Read This!

Reading & Writing

Something has gone wonderfully wrong with British book awards this year. It seems that the winners and nominees are being chosen not just by subject, craft and style but by readability. For the first time in years I romped through the Man Booker prizewinner. ‘White Tiger’ by Avarind Adiga, is a thrilling, almost pulpy choice that’s as much an indian fable as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Meanwhile, the Costa book awards (changed from the Whitbread awards, possibly because the mere mention of that phrase was enough to send readers into a collective coma) produced a raft of highly readable contenders.

Readability is underestimated. To me, it is the single most important factor in enjoying a book. And there’s a terrible snobbery about it. Readability suggests that a book has no depth, which is absurd. Why should you have to arm-wrestle your way through a book, fighting off sleep and boredom? Every page should drive the reader forward.
Of course, the great and wise Robertson Davies suggested judging books by the cheerfulness of the author’s photograph, which is as good a system as readability.
Let’s end this with a thought from the outgoing George Bush; “One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures”. Enough.

3 comments on “Read This!”

  1. Paul Beech says:

    Wasn’t it Raymond Chandler who once said, “The easier it is to read, the harder it is to write”? To me, a writer who cannot produce readable prose is like a plumber who cannot make a watertight joint. (You’re OK, Chris!)

  2. Dan says:

    hmm, Robertson Davies never looked that cheerful in any of his author photos…more like a stern Old Testament God about to smite someone or other

  3. karin says:

    Dan obviously doesn’t own many R. Davies books! I love mine because his smile is even on the spines and every time I see him I smile back.

    Chris just finished 77 clocks. first book of yours I have read. Enjoyed it very much and will be looking for more.


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