Bookworld and So Many Books both report that they’ve read 50+ books this year. This is dismaying. I’ve just totted up my list and find that I’ve read a grand total of 37. My To-Be-Read stack is currently squatting on my life like Philip Larkin’s Toad. And growing. Today, for example, I popped into Waterstone’s and came out with two more books (*see below). A book token was burning a hole in my purse and there are some terrific half-price offers in the Big W at the minute.
Times columnist Damien Whitworth shares my anguish in a piece about the annual Christmas book splurge, though I do manage more reading time than he does, mainly because my offspring have flown the nest and I’ve given up watching TV, except for about 2 hours a week.
But the downside of this book bounty is that it amplifies the truth about my reading habits. In reality the long hours of contented reading never occur. I consume only a fraction of the books that I buy or that are bought for me…In total my Christmas haul adds up to 1,975 pages. On a good night I might read ten pages. Often the book doesn’t even get opened, or if it does I have to re-read chunks to remind myself of the stuff I read the night before as my eyelids were fluttering shut. Embarrassing though it is to admit, I probably manage 30 pages a week of pure pleasure reading. At that rate I’ll have finished my new books sometime in April — 2007. Last year’s Christmas books are still stacked on the bookcase by the bed….Am I a rare hopeless case? I very much doubt it. Taking into account all the other entertainment options that eat time, perhaps those who are not raising kids or carying an insane workload and regard themselves as vaguely literate manage a book or two a month. Perhaps I move in especially uncultured circles but a straw poll of friends finds few who are quite this voracious. I expect most of us spend as much time reading about books as we do between their covers.
The full article is here.
*The books are Untold Stories by Alan Bennett and 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro, if you really would like to know.
I’ve also just received from Amazon Marketplace Lost Worlds: What Have We Lost and Where Did It Go? by Michael Bywater, which looks like a book to dip into rather than read cover-to-cover. I bought it because I heard an extract read on BBC Radio 4 one day last week when I took time off work to do some Christmas cooking. It was most deliciously read by Stephen Fry. A complete delight.
I’d love to know what books you’ve received for Christmas or bought recently.