Sometimes you hear – or in this case, read – something and just want to holler NO NO NO NO NO!
You want to take someone politely but firmly by the elbow,
or maybe their STUPID BLOODY THROAT,
take them gently to one side, sit them down, and talk gently to them about how they may have got things wrong or rather
HAVE MISSED THE ENTIRE BLOODY POINT.
In this case, two things I have read over the past 48 hours which made me want to either give someone some kind words of advice
OR SLAP THEM AROUND THE BLOODY EARS.
And it is about reading.
The first was yet another one of those awful ‘One Thousand And One Books You Must Read Before They Haul You Off To the Undertakers And Start Making With the Formaldehyde’ lists.
I hate these, mostly because they are so damn bossy, and they have at their root the notion that there is a class of books which are ‘essential’ to make you better as a person.
To which I politely beg to differ. Oh, and
BOLLOCKS TO THAT.
There needs, I think, to be lists of Books It Is OK To Hurl At The Wall Even If Your Cultured Friends Think This Makes You A Less Worthy Person.
I think I can claim to be a reasonably well-read sort of bloke, but a core part of my world view – in all spheres of life, and certainly those relating to personal taste – is Each To Their Own.
I don’t, for example, think the fact I’ve never really “got” Jane Austen, despite having a reasonably determined crack at Pride and Prejudice back in my Uni days, makes me any less bloody cultured than those who do.
But if it rings your bell, go for your life.
The second thing which caused a bit of a spurt in the blood pressure department was something I saw on GoodReads yesterday which invited people to list the number of books they would like to read this year, as some sort of challenge.
And, again, NO NO NO.
Both these online missives make a similar mistake – even if this second one compounds that mistake with others.
Reading should never be a box-ticking exercise – in any way, shape or form.
Firstly, it is ok to not like books other many people think are great.
In fact, I think it is essential to not like books many other people think are great. It shows an independent mind, something any intelligent reader should possess and use with vigour, enthusiasm, and the occasional cry of THIS IS A LOAD OF ARSE.
And the books you do like, the ones that you will want to re-read later and will, each time you do, discover and delight in something you missed last time, will reflect – and possibly influence – a mix of your own personality, your own circumstances, your own experiences of life and your own outlook on that life.
This will be a matter of quality, not quantity.
And above all, relax.
Book reading – and yesterday, as noted earlier, was World Book Day – is not a syllabus nor an obstacle course.
It is one of life’s joys.
Don’t let anyone take that away.