Hi, my name is Vortex and I can’t commit to a book.

2dirty white boy

Here’s the thing.

I am the world’s s.l.o.w.e.s.t. reader. It’s not that I can’t speed read or nuffink, it just takes me forever to commit to a book. Huh?

Well, let’s take Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” for example: Received for my 40th, just after it won The Man Booker Prize, I started it in good faith … and managed to finish it in my 45th year – when the sequel “Bringing up the Bodies” won its Booker. It takes me as long to read ’em as it does for her to write ’em.

Damn book (but exceptionally fine book, mind you) lay on the floor beside my bed for FIVE YEARS; Dusty jackets are not restricted to my wardrobe.  Oh I’m hearing you: What kind of wrong-headed biblio-refusenik ARE you? Oh, just your ordinary every-day kind of …

I digress. Back to the thing.

When I go ’round people’s houses I see they have all the books they have ever read and enjoyed, proudly co-habiting various rooms.  All of Them Achievers (it’s a conspiracy no? Straight out of Rosemary’s Baby)

all of them witches

What do I have?

I have all the books I’m gonna read, sitting up there like soldiers; proud and neatly colour-coded (The Decorologist made me do that). One giant bloody TO DO. Well, 2015 is the year that I’m going to tackle that TO DO and send all those books to the Loft where they belong (after I’ve read them, that’s my point).

Yes – this idea is stolen from another blogger whose name escapes me (tee hee), but I’m sure they suggested others climb aboard the book wagon and start throwing books around; I shall now be accountable and knuckle down and finish those goddamn books once and for all.

Oh sure, I’ve got plenty of time for TV – it’s the books that have me in a cold sweat. I keep buying them; second hand booksellers, charity shops, even full-whack up the mighty Amazon. A little non-book reading yet still buying habit. Don’t even talk to me about Kindle – it CHEAPENS the word!

Recently, I signed up to www.goodreads.com because I want a list (lists! LISTS! Everyone loves a list) so I can gaze upon my achievements and feel, well, “Listical” (totally ‘nicked’ that from Helen ‘Razer’ when I was researching the Taylor Swift / Triple J Hottest 100 debacle. Of which, I throw my hands up in despair. They’ve Changed.).

So here they are, all the books I’ve NEVER (and only partially) read. No particular order and my apologies if you spot last year’s birthday present in this list. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that …. I watched many hours of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills / Atlanta / New York / Vancouver / Melbourne instead. Beverly Hills wins hands down.)

US David Nicholls1.“Us” – David Nicholls Given to me by my friend’s mum who can inhale a book in one sitting; she swore I’d love it. I’m 20 pages in, I’m swearing I do love it – I just can’t commit. Forgive me Margie, I have sinned. It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve looked at it.

lena dunham not that kind

2. “Not That Kind of Girl” – Lena Dunham. Big fan of “Girls”, I gave this to my friend Sza but she already had it, saying: “you read it and we’ll discuss it” ….. feeling clammy ……can’t quite commit to it yet, BIG undertaking ….expectations of ruminations …..

zoe heller the believers3. “The Believers” – Zoe Heller. My sister popped this in my suitcase when I left her a few months ago. “You’ll really enjoy this.” Heller wrote “Notes on a Scandal” which was GENIUS. No reason to fear this? Or so I thought …..

gillian flynn gone girl

4. “Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn. Oh god – every person and their pet has read this and I’m in a constant state of SPOILER ALERT! It’s exhausting  …. So tempting just to watch the movie on Netflix and lie to myself. Can’t be that much better on the page, surely?

pg wodehouse sam the sudden5. “Sam the Sudden” – P.G. Wodehouse. Not only am I a pretend-reader, I also harbour pretensions of writing (ahem) and my genre of choice is a detective / mystery / comedy – of which, I have absolutely no inkling. I saw this little old book for 50p outside the newsagent and snapped it up for research. Then I filed it.

robert sackville disinherited6. “The Disinherited: A story of Family, Love and Betrayal” – Robert Sackville-West.” Here we have a 2014 Christmas present from my Aunt, unread. I did manage to read his other: “Portrait of a Marriage” –  and gave it *two thumbs up*. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to Sissinghurst for crying out loud. I’m keeping up with the Sackville-Wests (or I’ll die tryin’….)

