My usual mode of book consumption is audiobooks, whilst driving, doing boring domestic things or walking. Generally whilst ignoring other people…
Occasionally I want a real one to turn the pages on (even pretend e-reader pages would do). The other day I started browsing for inspiration. A long time ago, I hazily remember, this used to be easy. Ping – that’s the one for me. Another novel I want to read and, breathless, I’d dive in. Not this time. I dithered and doodled and couldn’t fix on anything. Then, I yawned. Too late. I’ll have another look tomorrow.
Books come into my ears while I drive, do domestic stuff or ignore other people. I don’t really pick them – it’s either the next book group choice (The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K Le Guin currently) or the Audible daily deal I downloaded longest ago and still fancy a bit (or even, I tell myself, I must have had a reason for shelling out a whole 99p on it so I’d better listen). It’s a formula that avoids thinking. Unfortunately, I’ve also realised it also has squished the joy out of books a little bit.
When I look at the books I’ve listened to lately I find the forgettable (Exposure – Helen Dunmore, A Treachery of Spies – Manda Scott), the abandoned (Schindler’s List – Thomas Kineally, The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton) and the downright meh (Something in the Water – Catherine Steadman, The Stranger Diaries – Ellie Griffiths).
The abandoneds bother me. I am categorically not an abandoner, I’m a ‘stick with it to the bitter end’ kind of person. Committed, gritted – I said I would, so I will. What’s happening here?
Book group choices (New Boy – Tracy Chevalier, The Wall – John Lanchester, When All Is Said – Anne Griffin) were meatier, but still not in the ‘I picked it for me’ category. And, importantly, didn’t have that moment at the beginning. You know the one… when you become aware of the book – glimpse a cover, read an article, have a bookish conversation – and you just know. I want this one. And I want it now. Then all you did was get the book and open it. No messing about.
Maybe it’s been so long since I felt that papery glimmer that I’ve forgotten what it feels like. I’ve spent so long on the also-rans, the other people’s choices, the I bought it cheap so I’d better use its, that I’ve lost my way.
What do I really, really want to read – with my eyes – that will transport me for a while and bring me back raving with enthusiasm and glassy-eyed with emotion?
Dunno. But I’d be open to any suggestions. Where did you last find pure joy between the page of a book?