In September of last year, I stopped reading novels.
I was about to start writing my own and I feared accidental plagiarism by osmosis. There were a few slips here and there but generally, I managed to stick to non-fiction or not read at all.
But I made a crucial error. I stopped reading novels but I kept buying them. Now that the novel is finished – tweaking continues, but it’s basically finished – it’s safe to read novels again. Over the weekend, I went looking for the ones I’d put in the Buy Now, Read Later pile. And boy – there was an actual pile:
I was shocked. How had I let such a backlog build up? (And, even worse, continued to add to it – The Book Thief just arrived from Amazon.) Why did I buy these books when I knew I had others at home I hadn’t yet read, and wouldn’t get around to reading them for ages?
I have some excuses. I’d been meaning to get The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls) for ages when I spotted it in a bargain bin. I bought Netherland (Joseph O’Neill) because – as I mentioned earlier today on Twitter – I had the opportunity to get him to sign it, and he’s from Cork. (And pretty.) I’m a sucker for cute little books and Dear American Airlines (Jonathan Miles) is just adorable. (I also loved the idea: the narrator is stuck at an airport and the novel takes the form of a complaint letter to the airline.) Another I-just-love-this-cover buy: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Totlz, although it was the hardback version I loved and I ended up with the paperback. Waterstones Patrick St and their special offers also have a lot to answer for, specifically The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel. I can also blame them for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz as I read about it in their magazine – the same magazine I go through with a pen, circling everything I want to read but never actually get around to. The author’s previous work is why I bought The Secret Speech (Tom Rob Smith) and The Abstinence Teacher (Tom Perrotta), and Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years that everybody who knows me keeps insisting I’ll love. Even Twitter is getting in on the act – it’s where I heard about E by Matt Beaumont and Me Cheeta by James Lever, two books I started on the sofa on Christmas Day and then left for later.
So kind blog-reading folk, HELP ME! I don’t have the time to read all these and I can only hold back on the book-buying for so long, so I need to shorten this list. Have you read any of them? Were any of them crap? Could I skip any of them while still going on to lead a rich and fulfilling book-reading life? Are any of them so good that I have to pick it up right now this second and delve in?
Let me know. Then we can tackle this backlog together and I can go to Waterstones again. Everybody wins!