hornby a long way down7. “A Long Way Down” – Nick Hornby. Cannot recall ever reading a Hornby (always saw the movies first and then didn’t bother with the books). This is the only Hornby novel on my shelf, therefore it must bravely speak for the others. And yet ….

speaking with the angel8. “Speaking with the Angel” a compilation of 12 stories by Nick Hornby, Robert Harris, Melissa Bank, Giles Smith, Patrick Marbeor, Colin Firth (Golly, when did that happen?), Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Roddy Doyle, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh and John O’Farrell. I note from the bottom of the book that £1 for every copy sold was donated to the Treehouse Trust of autistic children. At least I contributed something there (unless this too is second hand …? )

virginia woolf mrs dalloway9. “Mrs Dalloway” – Virginia Woolf. This was given away free with a daily tabloid, of all things! Amusingly, Tesco didn’t force me to take the tabloid – just gave me the book! Goodie, I loved “The Hours”……Shelved.

joe keenan putting on the ritz10. “Putting on the Ritz” – Joe Keenan. OMG!! The palaver surrounding this book and I still haven’t read it! My friend Truuude gave me “My Blue Heaven” (hysterical, YOU should read it!) and this. Not unlike a scene in the book itself, Truuuude’s husband took back “Ritz”, to read because I still hadn’t. Shortly after, said husband went and lost it / filed it in the forever file. They were both guilted into buying me a replacement copy after a few “don’t you have it? / I thought you had it? / Can you look for it please?” conversations. Et Voila! Back on my shelf of the unread.

2dirty white boy11. “Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho” Clayton Littlewood. I have no idea whose book this is, or where it came from. On the cover: Hot Pink, coupla gay blokes in angel wings, man in a bowler hat giving me the two finger salute, and a horny hooker in her doorway. Sensational! Right up my street! Looks like it’s never been opened, even by its original owner  …. and probably for the best?

thackeray vanity fair12. “Vanity Fair” – William Makepeace Thackeray – Holy Hell … Biig book with tiiny writing. I started this about 2-3 years ago, and am one or two chapters in (will need re-starting at this point). Problem was, I read it right off the back of Pride and Prejudice. P’n’P was a pot boiler, this? … not so much. It needs a space, in time, of its own when I can find a quiet corner and sit down to read.  Unlikely at best, and just quietly:  NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

proulx shipping news13. “The Shipping News” – Annie Proulx. I found this about a year ago, trolling my local charity shop. I knew her name from somewhere – just couldn’t put my finger on’t. Took it on a hunch anyway. Later that day, on the googler, Bingo! She wrote “Brokeback Mountain”!  It’s a really oddly written book – all jagged edges and prickly, much like the characters. I was starting to find its rhythm when, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I fired up dusty ol’ “Wolf Hall” (after its 5 year hiatus). Annie … wait!… I don’t know how to quit you …

belinda alexandra white gardenia14. “White Gardenia” – Belinda Alexandra. Mum left this with me after one of her visits. “Just finished this, you should read it” Yeah, you should write “You Should Read It” on my Tombstone!

meyer twilight15. “Twilight” – Stephanie Meyer. *tired sigh* No, you didn’t misread that. Me, the biggest Vampire-genre-sucker walking around in shoe-leather has never read “Twilight”. I have read all the others in the franchise , never the first. Here’s another defect:  I start in the middle of series, to see if it’s any good. I saw the movie first – then saw no point pursuing the book; until it appeared in a discount store. I may be right this time; Leave the undead, unread. Save my poor eyeballs for Thackeray, ditch Meyer. That’s the kind of advice I need people!

mcewan solar

16. “Solar” – Ian McEwan. This man’s writing is an education. I’m not often in the mood to be schooled. I’ll take it as read (if only), this one is excellent. Plenty of other McEwans I haven’t tackled yet; no wonder they’re looking worried (boom-tish).

eggars you shall know17. “You Shall Know Our Velocity” – Dave Eggers. My lovely friend Huggeeee Bear gave me this when I had my first child. I guess he & I both thought I’d have lots of time to read; seeing as though I wasn’t at “work”. Indeed. Unread.

