{02/03/2012}   Books: reading them, buying them, judging people on them

     These days I seem to read a book (fiction for these purposes) a month on average.  That’s not very much.  I just read a trilogy (about which I waxed lyrical here, Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness) within a month but the book I read before that I carried around with me for months (Tennyson’s Gift by Lynne Truss).  Yet I have hundreds of books, most of which I haven’t read.

I have just discovered it’s worse than I thought.  I just looked at the book shelf next to me.  Admittedly I have a vague recollection that when I moved here, with a view to sorting books shelves and cases into a semblance of order at a later date, this shelf was largely used for books I hadn’t read.  However, there are 42 books on it, eight of which are non-fiction (some I have at least referred to).  So for these purposes, there are 34 books on it.  I have read a mere eight of them, and two of those are books I read more than 15 years ago.

I still buy books, but it’s rare I buy a book because I want to read it straight away.  Sometimes, actually quite often, I look through the shelves and cases of my books.  This interests me.  Right now, I am poised to start a new book.  There are a lot of books I want to read, I will enjoy deciding which one to start next.

Why does it take me so long to read a book?  I don’t read before bed as I need no help falling asleep, in fact I couldn’t sit up in bed long enough to pick up the book and turn to the right page. I have a 55 minute always-seated train journey when I work in London, ideal reading time, but I seem to vary my train activities: letter writing, blog writing, looking out the window, listening to music (I can’t listen to music AND read), catching up on emails, Facebook and texts, reading a magazine or reading a book.  In the evenings, I don’t often watch TV but I don’t usually read, I suppose I do little bits around the house.  Actually, part of the reason I don’t read at night is because it makes me sleepy and I don’t concentrate as well at night as during the day.

I want to read more.  I absolutely love being absorbed in a good book.  Maybe that’s another issue: you have to get through quite a lot of questionable writing to get to a well-written, engaging book.  It’s a huge disappointment to read a book that sounds amazing, a great concept, only to discover that it’s not well-developed, the writing isn’t great … if I want crap, I can watch the TV (with exceptions) and turn it off.  With a book, I don’t like giving up, because that’s what it feels like if you never make it to the end.  Too much is published perhaps.  But if it’s so hard to get published, how on earth does all the bad stuff get through?

I always feel strangely envious of people in book clubs because they “have to” read a book every two weeks or a month in order to participate.  I just don’t think I work well having regular meetings/groups etc because, partly due to work and partly due to not being a creature of habit, I panic a bit about making plans in the future on immovable dates.  Now I have an idea: with friends, no matter where they live, agree to read a certain book over, say, three weeks.  Then email or text or even call each other to share thoughts as you go through.  That could work for me.  Any takers?

Why do I have so many books (fiction.  Non-fiction is a whole different matter)?  I guess like buying anything based on oh-that’s-nice; if a book looks interesting, you buy it … then store it away and, in my case, either never read it or leave it on your shelf for years until finally it piques your interest at a time when you want to start a new book.  Maybe that’s the point.  A lot of people will walk into your home and look at your books, a not entirely subtle way of working you out.  Some people have books to make them look intelligent or interesting, I think they are usually pristine matching sets of books.  Some people just shove their books where there’s a space.  But don’t judge me too harshly (I am now thinking of having a big book-arrange!) as in my lounge I have a Cliff Richard biography (I can explain), Mills & Boon (I can explain) and a Haynes guide to motorcycle maintenance standing next to each other.  You’d largely get me wrong if you read much into that.  Ah, that’s exactly one of the things I love about books and people’s bookcases: they add mystery and interest to the books’ owner!

PS The photo looks awful.  My book arranging is terrible.  I am going to sort my books, at least separating fiction and non-fiction.


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