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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The agony of Not Reading A Book

Some people need a Personal Trainer. I think I need a Reading Manager.

Having just finished Mayflower: A Voyage to War and Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, then read a couple of chapters of Why England Lose and some of At Home: A Short History of Private Life while waiting for the kettle to boil, I'm passing through that brief interregnum when I'm not officially Reading A Book.

Looking at the teetering stack of books I've either bought, been sent, been loaned or plucked from the pile of review copies in the office recently I can't decide whether this is a delight or torture. Maybe it's a combination of the two. And by the way, what about those people who read the new Jonathan Franzen novel or Tony Blair's memoirs the minute they come out? Haven't they got a prior commitment to something else? You can't just break off one book and start another, can you?

As far as this pile is concerned it's not a question of working out what's any good. I don't doubt they're all very good. It's more a question of what do I feel like? Or should that be what *will*I feel like? If I've just come off some non-fiction, would I be best continuing in the same vein or is it time for a change? I've never been able to read fiction in the same way since Danny Baker pointed out "it's all made up".

And how do you get started without making a big deal of it? How can you just slip into reading something without being haunted by those same inner voices that used to haunt first dates (a long time ago), the ones that clearly say "this isn't going to work out." I always have to handle the changeover from one book to another carefully for fear I lose the knack for reading. I can remember periods of my life when I hardly read books at all and I worry about them returning.

A Reading Manager might be a good idea. A cross between a friend and a teacher. Somebody who is always a few steps ahead and is in a position to provide reassurance when things aren't going well and a clip round the ear when I'm starting to drift. I may advertise. Watch the press.