That’s it, really. My New Year’s Goal.
I have always loved reading; loved books. I have a vast, ever-expanding library of storybooks, fact-filled tomes and lots and lots of pattern books. There is poetry, prose, instruction and philosophy in my shelves, yet last year, for the first year ever I didn’t read very many of them. I read what I needed to read for research; for instruction… I listened to a good few audio books while I knitted too. But the fact that I wasn’t inspired: didn’t read a single book that made me want to drop everything and read, read, read, missing mealtimes and bedtime alike, just saddens me. On reflection, I just wasn’t able to get the balance right between making, working and reading. I missed it terribly but didn’t seem to have the time to rectify things. I’m sorry, lovely books.
So, this year will be different. I’m starting the year on a different work schedule, doing new and exciting things. Reading books will very much be a part of my life again and this gladdens me.
I have started the year by re-reading Anne Fadiman’s book Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, which I feel should be obligatory for any adult reader. I have a real liking for books about books: they’re so meta. This is a short collection of essays of which my favourite is on the subject of how people treat their books. On the one hand there are the book owners who are fastidious about preserving their books as the day they were bought, thinking that the object is all, who would never write notes in the margin or turn down the corner of the page. The other kind of book owners are those for whom ‘words are everything,’ and the book, simply a vessel to contain them. They do not hesitate to leave a book face down to keep the page, to underline a particularly good quotation or to read in the bath, playing the dangerous game where at any point, AS Byatt’s words could end up in the tub along with you. Anne Fadiman says it far more eloquently than I do, though, so do grab a copy from the library – you won’t regret it.
As a child I was fascinated by the life of books. (Who am I kidding? I still am.) I liked to think about the people in the inscriptions in the front – who they were and what they enjoyed most about a particular book. Whether they liked it at all! But more than that. I used to wonder whether the characters in the book had their own lives when the covers were shut. Whether, if you hadn’t read the whole book, the story might change overnight from the point you were reading onwards because the characters were bored of always doing the same thing each reading. And how would you even know unless your friend had read it too!! (If you too wondered about this sort of thing, then I highly recommend reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy.)
I was also obsessed at one point that my books were moving around on the bookshelves overnight. I put it down to ghosts at the time (I was eight and it did seem quite plausible that my bedroom had a spetral librarian), but perhaps I had it all wrong. It could have been the books themselves that had a life to live.