The ideas behind the books

No pain, no gain

Are there any sportsmen and women out there? Do you enjoy a game of football, or a swim in the pool? Maybe the best thing you ever did was to go pony trekking, or join the canoe club, or go down to the local dojo and learn the basics of karate?

OK. Half the time, if the weather's just right and you're feeling good, you can spring into action and amaze the world. The rest of the time it takes a bit more effort, but you still go because you know you enjoy it when you get going.

And you get better at it, don't you? The more hours you put in, the more skills you develop. I'm not saying we are all going to end up as brilliant as David Beckham or Stephen Hendry, but at our own level, we improve. It's a fact of life. If you really want to do something, you have to put the effort in, even if you're a natural to start with. I show my age here, but don't tell me Eric Clapton doesn't practise for hours on his guitar.

Reading is just the same. It's a skill that you learn, like developing your backhand volley. If you aren't used to reading a book, the first time you try to settle down with it you might find your mind wanders or you keep reading the same paragraph over and over again. You have to concentrate hardest at the beginning of a new book too because the scene is just being set and you are meeting all the characters.

If you do find it hard to get going, don't just give up and say it's not the book for you. Give it that extra bit of effort. By the time you're on to chapter three you could be completely involved in the story and have it propped up against the cornflakes packet in the morning while you blindly slurp breakfast and time ticks relentlessly by.

Then the next book you pick up, you'll find it that little bit easier. If you read regularly, you will find it becomes much easier to focus on the story and your attention won't wobble about. Remember how hard it is to get going in lessons at the beginning of the school term because you are out of practice after the holidays. And by the end of term you are zinging along doing your maths homework during break while you simultaneously conduct several different conversations and consume a Mars bar.

Right. You've read this much. You must be pretty good at reading anyway.