How do you keep up with new reading? It’s impossible right? Here’s an excellent new list of books published by The Guardian – 50 must reads from this year. Already! And there must be more than that of course. But it’s a great list. I skim it and my mind is going tick-tick-tick because I’ve got about a dozen of the titles listed. I’ve bought several new books this year, I’ve been sent a few more to review – and I’ve reserved a few from the library.
So far I’ve read just one of the books on that list (Sinead O’Connor’s memoir) and I’ve started a couple of others.
But there’s a list on the same page of The Guardian’s website – detailing the best in new paperbacks. So, some of these titles were first released last year in hardback and are now in the cheaper, smaller format. That’s another couple of dozen strong titles to add to the never-ending list.
A further problem – more great recommendations.
And eating up a lot of the reading time is all the online browsing and ‘reading’ – these lists, the recommendations…you’re reading this (presumably! And thanks!) And I’ve been writing it. This all eats into the time.
So where does one find time to read? Reading is the balm in the mad world. A little slice of salvation. And absolute luxury.
Ever since I’ve been a dad – running very swiftly towards a decade now, including a few startled months of cramming-prep – I’ve talked about reading in ‘stolen moments. But the truth is I’ve been doing that for much of the last quarter-century. Granted, a while back I could still afford the luxury of a Saturday morning in bed, reading (well, not always – I often worked retail and studied part-time so Saturday was a big workday). But, you know, there were ‘sleep-in’ times. They’re just a myth now. And if and when they do arrive there’s a guilt-attachment, in a desperate bid for efficiency I’m up early to prepare for the sleep-in!
There was a time when I caught the bus a reasonable distance to and from work, so I always had a very thin paperback or volume of poetry planned for the ride to and from.
Then the arrival of the Kindle. A very necessary evil. It got me through some late nights when my son was teething – and needed soothing, he’d fall asleep in my arms on the big green chair and I’d listen to Sebastien Tellier’s Confection – it was my album of the year that year, and for that reason. And I could have the Kindle tucked up on the arm of the couch away from baby. I could read a few pages and flick the screen whilst still protecting the precious cargo.
It’s also saved me from packing a separate bag of books when traveling – it’s Kindle only. And maybe one or two books on the side still. But never ten, as it used to be…
Books still remain in the frame. Big time. I buy new and second-hand; I borrow from the library every week. I skim some and return, others I devour straight away. A late fee is paid now and then – but I do my best to return on time, re-issue…
But it’s relentless! .
Reading for pleasure is arguably a thing of the past. Reading in stolen moments – getting up early to cram in some reading before a day at work, staying up late and reading a whole book in one gulp then regretting it the next day when extra coffee is required – has created a whole new way of reading. I have several books open like so many web browsers.
But reading remains so important to me. For many reasons – including knowledge. Precious knowledge. But it’s also now about preservation, I think. I read – in book form – to step away from a screen (also becoming harder to do). I read – in book form – to remind myself of what it’s like to step into that sort of world, to let someone else have the control. Reading online is the illogical extension of those pick-a-path books I loved so much when I was seven and eight and nine and ten. The reader feels in control of the world they’re pursuing. Even as twists and turns are there to negotiate you are the one making the decisions.
Giving over to a big old-fashioned book – in the hope of some pleasure or to bask in the aim of leisure or for deep, hard learning (and it can be both, it can be all things at least some of the time) – is to hand over the keys. To strap in on the passenger side and go for a (hopefully) wild ride.
I might only get through five books from that Guardian list this year. And if I get that far I’ll be doing very well.
So these lists of new books aren’t just competing with themselves. These books of new lists are hoping to get eyeballs – and then on top of that the eyeballs they seek are still working through so many lists from so many other years.
Did I mention that it’s relentless!