I hope I’m not committing a grave religious faux pas with the title of this post, but if so, I blame my other half for introducing this to my vocabulary (he currently does not qualify for the moniker “better half”, as there have been several incidents of Welsh Cake and Chocolate solo-eating while yours truly was at work).
A little while ago, while said other half and the hound were waiting for me outside a bookshop in Bath (and the hound was flirting with the Big Issue seller), I came across the following book by Oliver Burkeman, who writes for the Guardian newspaper: “Help! How to become slightly happer and get a bit more done.” Since the blurb on the back promised a section on “Why All Meetings Should be Abolished”, I bought it for Simon, who duly devoured and then reviewed it on his blog. He then hid it in his office, where I’ve just had to have a thorough rummage to retrieve it.
Since reading this book, he has been encouraging me to not finish books if I don’t like them. Probably just because I’m easier to live with if I don’t steal his magazines to avoid my own reading material, but I won’t question his motives too much. His turn of phrase in this context is: “Well, just stop reading it. The Dalai Lama says it’s OK.” And he claims that he got it from Oliver Burkeman’s book. Ever the trusting spouse, I have just checked the source document, and indeed there is a section on “Giving Up Never Felt So Good”, where the author encourages us to shelve or give away books that have been neglected for more than two weeks, breaking our childhood conditioning to finish things that we have started. And, because he finds it easier if permission is given, he gives us blanket permission and ends the section with “Also, I spoke to the Dalai Lama, and he said it was OK, too.”
This goes against the grain of my protestant work ethic, but I had to admit that there are a few books which I’m unlikely to finish, ever, so I started a Dalai Lama shelf in the most inaccessible storage cupboard in the house. I’m sure all its inhabitants are wonderful books, but I just couldn’t get into them. These include:
- Starter for Ten by David Nicholls
- World without End by Ken Follett (I loved Pillars of the Earth when I was a teenager, but never made friends with this one)
- The Book of Dave by Will Self (I can see how this is a really clever idea, but I couldn’t make out most of the future dialogue and it was too much like hard work)
- Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell (suddenly all his books started to look the same)
- Science’s Most Wanted by Susan Conner and Linda Kitchen (a book of lists – what was I thinking?)
- When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers
- Travels with Boogie by Mark Wallington (the second book got boring)
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (I could not muster enough stamina in the face of so much misery)
There are of course also worthy books, which were never meant to be read in full and are not included here (I count all of my organic chemistry textbooks amongst these), but I still feel like I’ve given up on the books listed above, all of which I chose myself for leisure reading.
Encouraged by Simon/Oliver Burkeman/the Dalai Lama, and by Tim Park’s recent blog, I’m afraid I will have to add another one to this list: Pure by Andrew Miller. It was taken off me when I complained about finding it difficult to connect with the characters, even though the author is from the West Country, it has won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year award and, like the others above, I chose it myself. I got to page 93, it looks like a fine novel, but I’m just not getting it, sorry! So it will go to the back of the cupboard in illustrious company. I imagine them having parties. I also think that slugs drowning in beer traps have a superior demise, so please do not disturb…