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6. A Lifetime of Books…

20 Dec
6. A Lifetime of Books…

On an ideal holiday, I will read at least one book a day, preferably lounging on a beach, stretched in a hammock, or sat in a hot chocolate-fueled cafe. Recently, I have been doing my best to arrange my life so as to be on holiday as much as possible, and have been reading so much that the stacks of books in my bedroom are almost certainly against a dozen or more health and safety regulations. (Why I still insist on buying books will be tackled in another entry…)

Here is the problem: I have a very strong suspicion that I could never work another day in my life, read two books a day, live to a hundred, and still not read all of the books I want to. Or even get close.

Why?

Well, I have a cupboard full of books waiting to be read, a result of my book-buying addiction and inability to go on a 30minute stroll through pretty much any town without returning with half a dozen books, mainly from charity and second-hand shops, (another topic for another blog). There are probably about 300 in there, (seriously…I may take a photo of some of the stacks and cupboards sometime if you don’t believe me), which should mean that in my theoretical world, I could finish them in less than six months.

But it’s not that easy.

Firstly, the majority of the books in my To Read piles are the result of recommendations from friends and books from authors I have read and enjoyed from over the years: many of them are from the 1990’s or earlier, leaving a whole two decades of books and authors to be discovered, bought, piled…

Secondliest, each book I read throws up a spider’s web of other books to be explored: if I enjoy an author enough, I will want to read everything they have ever written, (I think I am close with Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, Richard Dawkins, Nick Hornby, Kurt Vonnegut; slightly less successful with Vladimir Nabakov, Leo Tolstoy, Jose Saramago, Ian McEwan). Or they will name-check sources, inspirations, favourite books and authors of their own which I will want to check out, and which may in turn lead me to new paths on this ever-expanding, ever-branching book diagram.

Thirdmost, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a sucker for lists: as soon as I finished university, having had enough of 17th century French plays and poetry, I went out and discovered that, as if to provide me with a framework for my near future, the book shop Waterstone’s had teamed up with BBC television and radio to instigate a vote of the 100 best books of the 20th century, most of which I had either never heard of or never read. That gave me a target, which I proceeded to eat away at for the next two years, discovering such great authors as Bulgakov, D.H Lawrence and E.M.Forster, and the joys of classics from Catch 22 to The Alexandria Quartet, 2001 – A Space Odyssey to Lucky Jim. But there are lists from other shops, from other countries, other years and other criteria to be worked through, not to mention the lists, like the Man Booker Prize and the one-offs like the Pulitzer and the Nobel, which are renewed annually.

And that leads to fourtherly, and the most serious of the problems: people keep writing books. Like Sisyphus pushing that rock, like King Cnut, (have to be careful how I type that), trying to hold back the tide of literature, every year I spend catching up on classics I haven’t read, and the books they lead me to, people insist on writing more books, making the web even bigger and webbier.

All of this is without mentioning magazines to be read, (I used to read nothing but magazines, but have recently limited myself to highlight stories of The Economist and flipping through my virtual subscription to National Geographic), websites and blogs to browse, news articles received or discovered online, oh, and life, of course…

And then there’s the question of why I have become so obsessed with buying and keeping my favourite books, if I am fairly sure that I will rarely have the time to read any of them twice, (who can read a book twice when there are so many amazing, unread books out there?)

And finally, the ultimate conundrum: how do real people, with jobs to go to and do and take home with them, and families and kids to be bathed and fed and read to and driven to football practice, how do these people find time to read a book a week, or a month, let alone a book a day? How will I if, as I strongly suspect, I have to get a job sometime (soon?), and possibly even a family and kids?…

Luckily, reading isn’t about the destination, but the journey, and reading is and hopefully always will be one of my favourite ways of traveling…

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2 Comments

Posted by on December 20, 2011 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “6. A Lifetime of Books…

  1. Avri Klemer

    December 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    “Here is the problem: I have a very strong suspicion that I could never work another day in my life, read two books a day, live to a hundred, and still not read all of the books I want to. Or even get close.”

    This keeps me awake at night. Really. It drives me batty. Doesn’t stop me from rereading my favorites regularly, though . . .

     

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