Magpies, Sheep and Tigers (Honestly, I Haven’t Lost the Plot!)

Whilst it is not an attractive attribute I have to admit that I get jealous sometimes. The green eyed monster in me rears its ugly head now and again. For example if someone looks at my other half a certain way, if the evil lady downstairs tries to feed my cat, if I see someone tweeting a picture of a giant custard slice they are about to eat, etc, etc.  This also happens with other peoples reading habits weirdly and catching up with a friend last week and asking them what they were reading sparked it off again and lead me to thinking about magpies, sheep and tigers – I promise this will make some sort of sense.

My friend who will remain nameless, though I wasn’t so discreet on this week’s episode of The Readers podcast, but suffice to say I have always been rather envious of their ability to find books and authors that are off the mainstream, invariably I have never heard of, and that sound amazing. Their latest read was no exception. I had never heard of Amelie Northomb before and therefore not ‘The Character of Rain’ which sounds amazing frankly. “The Japanese believe that until the age of three, children are gods, each one a ‘Lord Child’. On their third birthday they fall from grace and join the rest of humanity. Narrated by a child – from the age of two and a half up until her third birthday – this novel reveals that the move from deity to ordinary member of the human race can be a very difficult thing indeed from which to recover.” Doesn’t that just sound brilliant?

I asked where my friend had heard of this and the response was “oh, I just came across one of her other books and really liked her”, why does this not happen to me? Or am I being too hard on myself? Managing not to sulk slightly at the ability to discover these gems we finished nattering away but I was left thinking about it. I realised that my friend is a tiger (or any other animal that tends to live alone apart from mating), if we apply animal analogies to ourselves as readers (I do this with all sorts of things, did I just hear someone whisper ‘how weird’?), as they go off alone and hunt down hidden treats lost in the wilderness. What am I?

I worryingly started to think I was either a magpie or a sheep. You see magpies spot beautiful new shiny things, like books, and simply have to have them. They also kill competitors young; I have yet to do that so maybe I am ok. In my head magpies also start off with one shiny thing, grab it, and then decide they want another shiny thing. Fickle some people might say. Though I don’t tend to do this all the time I have noticed I do like the shiny new books, though I am now trying to go for older more classic (both modern classic and ‘classic’ classic) so maybe that makes me an owl? I have been talking about magpie behaviour a lot as it’s something that I don’t think that I like in my own character. But I guess we all do it don’t we? Though I don’t actually ask for many books via Savidge Reads, in fact I had to explain only last week that in a picture of nineteen books that had arrived in a week fourteen were unsolicited.

Why do I also think I am a sheep? Well I have noticed that if everyone is going on about a book or if I hear a rave review on a podcast/blog then I want to read that and follow the crowd. This has happened with ‘The Twelve Tribes of Hattie’ by Ayana Mathis. Oprah announced it was on her book club, the publishing world went mad about it, everyone wanted to read it and so did I. I got it before Christmas, and I have only just started it. It has now also happened with Amelie Northomb too, my friend mentioned it and so I have picked up ‘The Character of Rain’ and ‘Sulphuric Acid’, from the library since. That said I was about to start Hilary Mantel’s ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ again when it won the Costa and I decided as everyone else was going to be going crazy for it I really didn’t want to read it. What animals are crazy and completely contradict themselves, maybe I am one of those?

I thought I would put all this madness out there to you all to chat with me about. Do you think that actually we all have the magpie effect in built in us and it’s just natural to crave the new and shiny? Do you also think we all like to be a little like sheep and follow a crowd because reading is by its very nature a lonely pass time and we like to join book groups or have discussions one on one or on blogs and forums etc because of that? Do you sometimes crave to be someone who goes off and finds undiscovered gems, or lesser known ones, that you can tell everyone else about and get them excited about? I would love, as always, to know your thoughts – it might make me feel a little less barmy, ha!


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

22 responses to “Magpies, Sheep and Tigers (Honestly, I Haven’t Lost the Plot!)

  1. ummlilia

    say it loud..I’m a sheep and I’m proud!’s why I love book blogs and review sites. Being a magpie is a bit too lonely if you don’t live among ‘book people’…

    • That is true actually. I had never thought being a magpie would be lonely. I imagined it would be more the case for a tiger to be honest!

      Gavin, my co host on the Readers, thinks I’m a panda!

  2. David

    So, that was weird…. I think I’m a Tigpie or something. Not so much the sheep (though: sheep-pie, mmmm) – if everyone is reading a particular book or listening to a particular band that tends to put me off. I wish I could curb my magpie tendencies, but then they’re sort of related to the tiger thing – I tend to tootle off on internet tangents and find obscure new books… and want them ALL. Being a Tigpie can be very detrimental to the bank account.

  3. gaskella

    Y’know Shagpie is just one consonant short of shagpile… I’ll stop it now!

