Booker update – the enemies of reading

So a good old few days have passed since I made this pledge and I am still only half way through book six.

I’ve been thinking about the enemies of reading. When I was first a bookseller I used to read at least a book a day. On my days off I’d rattle through two or even three. But I was unhappy and lonely then and books often felt like the only friends I had. These days I have lots of flesh and blood friends and a particularly boisterous bundle of distraction who turned two last weekend. I didn’t have much time to read as I was too busy blowing up ballons, hosting six little friends to a party (the pass the parcel was the funniest thing I have ever seen) and going to In The Night Garden Live.

Then the riots. They were nowhere near me but I kept staying up and watching the awfulness on telly. Then I’d go to bed but wake again and reach for my phone and check twitter and have to get up again. All very silly. I was all yawny and miserable at work. I’d been kept up not by the riots but by my need to consume the riots.

And twitter. Oh, twitter. Of course I love it but these days I find I am spending time I would have spent reading a book on reading twitter. The other day I was reading and sending tweets about tweeting instead of reading. When I went underground and lost signal I got out book five, The Testament of Jessie Lamb. A couple of engrossing chapters later I looked up to see I’d missed my stop. That’s always a good sign.

The Testament of Jesse Lamb is set in the bleak near future. Watching the riots felt like watching a dystopian novel. I still can’t almost believe that I didn’t dream it.

Yesterday afternoon I walked from Vauxhall Bridge Road through Westminter and up to Piccadilly. It was a sunny day and I felt my gloom lift a little. There was a sweet, smily man limbo dancing to a friendly crowd at Piccadilly Circus. I wandered around Waterstone’s and thought that if I wasn’t reading the longlist I would really fancy reading something pink. Maybe about boyfriends and cocktails. Maybe set in New York. Maybe something with lots of jokes.

Desperate times call for comfort reading. I walked down the road to Hatchards and hung around in the soul soothing basement for a bit looking at their cosy crime books.

Despite all the enemies of reading, some of which I am deeply grateful for, some of which I find unbearably distressing, and one of which I simply need to exercise some self control around, I am still glad I have made this pledge. And I’ve added the twist that I’m not going to drink alcohol until I’ve done it.

It has occurred to me that if I find any of the books impenetrable then I may never drink again – that would probably be no bad thing. It has also occurred to me that if I decide I really want a drink I could just start reading really, really fast. Only seven and a half to go. If I didn’t go to work, didn’t look at my phone and ignored my child I could knock that off in four crazy days.

Then I could curl up on the sofa and binge on Georgette Heyer and sherry…

7 responses to “Booker update – the enemies of reading”

  1. Too right Cathy! Far too many distractions. I’m not doing the ‘long list pledge’ but have sworn off watching TV and endlessly going on fora to see what’s happening and to get on and read the books that are sitting by my bed waiting for me… you’ll notice that I’m not foreswearing the alcohol tho… a girl’s got to have at least one vice!!

  2. A book a day?? two or three a day??

    Everyone I know think I read so much and so fast, but I’ve just spent 13 days reading The Famished Road. I manage to get about 1.5h reading time a day…And I don’t even have a TV…

    1. I just read really fast. There are book about speed reading and I think I probably do that without meaning to. I’m not sure how but I don’t really read word by word. I sort of look at the page and it sort of gets into my head. I remember plots and emotions but not character names.
      And since having a baby and the corrosiveness of pregnancy brain I don’t remember much of anything that happens, in books or life!
      If I like something I’ll read it again, often lots and lots of times.
      I can’t do it in another language. So, I’m rusty now anyway, but at one time I could read novels in French but I had to read them word by word and it took so much longer.

  3. Hi, loved this, so well observed, thanks for posting.

  4. “Enemies of reading” – good turn of phrase 🙂 Another lovely blog post.

    The riots were a monumental distraction this week. I live maybe 100-150 metres from the furniture shop that was burnt down in Croydon. Crazy times.

    And wow, five books in? Good stuff! I’ll struggle to have read 5 or 6 by the time the shortlist is announced, but I’m determined to read the whole longlist before the winner emerges.

    I liked The Testament of Jessie Lamb – it’s beautifully written – but it’s been my least favourite of the three I’ve read so far. I finished the Sisters Brothers yesterday, and I loved it. Next on my list is The Last Hundred Days.

  5. Everyone needs a light read now and then. Enjoy!

  6. It’s funny how things that are supposed to make our lives easier only clutter them up. Taking a few moments off to read remains one of life’s greatest treasures.

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