Seeing this shelf of books reminds me of a game I played when I was small, when I would whinge to my Mum about having nothing to read. Of course, it was no more true then as it is today. I was a bookworm and devoured books from the library as well as those bought for me by my parents, who enjoyed nothing more than seeing me with my head in a book. But I would go on whingeing until Mummy stopped what she was doing and went to the bookshelf to go through every book in turn with the same question:
“How about “The Chalet School Triplets”?”
“I’ve read it”
“How about “Upper Fourth at Malory Towers”?
“I’ve grown out of Enid Blyton”
“I don’t think you’ve read “Ballet Shoes” yet have you…?” and so on. Of course, I had an answer for them all and simply enjoyed the attention, the fact that we both knew it was a game and having reached the end of the bookshelf, I’d settle for one of the first ones she’d mentioned. Bless her…she always played along, always had the patience to go through every book in turn, with full knowledge that we’d have to reach the end of the shelf before I was satisfied.
So, looking at my shelf today, thinking that I’d spend this a Sunday afternoon with a book, I find myself going through the same process myself. The thing is, I begin with the certain knowledge that I’ve not read any of these, even if I have made a half-hearted start on a couple. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was my last book group choice, but I couldn’t make the meeting and though I took it to Suffolk with me, I didn’t get past the first twenty pages or so. I have been dipping in and out of The Girl on the Wall for it’s an easy read in short bursts. But the book itself is incredibly heavy, making it a difficult one to carry out in my bag or to read in bed. The Very Thought of You is my next book group choice and so there’s pressure to read that one soon, but the Margaret Forster Isa and May is so very tempting. As is the new Bill Bryson, which I dipped into in a few places before bringing it home with me, half price from Waterstones and even cheaper than that when I discovered I had more than £5 on my point card.
Then, my friend Olga was reading Alone in Berlin and, having read another Fallada classic “Kleiner Mann was nun?” auf Deutsch when I did that kind of thing, I added it to my pile. That was before I read the review that ended “Alone in Berlin is an exhausting book, gruesome and harrowing, but as morally powerful as anything I’ve ever read.” Hmm. Perhaps not a Sunday afternoon read?
And so it goes. Brooklyn came via my good friend Mary, having been highly recommended by Jordi who somehow finds time to read erudite novels and knit the most amazing socks. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society found its way to my shelf by a similar transatlantic route and the Per Pettersens arrived as part of my Scandinavian jag last Summer.
But, true to type, having gone through the whole shelf, I remember that I’m actually quite enjoying the Kiran Desai right now and had forgotten all about it, having left it on the kitchen table where it became covered with the usual clutter of everyday life.
Now, the next decision is what to take on holiday with me later this week? Will it be two or three short, reliable, easy reads or a single weighty tome to get my teeth into? I’m thinking AS Byatt, maybe?