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Fiona Loader is the first to feature in Roaring Stories’ Village of Readers series, which profiles Inner Westies on their reading habits, histories and loves. Fiona is a professional pianist, composer and is currently studying the organ. (Have a listen to her latest release “Lorikeet Corroboree” here – the first track on Ensemble Offspring’s ABC Classic album Songbirds, it’s already been streamed 22,000 times.) She is also a very familiar face at Roaring Stories Bookshop.

What are you reading right now?

I have a bad habit of reading several books at once. So I am currently reading…

  1. Rough Ideas by Stephen Hough. Although this is a book by a concert pianist about music it is much broader and quite philosophical. For example, Hough asks such questions as: When we sing, does it matter if we even know what the words mean? As a performer should you listen to lots of different interpretations of a piece by other performers before you attempt to learn it, or should you bring your own self to the piece by not being just a bad copy of someone else? This was a question I encountered as a child. My first piano teacher was horrified when I deliberately copied the nuances of a Claudio Arrau recording of Chopin. I was trying to please her but she was furious and I never did it again until other teachers for other instruments had the exact opposite approach…
  2. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. This is a mystical and multi-level book which centres on an artist. Murakami’s language is so beautiful even in translation. It is the type of book where I found I was underlining favourite passages and expressions.
  3. Phosphorescence by Julia Baird. I found this a wonderfully uplifting book. Despite considerable personal setbacks including a broken marriage and a cancer scare, Julia’s attitude to life is truly inspiring. I particularly love her idea of how we gain strength from our connections with nature.  
  4. A History of Pictures from the Cave to the Computer Screen by David Hockney and Martin Gayford. This is the perfect book to dip in and out of as it is organised in separate sections which are quite self-contained. It is a totally accessible, completely unpretentious conversation between Hockney and Gayford about art. It also questions the importance of photography as an art form itself and how it has influenced other art forms, especially painting.

What kind of reader do you identify as? (The book hoarder, the slow reader, the reader who snatches paragraphs on public transport…)

I am probably a mixture as I choose something appropriate for the setting. For instance, if I was reading Murakami I would not take it on a noisy bus or train – I’d need to read it at home or somewhere I would not be distracted. 

I listen to audiobooks as I do housework but generally I only listen to podcasts or biographies and prefer to read text, as I like to underline favourite passages and also read at my own speed.

I tend to latch onto a certain author and read as much as I can by them. 

I am a hoarder and hate to throw out books. I prefer my own copy to a library book so I can make notes. This also helps me when I re-read books or try to find a certain passage in a book that I’ve read.

You’re a professional musician. Do you prefer to surround yourself with music or silence when you’re with a book?

Great question. The way I was trained, music is my first priority so I almost always ‘tune in’ to music if it is on – even if I don’t like it. For me, reading needs to be in a quiet environment. Interestingly in audiobooks, I’ve noticed that some of these have subtle music or rhythms in the background, which is no doubt to make it more interesting. But for me it is more difficult to concentrate on the spoken word just as it is when I am reading in my head and I hear music. 

If I had to have music on in the background it would have to be so ambient, lacking rhythm and melody, and would only be a wash of colour otherwise my brain would tune into it instead of what I’m reading. 

Describe a memorable reading experience from your childhood.

My favourite book when I was 9 was A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. I loved it so much that I memorised many of the poems and recited them to anyone I could. Even now I think of Three Cheers for Pooh. I was really pleased recently when my daughter bought The Tao of Pooh from Roaring Stories as I am going to read it with her and it will remind me of my childhood. 

If you could pick three books to take with you on a desert island, what would they be?

  1. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. A fascinating book about how we really should trust our instincts and our gut feel about things a lot more than we actually do. 
  2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks. I tend to re-read this book every five or so years. I find Dr Sack’s case studies of his patients fascinating and in many cases, highly amusing. Apparently this has been turned into a one-act opera by Michael Nyman, although I haven’t seen it yet.
  3. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. When I was in my early twenties I went through a phase of reading lots of Russian authors and particularly loved Chekhov and Tolstoy. I haven’t read this since I was twenty but remember at the time feeling very emotional with tears streaming down my face. It might also be a good choice for a desert island as presumably I’d be there for a while and the book has 842 pages!

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