I’ve been struggling to read new things over the past year. Sad, eh? As someone who loves to read, who uses reading as mindfulness, who has historically hoovered up books like a me wielding a vacuum five minutes before someone is due to visit my home, I’ve really struggled to read. Non fiction is fine. Online internet crap is fine. But new stuff, real books? I’ve read three since August. Very unusual for me.
The first was Jenny Colgan’s latest The Summer Seaside Kitchen, which was totally sweet, utterly escapist, and the reason I go back to Jenny’s writing time and again is that she manages to make me believe that one day it might actually be possible for me to live a manic-pixie-dreamgirl style life, turning up in a new town, opening my chocolate/book/clothes shop/bakery/cafe/tearoom and all the locals will accept me and I’ll meet the love of my life. And that I could have a pet puffin.
The other two were similar modern American novels, which both slightly reminded me of Zadie Smith’s writing. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg was a good read, but in my opinion it was pipped to the post by the completely brilliant Modern Lovers by Emma Straub. Right now I am crushing on her Instagram feed of her groovy Brooklyn bookshop and novelist life, plus her cute kids. It was Modern Lovers which gave me my personal commandment, “Be mistress of myself” which is actually a quotation from Sense and Sensibility, ‘I will be calm, I will be mistress of myself’ but I liked what she did with it very much in the novel, so it was a bit of a double edged joke to me from me.
Anyway, since then I’ve struggled rather. Re-read some old favourites, and then I had a brainwave: Aha! Thought I, a lightbulb appearing above my head with a chime, I shall read only Young Adult fiction, and biographies and memoirs, as clearly these are things I should read more of and I shall find them inspiring. So off I toddled to the library and chose a selection of books from the Teen section, mainly inspired by Zoella’s book club, plus one newish autobiography. Sadly the first Zoella recommendation I decided to attempt was so badly written that it had to go into the ‘unfinished books” hall of fame. And I am someone who has read the Fifty Shades trilogy more than once, not just because I liked the naughty bits. The problem is, I have a sneaking suspicion I could do better myself. And of course the real problem is, I haven’t… (yet)
It’s taken me a long time to realise that if I don’t like a book, I don’t have to keep reading it. A good metaphor for lots of things in life. After all, time is how you spend your love.