Inspiring Older Readers
A New Book Year Ahead
I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year resolutions – I leave that stuff to people who think they’ll stick to them. But I do like looking ahead to a book buying year and I like to reassess what I think my priorities should be for the coming year when it comes to reading and collecting. I offer you these few thoughts:
1. Buy less and read more. I’d have to live longer than Methuselah to read everything I’ve got, even if I only read each book once. Well, that’s not going to happen so I’ve got to do the best I can – which means reading more and buying less. Not that I’m going to stop buying altogether but I have to be sure that the next purchase is really something I want.
2. Buy fewer first novels. I’m a bit of an easy mark for clever publishers and I’m getting tired of it. First novels these days come surrounded by so much hype and in such cleverly designed packages that I find myself shelling out for stuff that’s distinctly less than average. I should know better too: after all, the best authors have to learn their trade and will most likely write a lot better when they’re older and know a bit more.
3. Only collect the best. Fashion in authors comes and goes – one day Scandinavian noir is red hot and the next day no-one wants to know. Collecting hyper-modern books is largely a fools game if you are going to hang on to them because, before you know where you are, you’ve just got some whopping big dust collectors. Only the very best survives and you and I know who the very best are, don’t we?
4. Try and try again. There are some writers with very big and very long-standing reputations that I’ve simply never been able to get on with. One really prominent example of this for me is Dickens. I know he’s good; in fact, I know he’s very good – in parts. I often start a Dickens novel and I’m full of surprised delight; hey, this is great! But no, a hundred pages later I’m flagging and I can’t finish. It’s got to be my fault I think; I just don’t have the focus or the stickability. I’ve got to try harder with Mr Dickens and a host of others – step forward Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, William Thackeray, E.M.Forster, Marcel Proust, Leo Tolstoy...................(but not Jane Austen, no.......never....I don’t care what you say............no!)
5. I must stop worrying about whether I’ve read enough. One of the problems with having so many books and regularly buying more is that your ‘to be read’ heap grows bigger and bigger – rather like the Blob in the 1950s ‘B’ movie the pile is in danger of expanding to engulf the house. This makes me anxious – I must read faster so that I can whittle that Blob down to size -and this is the path to reading frenzy or (it’s opposite) reading paralysis. The consequence of this is that it becomes impossible to just relax and enjoy the book in front of you or to slow down and experience all the flavours the book offers.
Will I stick to all these in the coming year? I doubt it. Come back this time next year and if I haven’t been buried under a tumbling tower of unread books, I’ll let you know how it went.