The germ of this first blog post of 2022 is a resolution that I probably ought to make this year, should have made in previous years and in all likelihood will never in fact make. And if I was mad enough to make it, I would almost certainly have broken it before the end of the first week in January. So what is this dread resolution then?
It is: Not to start another book before finishing the one I’m reading and therefore not to end up with several books on the go most of the time. I would just read one book at a time, finishing it before starting the next one in the pile (or the next one that I came across). I could go as far as to say that I wouldn’t even borrow or buy another book until ready to read. (Of course, there are still many unread books here on The Landing, but that’s another resolution altogether, for another year entirely).
It does sound a very simple proposition, but I’m afraid one that would be doomed to failure were I to attempt it. Moreover, in all honesty, would I really want to make and stick to such a draconian resolution? I do have moments of frustration when I feel that things are getting a bit silly and that I have too many books underway, but most of the time it works for me. I do generally enjoy reading in this way, moving between different genres. Though sometimes I get ‘stuck’ as it were with one book, so that it slips further and further down the reading pile as my attention moves elsewhere. It may then languish on the side-lines for a while as another book makes the running. Occaisonally I give up on a book, but mostly I come back with renewed interest.
Many of the books that leap ahead in my reading programme are library books, spotted while I shelve my section. I have recently begun to feel that I should cut down on library borrowing and return to the reading matter in hand. But feeling hasn’t yet been transformed into action. It is just so tempting to borrow yet another book, that I know that I will then start reading at lunchtime or tea break and thus add into the bookish merry-go-round.
The multiple reads situation has been compounded by my recent move into audio books. In particular, the mp3 Playaway versions that I have taken to listening to on the bus. I find that I cannot read on buses so audio books have proved very successful as an alternative. My commuting books tend to be mostly crime fiction as I find that this genre tends to liven up the tedium of travel. However, it can be irritating to have to try to zone out the travel announcements during the crucial plot points.
Here is a rough list of my current partly-read stash:
How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. This is one that I’m reading in the evening, alternating with Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert (1950) as a lunch and tea break read. The Victorian history is a fascinating trip through Victorian domestic life from a historian who has tried out many of the household chores herself, wearing an authentic corset to boot. The author has also tried making up some of the homemade toiletries and remedies, with some success apparently. I’d be a bit dubious about some of the medicinal preparations though!
Smallbone Deceased is a murder mystery set in Lincoln’s Inn Court, with a dead body discovered in a deed box. I have read quite a few novels from the British Library Crime Classics series, snapping them up whenever I spot one. I’m afraid that these crime novels are a big driver of my multi-read habit! Before I had finished Smallbone, I had requested (and begun reading) a copy of Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon (1939). As the title suggests, this locked room mystery (always a favourite type) begins with the discovery of seven murder victims in a country house.
I have been listening to The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz on my morning and evening commute this week. It’s the first in the Hawthorne and Horowitz crime series and is also the first of any of Horowitz’s books in my reading history. This is very entertaining, so I think I will follow the series a little further. The next one is now on reserve, again in an audio version. Rory Kinnear is the series narrator, doing a fine job of bringing the characters to life.
The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden by Katherine Swift. This has been on the part-read pile since before Christmas, a victim of a new glut of library books. The book tells of the development of Swift’s garden at the Dower House of Morville Hall (a National Trust property) in Shropshire, begun in 1988. I hadn’t read very far before I decided that I would like to visit it one day.
The Comforters by Muriel Spark (1957) was her first novel. This 2009 edition has an introduction by Ali Smith. Are you entitled to say that you’ve started a book if you’ve only read the introduction? Just asking.
I think that’s enough to be going on with for the time being. Of course, I haven’t mentioned the stack of library books yet to be begun, nor my Christmas gifts, nor yet, the books that I bought last autumn from The Last Bookshop in Camden Street, Dublin which still lie unread on my bedside table…
Does anyone else enjoy having several books on the go at once?