymous ebook. Even after Boo (little blonde dog that lives with us) ate my first Kindle, it wasn't a disaster, as I have the Kindle app on my mobile, so I just carried on reading whatever I was reading there. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and then, subsequently, Sony Xperia Z1 screens were so convenient for reading that it was only recently, when I broke my mobile whilst away in Cornwall, that found a replacement for the Boo-chewed Kindle reader.

However, there is a downside.


I find it really hard to browse for new books to read online. They just don't grab me off the screen. It's made worse by "Amazon Recommends" because it rail-roads you down a continued theme digested from whatever you've recently been reading.

I decided, can't remember when, just under a couple of years ago I suspect, that I was going to read Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I've always been partial to fantasy fiction ever since I first stumbled across Tolkein and The Hobbit as a wide-eyed eleven year old. Reading through a series is something Amazon makes exceptionally easy.

Early hours of the morning, propped up in bed, you finish a particular book and, aside from making the next one immediately accessible for the appropriate remuneration in their direction, Amazon pops the book up on your reader and makes it available to you with one click just as you finish the last one. You don't even have to go look for it. It's quite brilliant.

Took me most of a year to read the complete series. Fourteen books in total.

From there, I went on to Brandon Sanderson, having been impressed by how the man picked up the reins from the late, too soon fallen Mr Jordan; from there to Conn Iggulden, back to Sanderson, on to David Gemmell. I briefly dipped out of theme to re-read James Clavell's Shogun, before bouncing back to Joe Abercrombie.

Don't get me wrong, it's all been great. But I realise that Amazon Recommends has pretty much put me in a box and drip fed me a diet of fantasy fiction for the last couple of years, presumably assuming off the back of my greedy consumption of the Wheel of Time saga that this was the be all and end all of my literary flexibility.

Trouble is, having finished the last Abercrombie, in an act of rebellion, I've been trying to break the "Recommends" mould and find something else of an alternative genre to read. But I've been struggling, and Amazon hasn't been very helpful.

In a bid to escape, I'm now a few chapters into Heller's Catch 22, but I have to confess, the humour isn't grabbing me, and the characters are so far proving little more than annoying. No doubt more a reflection on me than the author, I'm sure.

I'll finish it, because I don't think I can justify not liking a book until I've got to the end. Besides, I'm of the type of character that if I don't, I'll forever wonder what I might have missed.

However, I really have to decide what to read next before I get there this time. I hate flailing around without a story to distract me in those quieter moments of the day.

Meanwhile however, the weekend is here.

The temperature may be dropping, but the wind is rising. Over to Dad's for supper tonight, then meet him again down the lake tomorrow morning to rig and launch Ondine for the last day of Sailability. If we ignore the forecast of rain (I'm taking my waterproofs) and the suggestion (I'm sure they don't mean it) of thunder and lightning, the F4 southerly (gusting 8 but reducing as the morning wears on and pivoting around to the north) promised for the morning should be quite entertaining.

Can't wait.

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