I've been reading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill, which got me thinking about the number of unread books that are littering my house. It got me thinking too, very briefly, about whether or not I could go for a whole year without buying any books. As I said, it was a brief thought, very very brief. I'm not sure that I could go for a whole week without buying a book in some form or another. And that is the root of my problem. I have so many unread books in the house that they are beginning to swamp me.
Now I'm not going to pretend to be as well-read as Susan Hill. I don't have many stories about how I met Kingsley Amis or Ian Fleming at a party. But I did meet Peter Robinson a couple of weeks ago and I can confirm that he's a very nice man, and that he is a fan of the Grateful Dead. Moreover, interesting bits of paper and hand-drawn Christmas cards do not tumble gracefully from within the pages of my books, which are more likely to contain bus tickets, bits ripped from the corners of bills and invariably tedious postcards from someone's Aunt Maureen, though I did once buy a David Gemmell paperback where someone had once marked their place with what could only have been a slice of pizza.
I have various ways of justifying my book-buying habit. Firstly, well I'm a bookseller, so I have to keep up to date with what's happening in the book world.
Secondly, I'm trying to expand my reading horizons from pretty much solely crime fiction to more general fiction. I've only been partially successful at that - I read quite a lot of historical fiction now, but I still haven't managed to read very much literary fiction, or, for want of a better term, women's fiction. (I don't mean chick lit - sorry, I know it's what lots of people read, but I have an allergy to pink books). The allure of blokey books such as spy thrillers and the whole Dan Brown type genre escapes me. Still I do feel that I should at least try and dabble in these areas so that when asked for a good read like the Da Vinci Code I can recommend something confidently.
Thirdly, I buy a lot of second-hand books, so it's not like I'm spending a whole lot of money, which is good, especially if you're trying authors (or genres) you've not read before. I don't feel bad if I only manage 50 pages of a book I've only paid 50p for. However if I've paid £7.99 then I feel I want my money's worth. I do buy new books - all that temptation passing in front of me all day every day means that I succumb and buy new books not infrequently but if I bought all my books new then I'd have to live in a gutter (which is not a good place for books).
Fourthly, I've been buying a lot recently because it's the summer (allegedly) and the carboot sale pickings are great just now. Once the winter arrives and there are no decent car boots I'll have a whole winter's worth of reading laid in ready. Convinced yet?
When books first arrive into the house they get stacked on top of the hifi speaker on the mantelpiece. I've very fickle in my reading. I always want to read what I've just acquired. These books stand the best chance of being read immediately because they are new (at least to me), they are in my line of sight from my preferred reading location on the sofa, and they are handy when I want to snatch up a book to take to work or stick in my bag in case I get a free moment during the day. If these books get tidied away to the bookself at the top of the stairs (where other unlucky titles languish unread, forming a second row in front of my lovely first editions), then they are likely to remain unread for a while as they are replaced in my mind's eye by newer shinier books. Currently in prime position are these books -
The Game by Laurie R King is the 7th in the Mary Russell series. I've read this series all out of order, starting with No. 8, backtracking to the first one and then reading them haphazardly as I've managed to pick them up second-hand because they've mostly been out-of-print. This is one of the new reprints from Alison and Busby who, in their infinite wisdom have republished the first, seventh & eighth books along with the ninth and newest. I'm hoping they are planning to do the rest because I think I'm still missing a couple of the earlier ones.
Wolf Hall - I tried to read this when I did my little Bookerthon last year (well, I tried to read three - and I liked two of them, so that's pretty good for me.) I'm going to try again with this. This is because reading last year's winner is much more appealling to me than any of the books on this year's longlist.
Howards End is on the Landing - that shouldn't be in this pile. I've finished it. It needs to be shifted to a whole different (smaller) pile of books either going to the upstairs shelves in case I want to read them again sometime, or to the box destined for my SILs where they will either be passed round and read or donated to charity.
Testament by Alys Hawkins, Dark Water by Caro Ramsay, The Snack Thief by Camilleri and the two Dexter books are just because they are my sort of books and I'll get to them when the time is right. I always have a crime or historical novel on the go somewhere either to read in bed or in my bag to read at work.
2066 by Roberto Bolano - trying to expand my reading horizons with this one - perhaps I should have picked up a smaller volume, but as I recall it was 50p each or 3 books for a pound and this was the makeweight book - I always like to take a chance on that third (free) book and pick something I wouldn't normally read. Am I going to read this anytime soon? Probably not but it's time will come...eventually.
The Time Traveller's Wife - is one of those books that people expect you to have read, and I haven't so I shall give it a whirl, just to see what all the fuss is about.
Join me later for Part Two in which we investigate the pile on the bookcase in the bedroom, books on top of the bookcase downstairs, an odd pile in the office (where they shouldn't be) and probably a few others.