    Whilst I do love shiny new things, I also like to ‘ferret’ out things including bargains, and definitely quirky authors like Nothumb I last read pre-blog and loved it too, I tend not to follow the crowd and leave the books everyone else is reading too (unless I can get in first, Ha, ha!). I do love the shiny stuff, but the adventure of discovering interest is stronger so I’ll call myself a Fertig.

  4. Louise Trolle

    I think I’m like you David (An I’m*very* upset to have been introduced to the Bloomsbury Hardcover Classics!! 🙂 Now I had to go buy a bunch…

    You HAD heard about Amelie Northomb Simon, – I recommended you Tokyo Fiancée by her here on the blog a while back 🙂 ;-p

    I love it when I find a book that sounds great – and only has like 10 ratings on Goodreads – hidden gems are awesome. BUT it’s also great to find books like Diving Belles as a result of general buzz.

  5. I had never heard of Amélie Nothomb either until a friend (who studied abroad in Japan) gave me a copy of one of her books, Stupeur et tremblements. Then, of course, I started seeing her everywhere as it turns out she’s fairly popular in France. Not being particularly interested in Japanese culture I haven’t yet read the book, but it is part of my TBR challenge.

    Don’t know what animal I am, but, so far, my TBR challenge is helping curb my excessive multi-reading and focus more on the book at hand instead of getting distracted by the next thing I want to read.

  6. I am a complete magpie when it comes to books but they don’t have to be new releases. I see pretty covers all the time and get grabby hands of want. I have actually found some great random reads because I bought a book for its cover too. I feel the sheep thing sometimes, but try and resist the pull. Like with Gone Girl, I read a few reviews a while back that confirmed in my head I didn’t want to read it. Now everyone is reading it and I’m starting to wonder if I should too. BUT I have so many other books I am excited to read for me, that I know I should just ignore the crowd.

  7. I concur with ‘Sly Wit’ – Amélie Nothomb’s ‘Fear and Trembling’ is amaaaazing. I don’t know why she’s not as popular over here because I think the translations of her work out there seem to be pretty bob on 🙂 Read it! It’ll go with your reading by whim thing. As does the Magpie approach 😀

  8. I couldn’t get into Acid Sulphurique, but I haven’t ruled out Nothomb. Some books have to be at the right time… and speaking of time, how are you getting on with Swann’s Way? The multi-volume graphic novel adaptation by Stephane Heuet is very well done and the illustrations give a nice feel for the era.

  9. I think I have magpie tendencies which makes longer books difficult for me unless I fall in love with them. I used to be sheepy in my book tendencies too but I was quite often disappointed in the books everyone was talking about so I have tried to stop coveting the latest book until it settles down a bit. If it still appeals after a few weeks I think about getting it again then.

  10. I’m not terribly influenced, in terms of wanting to rush out and read, by what other people are currently reading or enthusing about. This isn’t to say I’m not interested but just that it doesn’t generally affect my reading behaviour. I’m not more interested in recently published works than I am in those written in C17 or 2000 years ago. I’ve found and read some excellent little-known books and occasionally I’ve enthused about them to people, but I don’t have a desire to “sell” the book to others in any way.

    I’m essentially “the cat that walked by himself ” in your animal kingdom I think

  11. Rhian

    I think that I am another cross between a sheep and a magpie! I have far more books than I can ever hope to read (if I am being totally honest) because I pick up new ones that appeal. And of course I start dipping into to them – just to confirm my choice! New and shiny for me just means new to me – I am particularly bad at picking books from boot sales and charity shops because “I like the cover” or “that’s an interesting title”. Not so bad in “proper” bookshops because of the cost – my basic rule of thumb is that if it costs less than a glass of wine then it is ok to buy it on spec. Any more and I need to think about it! (well it’s better than my friend who prices everything in shoes)
    My sheeplike tendencies come out when blogs like yours (yes I am blaming you for my evergrowing piles) recommend (or frankly even review) a book that sounds interesting. Although I have a strong contrary streak which means that the words “everyone will love/must see/must read” tend to make me determined not to!

  12. I m a lone wolf and always will be I have little intrest in what other people on the whole are reading ,I have read character of rain and agree it is simply wonderful ,for me it is the search for the new that makes me a happy reader ,all the best stu

  13. Debra

    I’m not one to be confined by “classifications”. Simon, you are witty and engaging and have excellent taste in books. If I read your recommendations I can rest assured I, too, will enjoy the book. So whatever you are, sheep, wolf, lion, tiger….LOL just continue to be you!


  14. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

  15. Interesting reading habits all around and than goodness….myself…..maybe an eclectic rabbit….

  16. Oh I love Amelie Nothomb. Glad you’ve discovered her! I used to be better at picking up random gems, possibly because I had more time to read and fewer sources of recommendations. These days I follow so many book blogs that my want-to-read list expands faster than I read. I’ve certainly read a fair few on the back of your glowing reviews. Animal-wise, perhaps I have gone from being a curious excitable puppy to a contented grown-up dog? I’m not sure I like that analogy actually…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s