Time to raise the unread

Feels like one...

Feels like one…

I WILL read 756 books before I die.

That’s presuming that I’ll be reading right up to the fatal moment, at the same rate as I read now, that I don’t re-read anything and that I make 78 – the life expectancy of the Irish male.

It also presumes that I avoid the Russians, or Ulysses, or anything not in English. And that I don’t develop pernicious habits, like gardening or golf.

756 books. It sounds like a lot. But it’s not, of course. Every time I enter a bookstore I spot another dozen books I stick on the mental must-read list.

Add those to the many already on my ‘I’II have to get round to that one’ list, or titles recommended, or ones found browsing online, or classics.

Suddenly 756 doesn’t sound like too many. John Updike’s novels and short stories account for 39 books alone.

You’d therefore be inclined to think that I’ve refined book purchasing to a precise art, buying only what I really, really want to read.

Of course not. Our home is littered with purchases which seemed like a good idea at the time. Some of them are buried away, sources of shame, dead wood (in every respect).

Others have been placed on top of piles, as my better nature tries to remind my actual nature that they deserve a shot. Will they ever get it? Unlikely.

And this is before we get to the boxes in storage elsewhere, containing selections so dubious, or turgid, that they were never read. And never will be.

Dostoevsky’s The Idiot? Not a hope. Not even if I found myself transported to 1860s St Petersburg with nothing else to read.

Cogito Eco sum: I proscrastinate therefore I am.

Cogito Eco sum: I procrastinate therefore I am.

Eco’s The Island Of The Day Before? I made it to page 151 a few years ago. Pathetically, I can’t bring myself to remove the bookmark. On the plus side the cover looks good.

Steinbeck’s East Of Eden? I’ve even visited its setting – the Salinas Valley – in the years since I bought this one, but I’ve haven’t started into it.

Turns out I’m not alone when it comes to such procrastination.

Half of the books on the shelves in every homes are unread, according to a survey released to mark World Book Day last week.

These titles were no doubt bought with the best of intentions – like my own were.

It’s one thing lamenting the situation but what should I do about it?

As my wife – reading this –  is now about to ask: will I ever get rid of these unread books?

And here’s where the second part of the survey comes into play: two thirds of people hoard books because they’re emotionally attached to them, it seems.

Which explains my battered Penguin copy of The Odyssey, a title I’ve hopefully hauled from bookcase to bookcase since I bought it more than 20 years ago.

Like the others above its spine remains uncracked.

Not to worry. I have 756 chances to raise the unread, beginning today.

Page one of The Idiot sounds like a good place to start.

The Great Unread - a selection.

The Great Unread – a small selection.

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4 thoughts on “Time to raise the unread

  1. I may actually OWN more than 756 unread books. Just ‘having’ them makes me feel a little better, however. Which ones do I own now that will remain unread then? Don Quixote perhaps. Own it, love the idea of it, but life’s too short right now. Should my coffin be made of unread books that accompany me into the nether? It’s a nice idea, but while we’re talking ether and nether,, will I myself remain an unread book to some extent – or be consigned ultimately to a bargain basement pile.

  2. Eamon says:

    A great post. I definitely identify. I also hoard computer cables, old phones, coins and CDs I’ll never listen to again. Perniciously I dabble in gardening, am thankfully immune to golf but may have looming issues with video games when Liam is a few years older just to check y’know that they are suitable for him and so on. I did read the Idiot though many many moons ago (or was it The Brothers Karazmatzof?). Probably should read War and Peace someday. I never met him bit it was my maternal grandfather and namesake’s favourite book

    • Thanks Eamon. There’s hardly a bag or box in our house that doesn’t have some sort of cable in it; as for CDs, I dread to think how many are gathering dust in various places. Part of me would love to try War And Peace, but will it happen? Unlikely. I might try The Brothers though, one day.

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