How Much Are You Reading?
Are the British the only people who read walking along the street?
I’m surrounded by people who do so, and indeed I’m one of them. The perils (lampposts, light bruising, other people thoughtlessly getting in the way, rude cyclists, buses, those low metal boxes randomly placed along the pavement by electrical companies) are outweighed by the pleasures.
I’ve lately stepped up my reading to try and clear the backlog, but I’m fighting a losing battle. There are books everywhere in my minimalist flat and I’m struggling to hide them. I realise that by hiding them I’m reverting to childhood, when I hid horror comics from my mum.
According to a YouGov survey, the number of books read for pleasure by adults in the UK is around 10 each year, and the median is around 4. I suspect people fib when asked how many books they read, because they feel guilty. We’re all busy, and books are not everyone’s thing. My best friend never read a single book in his life.
I however will read anything. My motto is; ‘Better a flawed brave attempt than something perfectly acceptable’. I prefer authors who reach for the stars and fall short, rather than ones who provide fan service and deliver what’s exactly promised on the jacket.
So I’m currently reading a phenomenal amount, mixing one new novel with one old novel on a day-to-day basis, and I’m starting to make generalisations. One, don’t read Amazon reviews. Joanne Harris recommended SF writer Becky Chambers to me, but readers on Amazon are calling her an entry level YA writer. I’m trusting Joanne on this.
Conversely, I was so convinced that I would love Stuart Turton’s ‘The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’ that I bought both a Kindle edition and a hardback keeper. And I hated it. A time-shuffling, multiple body-hopping whodunnit that relives the same day over and makes it impossible to keep track of who’s doing what to whom played like an SF videogame. Amazon readers adore it, but I have to remember that they also adored the execrable gibberish of ‘House of Leaves’. Maybe it’s a millennial thing?
I’m starting to be put off every time I see Sophie Hannah recommend something on a jacket, because it’s clear her tastes don’t match mine. This is part of a trend, Joanne pointed out, that requires every book written by a woman to be placed under ‘Women’s Writing’, which she finds insulting because it places women in a narrow ethnic group instead of being half the human race.
Good news; there are reprints of the best work from overlooked authors appearing everywhere, thanks to the internet proving that there’s a demand. And London’s gigantic annual paperback fair is this week, so a cry of ‘Incoming!’ will go up over my flat.
I’m currently reading; ‘Timekeepers: How the World became Obsessed by Time’, by Simon Garfield. Thomas Hinde’s 1964 classic of paranoia, ‘The Day The Call Came’, jaw dropping true account of Vietnam deserters ‘Operation Chaos’ by Matthew Sweet, and ‘Frankenstein In Baghdad’ by Ahmed Saadawi. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy more mainstream hits. I liked Mick Herron’s ‘London Rules’ and even read ‘Big Little Lies’ to compare to the excellent TV series (conclusion; book perkier, TV cooler).
I’d like to know what you’re reading; let me know. All books (with the possible exception of fan fiction) are equal.