winton breath18. “Breath” – Tim Winton. Mum again. “You haven’t read any Tim Winton? None? Take it! Take it! I’ve had this one for about 8 years. I did start about 10 pages, it’s written in a most peculiar style which is kind of reported with no quotes. Yes, I should probably read one of his books – but is this the one?

niven straight19. “Straight White Male” – John Niven. Oh Boy. This writer is the original revolting magnet. Husband of Truuuuude gave me “Kill Your Friends” to read (signed by the author – so trusting!). It was all a bit Dick Emery (Oh you ARE awful, but I DO like you!) And I did like it. Not that I’ll admit it in polite company. “Oh, you should read his other book then” and I was duly loaned SWM. I know it’ll be a rip-roarer, just need to light it up and see …..

Mengestu children of the revolution20. “Children of the Revolution” – Dinaw Mengestu. I know nothing of the origin of this book (probably Mum? Right?) except that it has a sticker on it: “Winner of the Guardian First Book Award”. How many has he written now? Lemme check: That would be 5. He’s written 5 books, I’ve read … not many.

atkinson one good turn21. “One Good Turn” – Kate Atkinson. Another “you must read this” book pressed upon my person. The name sounds like chick-lit, the cover looks like a mystery. Smells familiar. A quick flick through the early pages tells me, yes, I’ve started this one too. It didn’t grab me then, not sure it ever will?

polly bad bride22. “A Bad Bride’s Tale” – Polly Williams. Most definitely chick-lit. I hate chick-lit except for …. who am I kidding? This one will float to the top as an “ice breaker” and a “ball roller”.

rushdie midnights children23.“Midnight’s Children” – Salman Rushdie. I bought this because I was on a “must read every Booker Prize winner” jag. This was always touted as “The Booker’s Booker”. When I commuted by train for 3 hours a day I could afford to have such highfalutin dreams. The sad reality, I suspect, was that I was never brave enough to openly read Rushdie on the London Underground. I would have needed to cover it in a brown paper bag, like a wino. A job too far.

bernhard schlink the readerhomecoming schlink24 & 25. “The Reader” & “Homecoming” – Bernhard Schlink. I really loved the film “The Reader” so I think I pinched the second book from my parent’s home in order to complete my set of non-read books.

26. “Angela’s angelas ashes frank mccourtAshes: A memoir of Childhood” – Frank McCourt. Mum. Again. “I’m going to give you this now because you REALLY should read this one.” I’ve not quite recovered from the nuns at Primary School so it’s going to be a while before I delve back into that world. It has been with me for about 10 years – so maybe the time is nigh?

barrett crime scene cessnock27. “Crime Scene Cessnock” – Robert G Barrett. Another book given to me when I had a new baby. Pregnancy might have been a better window (and I ain’t doing that again!)

austen persuasion28: “Persuasion” – Jane Austen. Emboldened by my assertive stance with “Pride and Prejudice”, I bought a gnarly old copy of this book at a book fair and told myself I’d read ‘An Austen each year until read‘ …Ah yep.

rupert everett red carpets29: “Red Carpets and other Banana Skins” – Rupert Everett. Truuuude again. Believe it or not, this is actually quite the riveting read. I let it get away from me and then other books queue-jumped.  Elbowing poor little Rupert off his own Red Carpet! I was enjoying it – 4 years ago.

I'm not arguing!
I’m not arguing!

30. “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography” – Mike Tyson. I was loving the whole “new” Mike Tyson brand. The doco and the book. I must be about 120 pages into this with 440 to go. Ay Ay Ay! It didn’t stop me giving all of the male members of my family a copy this Christmas. I should finish this before they do – because that would be wrong in the eyes of the Lord (and probably Mike’s). I have to cover those eyes when I go to bed, they freak ‘im indoors out!

litt exhibitionism31. “Exhibitionism” – Toby Litt. Toby Litt wrote one of my all time top 5 books: “Finding Myself” so of course, when I saw this on a friend’s bookshelf in 2007, I took it. (I did tell him about it later). Stop/Start, Stop/Start, Stop/Start. I don’t remember anything about it and will have to start it again if it’s to make any sense at all.

