I have a stack of books on two shelves in my hallway which I liked enough to buy, but not enough to actually start reading. How did we come to this?
They haven’t lost or put on weight. They should look just as good as they did on the day I bought them. But something happened to them in the time that they languished, horizontally, rather than standing upright and proud, on those shelves. Somehow, they got boring. Now they look upon me accusingly from the shelf, their rigid spines indignant in their crispness.
Our relationship is in crisis. One of us has abused the other, and no amount of therapy will get either of us to admit it.
But here is my broadcast confession: I fell out of love. I went off them. I know it’s fickle. But I can’t change how I feel.
A Literary Burial Ground for Virgin Concuspines
They call out to me.
Piteous Unread Book: “Psst. Tara. Over here.”
Me: “Er, yes. Hi, there.”
Piteous Unread Book: “Listen, sweetie. I know what you’re doing. I know this is your SHELF OF SHAME. But you wanted me once. You wanted me so bad, you paid for me. And I’m so lonely for you, baby. Why won’t you read me?”
Me: “I will, in time! I swear. It’s just that – well, I’m just not feeling it right now. Sorry.”
Piteous Unread Book: “I beg your pardon?”
Me: “Well, it’s just. Um. When I bought you, you see, you were so new and shiny, and full of promise. I thought you’d be pure escapism, a good way to spend a rainy day on the couch, etcetera, etcetera. But now I don’t feel the same. Now, you kind of feel like sloppy seconds, to be honest.”
Piteous Unread Book: “Excuse me?”
Me: “Well, you know, it’s like you’re kind of tainted? I must have liked other books a lot more than you, because I read them before you. And you just kept lying there, becoming a bit more crap by the day, if you must know. You’ve turned into something I should read, rather than something I want to read.”
Piteous Unread Book: “But that’s not my fault! I never changed!”
Me: “I guess I’m the one who changed. And we didn’t grow together, you see. I’m afraid this just isn’t working out. I’m so sorry. I swear it’s not your fault. It’s not you. It’s me. But now you’re going to have to stay there. You must remain on the SHELF OF SHAME.”
Books Are For Reading, Not Just For Décor
I love my bookshelves. Or to be more accurate, I loved my bookshelves. They were crammed (in an orderly manner, obviously. I’m not a monster) full of digested books, happily on perpetual display, a badge of honour for a book which I enjoyed so much I could conceive of possibly reading again in the future (despite the extreme unlikelihood of ever doing so). Satiating and satiated books, who never spoke to me except to throw a wink and a mental pat in my direction, proud to have once taken a constitutional in my brain.
But it appears I am a fickle reader. When in the mood, I might buy any book which takes my fancy. But then other things get in the way – like finishing another book first; my own writing; videos of baby goats in pyjamas; or simply brighter, seemingly wittier stuff which somehow makes all the other new books on the shelf seem tedious or chore-like in comparison. And then I just don’t fancy the jackets off them anymore.
The moral of the story is that bulk-buying books is a very bad idea. And yet I continue to do so.
Let’s Blame Technology, Shall We?
All this shame on my shoulders, and I haven’t even mentioned e-Readers, which were a real game-changer for many people. How many thousands of books are stacked on Kindles today, never ever to see the light of day?
Because let’s face it – it’s a sad, sad story (grab a hankie). Once upon a time, I read every book I owned. It’s only since I got used to downloading them onto my phone that I got used to the idea of having books sit there indefinitely, unseen, unread, and unloved.
It’s quite possible that e-books are solely to blame for my fickleness today. After all, I couldn’t possibly blame myself. I have far too much literary fiction already.