Hi, my name is Lev. It’s three days since I bought a book.
I buy books like other people eat meals. It’s almost as if I have no understanding of my own mortality, or how time works.
These, as of a couple of weeks ago, were my ‘to read’ piles. Yes, piles.
I’ve added to them since then. Of course I have. It’s what I do.
I try to control it, honestly I do. It’s just that people will insist on continuing to write interesting-looking books, and I am weak of will. I haven’t counted the books in the house. I don’t have time. I’m too busy buying books.
Some of my books are inherited, so there are shelves that are more representative of my parents’ reading tastes than of my own. I’ll be honest – I haven’t read them all yet.
Note that ‘yet’. I persist in deluding myself with the lie that I will, one day, get round to reading them. What I should really do, what any sensible and right-minded person would do, is perform regular culls, keep it all under some semblance of control.
What I actually do is go out and buy more.
Part of it is politeness.
I can’t go past a bookshop without going in; I can’t go in without spending at least half an hour browsing; and I certainly can’t spend half an hour in any shop without buying something. That would be terribly rude. And, ever mindful of the parlous position of independent bookshops, I’ve apparently decided to make it my life’s work to keep them all afloat single-handedly.
Then there’s my suggestibility.
‘This is good’, someone says. So I buy it, not stopping to think whether their reading tastes coincide with mine.
Part of it, too, is an addiction to anticipation.
‘I cannot wait to read this book,’ I think, before falling asleep, drool sliding gracefully down my chin, halfway through the introduction (in the case of most of the nature books I’ve read recently, the introduction is written, with a sort of grim inevitability, by Robert Macfarlane. When it hits the shops next May, my own book‘s unique selling point will be the rare absence of a Macfarlane introduction.)
This buying frenzy is partly fuelled by an illogical but unquenchable terror of finding myself without something good to read. On the rare occasions I go out without a book I’m consoled by the thought of the dozens of ebooks on the Kindle app on my phone. And there’s always the internet – I’ve read most of that, but am still keen to find out who did it.
The other day I went out with not just one book, but two (just in case I finished reading the internet before reaching my destination, just five stops away). This was because I wasn’t sure what mood I’d be in when I was on the train, so wanted to give myself a bit of choice.
One of them was a book about reading. How very meta.
It’s called The Year of Reading Dangerously and it’s by Andy Miller, who also co-presents the very excellent Backlisted podcast, which is another reason I’ve been buying so many books recently DAMMIT JOHN AND ANDY WILL YOU STOP RECOMMENDING EXCELLENT BOOKS DON’T MAKE ME COME ROUND THERE
The basis of The Year of Reading Dangerously is what Andy calls The List of Betterment – books he hadn’t read but felt he should have.
I embarked on The Year of Reading Dangerously with trepidation. I knew there was a strong chance that a book about reading would impel me to further excess on the book-buying front. This trepidation was tempered by the knowledge that Backlisted has a good track record of recommending short, readable books. Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (an absolute cracker) comes in at 140 or so pages; J L Carr’s A Month in the Country (equally superb) just 85.
It was with a sick lurch, then, that I read of the book Andy recommends most vehemently in TYORD, the book that he considers the sine qua non, ‘the only book you will ever need’.
War and Peace.
War. And. Effing. Peace.
Hi, my name is Lev. It’s one minute since I bought a book.
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