So there we have it: 31 Books NOT burning a hole on my bookshelf.

If you’ve gotten this far then here is your PRiZE!

You get to shout numbers at me like it’s Saturday Night Bingo to see which book I start AND FINISH. I may even give you a review, if at all tolerable.

My shame is on public display – feel free to FLOG IT for all its worth! Hell, you can HAVE the book when I’m finished with it! Send me your address to vortexofbloggery@gmail.com and it’s yours (except for the ones that don’t belong to me – don’t worry Truuuude, I know which ones they are).

NB: If you’ve read anything on this list and think it’s a total waste of time – be a Good Samaritan and lighten my load. I’m not parting with the Tyson though.

In the “Comments” box please! Even if it’s 2020 …. I’ll still be going


22 thoughts on “Hi, my name is Vortex and I can’t commit to a book.

  1. does the NB relate to me– don’t know why we paid all that money on you education- however I am just about done with all the Hilary Mantel- now that was a responsibilaty! NB


    • Did you get a receipt? Maybe you can show the sisters this article and get some of yr money back? No, NB in the article means “please note” Noto Bene or some such. I didn’t learn it from the nuns. Put the Hilarys on your mantel. Xoxo


  2. Hang on, hang on, hang on…. you’ve never read ANY Tim Winton? That’s just un-Australian! Re: the Nick Hornby…meh, not his best, and the movie was woeful. Solar is wonderful and Gone Girl a bit of fun. That is all.


    • J’Bird. I flew the Aussie coop 12 years ago in March – I don’t even know what un-Australian means anymore. Good? Bad? The way the world is heading, nationalism is a big dirty word? Back to Mr Winton – my curiosity is peaked. You hold him up as pre-requisite reading for citizenship – I must read on (and comment thusly – I know there are other displaced-by-choice Aussies reading this – what are your thoughts?). So Winton goes on the new list (with Tyson & Dunham). Funnily enough, just last night I had the option to watch “A Long Way Down” on Netflix by Hornby (I passed in favour of “Francis Ha” – WHAT a wonderful movie – I may review it separately later, I may not) but if you’re thinking Hornby’s writing ain’t all that (and Dim Sum) then I will just donate the book to our local train station’s free reading library toot sweet. Oh yeah …. I watched the 2015 Oscars the other night and the goddamned SPOILER ALERT on Gone Girl just wrenched up a notch – so I’m going to watch that on Fillim too before I’m able to write someone’s disseration on the story without ever reading it (old habits die hard). To recap, you vote for: Solar & the Tim “digger” Winton, with Gone Girl to be watched on Fillim. Thank you for lightening my load. 2 points.

      p.s. can people please respond with the opening line “Hi Vortex …” like we’re in proper therapy? Or on Rikki Lake? I thought that was a given ….?


  3. I must confess I have the same problem, except I start a book and then read it all the way through until I’m about 30 pages from the end, THEN I stop. I’m not as bad as you though, couldn’t put Tyson or Dunham down. But have never read Tim Winton but I’m not patriotic at all. I can’t come at any book that seems like a penance.
    Actually, the only book you need to read is “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up” and this book problem will be solved! Seriously though, if a book isn’t grabbing you, then it’s not grabbing you. No need to finish if it doesn’t relax the brain, that’s the whole point of reading for pleasure isn’t it?


    • Hey Sza, I did, in fact, receive your delightful gift of “The Life changing Magic of Tyding up” the day after posting this post and “hands to cheeks” oh my god! Thank you so much. I felt a little guilty, as I had just blathered on about how I never read any of the books anyone gives me – and yet this time, I dove right in. I read the bit about throwing away all your paperwork and tossed out some manuals for equipment that I’m sure we’ll never need (hope ‘im indoors doesn’t read the comments section, fairly certain not!) – I mean, a kid’s bike c’mon – WHO? needs a manual for that? I had a quick look at my closet and I’m fairly certain I already have the amount of clothes she expects you to end up with (I will cull further though in due course). I have a YSL coat from 1985 (bought for me at 16 …. oh for the old days) that looks as good now as it ever bloody did and it will keep my granddaughters warm. In fact, I have furs, and I thought “If I don’t wear this disrespectful Canadian Red fox fur on this most freezing of days on a glamorous weekend with my boyfriends in London, I never will.” So I did. It too is from the 80s (Trappist Mum!) and it has deteriorated over the years (furs don’t last people!) the sleeve came away as I swished around London. Now it needs repair. Anyway – I haven’t been reading the book from start to finish – instead at different sections, which is not the idea! Are you going to give me your thoughts on it, for a blog post one day? I’d love to clock off for one day!

