In which I think a lot about books and not so much about deceased Prime Ministers

So no blog post last week. Apologies once again – the need to earn money was continuing to get in the way of things I actually want to do. It’s probably for the best though. I’d have felt obliged to say something about the death of Baroness Thatcher/Maggie/The Iron Lady/Thatcher Thatcher Milk Snatcher (delete as you wish), and that would have been a struggle, because what is there to say? She used to be Prime Minster. Some people thought she was a marvellous Prime Minister. I wasn’t, personally, one of those people. But she stopped being Prime Minister 23 years ago, so while clearly her death is news, I suspect I’m not the only person in the country who’s struggling to see why it had four days of basically being the only news. So if I had blogged last week it would probably have said, “So Margaret Thatcher died. Hmmm. Well then.” And that would not have been an exciting blog for any of us.

So, what else is news? Well the shortlist for the Women’s prize for fiction has been announced. This is what used to be the Orange Prize, before the good people at Orange decided that people who can read are not part of their target market (I’m extrapolating here – I assume that’s what they decided). And it’s a fairly stonkingly impressive shortlist. Proper name authors like Zadie Smith, Barbara Kingsolver and Kate Atkinson are in the mix to get beaten by the literary prize goliath that is Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies.  Obviously, these sorts of prizes are hugely subjective. One judging panel won’t necessarily agree with another, but the fact that Mantel won the Man Booker and the Costa Prize would suggest an unusual level of consensus at the moment.

I can’t really comment further than that, because, rather depressingly, I haven’t read any of the shortlist. I haven’t read Bring Up The Bodies because it’s part 2 of a trilogy and part 1 (Wolf Hall) is still sitting on my To Read pile, along with non-fiction books about drugs (pharmaceutical and street), quantum mechanics, and evolution, two autobiographies, and a whole shelf (more than a whole shelf – in places they’re stacked vertically) of assorted fiction. And that’s before we start on the virtual books waiting in my kindle. There are simply too many interesting books out there in the world.

I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I read quite widely. Fiction and non-fiction. Different genres. But increasingly I find that there are just too many books. I’ve already instigated my 100 pages rule – I’ll read the first 100 pages of anything I start. If I’m not gripped by then, I give up on it. But I’m still not keeping up with all the things I would like to read. And so I have a plan.

Firstly, can we all stop writing new stuff for maybe 12 months, just to give everyone a bit of time to catch up? Secondly, and this part makes me sad, I think I may have to accept that some of the books on the To Read pile are never going to get read. I never throw away books. Once they’re in, they are, traditionally, housed indefinitely in my (slightly overfull) bookshelves. I think that might have to change. Some books, the ones that actually will probably never get read and the ones that I’m never going to want to reread, might have to make the fateful journey to the Daisy Chain Benevolent Fund bookshop in the sky. (NOTE: not actually in the sky, just in the row of shops opposite the church and before the turning for Sainsburys).

This is a sad decision.  I love books. I love their sense of possibility. I love the potential for losing yourself and all your everyday stresses and being immersed in a different world. I love the opportunity for random learning. I don’t like sending them away, which is silly – I don’t feel the same about CDs or DVDs which involve just as much creativity and human endeavour, but books, to me, feel special.

So what about you dear reader? Are you a bibliophile hoarder like myself or a dispassionate “read once and pass on” type? Do you limit the size of your To Read pile or let it grow to the point where you may need to build it an extension? In other words, are any of you as daft about books as me, or am I a lone crazy person after all?

Author: Alison May

Writer. Creative writing teacher. Freelance trainer in the voluntary sector. Anything to avoid getting a real job... Aiming to have one of the most eclectic blogs around, because being interested in just one thing suggests a serious breakdown in curiousity.

8 thoughts on “In which I think a lot about books and not so much about deceased Prime Ministers”

  1. It depends on the book whether I want up keep it or share it. My TBR pile is extensive though and I can’t read fast enough. I have TBR’s in paper book format and ebook format. Luckily ebooks don’t take up the room but they are dreadfully easy to browse and buy while sitting on the sofa with a cuppa.


  2. Agreeing with R. Bradley here – some books are worth keeping, because there’s a good chance you might want to read them again (even if you know you’ll never have time!). Others are a good read, but not likely to be re-read. Trouble with sending them to the charity shop is next time you visit said shop, you see things by a favourite author, and don’t realise ’til you get halfway through chapter 2, it was you who sent it to the shop in the first place!


  3. I’m a book hoarder, even with the ones I know I’m never going to finish! I have to climb over a pile to get into bed, it’s that bad! Even my Kindle is looking accusingly at me…


  4. You see I’m thinking it’s not the massiveness of the book pile that’s the problem; it’s the smallness of the house. *Eyes wall through to next door; wonders how much sledgehammers costs*


  5. It is better to have a pile of books TBR than not. How difficult that would be. Also: sometimes reading can be inspirational to a creative person, at others a dangerous distraction. Not reading for a bit can be beneficial. I like your 100 pages rule – but it shouldn’t stop you chucking a book across the room after 50, when a writer has just given you a perfectly interesting character in a perfectly real situation and then around page 32, whirr, whirr, clunk, clunk, here comes The Plot!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: