Friday, 7 March 2014
Our own bookshelves have a lot more than 138 books - more like a thousand, I would say. But the unread portion is probably about right - something like half. So why are they unread, I hear you asking?
1) We know they're excellent books and we fully intend to read them when the time is ripe. When we're both retired maybe.
2) We read a few pages of the book, couldn't really get into it, but kept it in case we were more attuned at some later date.
3) We didn't know we even had the book. We must have bought it some time. Or maybe somebody gave it to us. We must read it.
One journalist* suggested "It would be a slightly scary household where every single book had been read." Indeed it would. It would suggest powers of concentration, determination and enthusiasm bordering on the miraculous.
It would be almost as scary if none of the books had been read, and the whole collection was merely an attempt to impress any well-read visitors. It would be awkward though if the visitor suddenly asked you what you thought of Jonathan Franzen's views on family dynamics.
The same journalist guessed that the volumes in the lavatory were most likely to be read, though probably not if you were busy vomiting at the time.
But there's something very cosy and reassuring about bookshelves, whether the books are read or unread. The mere fact that many of the books were written decades or even centuries ago gives a sense of continuity and permanence that soothes all those hovering anxieties.
That is, until one of your oldest paperbacks simply disintegrates as you're lovingly dusting it, and turns into a useless heap of confetti.
* Ben Milne of the BBC