      I don’t read books to relax my brain!? That’s what the Millionaire Housewives of Matchmaker Island are for?

      In lieu of numbers shouted out as requested, I’ll take it that you’re voting for Tyson & Dunham in a grudge match – going head to head? (some would welcome that). OK, off to address J’bird’s accusations of unaustralianism ….. X


  4. I loved Angela’s Ashes and love all Austen. I don’t tend to read modern literature (more modern biogs and non fiction) so can’t advise on the Wintons etc. But I say ditch anything that feels like work! As Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. Imagine how you’d feel if you put all those books that make you feel guilty in a pile and then got rid of them!? You’d feel less burdened, less like you haven’t done your homework! And you’re an adult, goddammit, you don’t have to do you homework at all anymore. You’ve done your homework, years and years of it. I feel guilty getting rid of useful things too so Kondo advises that you thank the item (she’s a bit if a Shintoist anthropomorphiser), and set it free to make someone else happy. (But not the books I gave you heh heh…)
    Oh and by the way, I started reading Kondo in the middle too, until I realized she has a very well thought out order that you’re meant to tidy in that reduced psychological resistance! I have veered from it slightly, but I realise she’s right! You need to do it in the order described because you building up your decision-making muscles. Am writing review but want to include before and after photos so it will take a bit longer. 🙂


    • Oh wow Sza, that review will be awesome! Cannae wait. You will bloody read the Wolf Hall imma send you soon? You are so right about me being the goddamn adult. I don’t need those literary millstones dragging me (me? ME?) down? Who the hell does Kate Atkinson think she is? Never mind the loft, I can feel a book burning coming on. Calm down Truuuude, not the Niven. Or yours Sza. Just a few lesser works.


      • Take those poe-faced must-reads and release them! Eggers is considered a ‘ must-read’ author, right? If it’s not fun or fascinating, ditch it. If these books were fun or fascinating, you’d have read them by now…the thought of opening some of them feels like going to mass right? Or doing an exam? Or, you know, some sort of exercise program. Right?

        Am I going to far now?


        • Hounds of Beelzebub! Flames of Satan burn thine paperbacks before I enter His exercise regime!. Yes, too far. I will whittle the list to say, 6, must-reads. Oh bloody Eggers! When I lived with Truuuude, she gave me “heartbreaking work of staggering genius” to read (naturally its very title was repellant). Every 5 days “have you read it?”. After a year she took it back (unread) because she was ready to re.read it (Achiever) Now, Eggars is back and he’s brought his bloody velocity with him. Sheesh!


  5. Hi Vortex – I am so far behind in my reading that I am a 30 something geek who only just started reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!

    Wait…. This is a safe place isn’t it? What happens in therapy stays in therapy? I don’t want my geek credentials revoked when everyone finds out I didn’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide growing up?


    • Hey there Huggeee Bear! So long as yr not cross about the Eggers and the “cessnock” laying idle, I shall not broadcast to “Cool International Kids Inc” that you’ve not read the Geek Bible. I like to think that what goes on inside the Vortex, stays inside the Vortex (unless I put it on Twitter! Not much audience there …. Yeah …) Anyways you’ve got yr nom de plume to hide behind, that’s gotta provide a fig leaf of sorts? Speaking of Twitter, every now and then someone (usually a publishing house) starts up a game of “I’ve never read ….” And everyone lists their shame, as a type of confessional. Or, you could just read the damned book! You’ve got a month, and I want a bloody report. You got that Huggeee Bear? DO YOU?


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