Reading under the covers

Every now and again, I get asked if I’d like to join a bookclub.  Every time, I’m surprised by how viscerally I object to the idea.  It’s nice to discuss books with people and I often read books that I’ve seen reviewed, so what’s the problem?

I’ve been thinking about this.  I’m really resistant to anything that imposes a structure on my reading. I don’t record what I’ve read, which occasionally leads to me reading a book twice and wondering why it seems so familiar (generally I can only remember covers and not titles.  Yes, I’m the person who comes into the library looking for ‘that red book, you know the one’).  Sometimes I write about books, blog about them or mention them on facebook.  But I really hate the idea of feeling compelled to do that.

I do sometimes go through phases of subject matter.  Recently it’s been World War 2 Germany/Poland with The Book Thief -> Maus -> Alone in Berlin -> Bloodlands (Bloodlands definitely stopped me in my tracks for a while.  Very important but a tough read.)  But I don’t want to have any conscious framework for my reading.  I still want to wander around and just pick up stuff that looks interesting.

I’ve been doing rather a lot of that recently. My library habit may be taking over. Here’s our library-book shelf:


Not quite all mine, but for someone who normally takes out 3-4 books at a time, having 11 books from 2 libraries is really pushing things a bit (edited: I just found 2 more!  it’s actually 13.)

Although I read a lot of non-fiction, it’s extremely rare that I’m actually reading only for education.  Just about every time I open a book, it’s because I expect to get some enjoyment from it.  (Bloodlands isn’t exactly fun, but the experience of finding out about something I knew nothing about is extremely enjoyable).  I don’t want reading to have any sense of duty about it.

So I think it’s just about books being a private treat.  I don’t want to account to anyone when I pick up a piece of cake, so why should it be any different with a book?  I don’t want to read anything different because I think somebody thinks I ‘should’ read it.  Or because it ‘makes sense’ with other stuff I’m reading.

I guess you can still try to persuade me if you want to try…  Goodreads does look like it could be seductive.  But I think at heart I’m still a kid with a torch under the covers.  Isn’t it amazing that there are all these brilliant books in the world? What a lot of fun is lined up on that shelf.  And I don’t have to be accountable to anyone!

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2 Responses to Reading under the covers

  1. I tried a book group once and I swear they read a different version of the same book I was reading. It kind of ruined the whole group thing having simple themes and interesting characters twisted and contorted to seem more intelligent than they were. I stick to reading because the cover blurb catches my eye. :) xx

  2. Yes, it’s always strange when you’re talking about a book and seem to have got completely different things out of it! I do like chatting about books with friends, but I struggle with ‘assigned reading’.

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