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)
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.)
1.“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.
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 …..
3. “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 …..
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?
5. “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.
6. “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’….)
7. “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 ….
8. “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 …? )
9. “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.
10. “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.
11. “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?
12. “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.
13. “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 …
15. “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!
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).
17. “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.
18. “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?
19. “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 …..
20. “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.
21. “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?
23.“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.
26. “Angela’s Ashes: 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?
28: “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.
29: “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.
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!
31. “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 email@example.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