I’ve lost the ability to choose a book…

I’m not quite sure when this happened. It’s taken me by surprise. I’ve actually lost the ability to choose a book. And I’m a proud geek, libraries are my natural environment and I get twitchy at the thought of ever purchasing a Kindle.

I was by myself (win No. 1) at Stansted Airport (win No.2) last week and wanted a book to read. Actually, I’d packed a book off my shelf, that I hadn’t read, but it wasn’t doing it for me so I went to a bookshop. And stood. And stared.

This used to be so very easy. I could happily grab armfuls of paperbacks like they were essential weekly groceries. I’d love clicking ‘add to basket’ on Amazon, I would chuck them in the trolley at the supermarket, I loved pouring over the piles of new releases on tables in Waterstones.

But I couldn’t do it anymore.

It’s not like I’ve ever had a ‘genre’ or author that’s ‘mine’. I like a variety of stuff, and as my smart mother says “You have to read crap to know when you’re reading something good” so I’m no literary snob either. I simply stared at the shelves, and instead of finding lots of titles that I wanted (and actually felt like a needed), I saw a shelf of front covers I couldn’t respond to.

Now, before I work this up into a life changing moment of existential panic, there is on reflection some sensible reasons for the demise of my emotional response to books. It’s sad, but it’s true that:

  1. I look at them and think “I don’t have time to read that”;
  2. I have lots of books I haven’t read at home and I should read them first;
  3. There’s other stuff (crochet, blogging, kids homework, decorating) that I need to do so what’s the point?;
  4. I read plenty every day -blogs, news articles, emails etc, and that has limited my ability to concentrate on anything over 1500 words.

This is a sad state of affairs and, standing in WH Smith’s, trying to ignore the fact I was going to spend the next 1hr and 40 mins in a tin can at 40,000 feet (sadistic win No.3), something had to happen.

I bought ‘When the Doves Disappeared’ by Sofi Oksanen because I was going to the East of Germany, I’m pretty interested in modern European history and no one teaches this bit in schools. Over the weekend, I picked up ‘Stasiland’ by Anna Funder and started reading it sat in the Stasi Museum in Leipzig (win No.4) and became gripped by the sense of place, and relevance, and now.

It’s coming back, this thing about books. It never really went away, I just let other crap take charge for a while. So I’m working on making this true:

  1. I will look at books and think “I will make time for that”;
  2. Even though I am lucky to have lots of books at home, sometimes the time, or context or need for something different will arise and then it’s ok to have a new one;
  3. Reading a book is some of the other stuff that I need to do, and sometimes it will be top of the list;
  4. Because I read lots of short, accessible articles everyday, I need to stretch my reading muscle and practice with longer writing that takes some time. It’s a habit!
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