52 Books

I read all the time. When I wake up each morning, the first thing I do is roll over, unplug my phone and start scrolling. Emails, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed, BBC News – I can waste the first hour of my day, making myself late for work or wasting crucial weekend time by digesting articles, comments and messages on a screen. I’m obsessed with reading the list of ingredients on the back of potentially vegan packets of biscuits. I read the subtitles of every film I watch on DVD because I’ve lost the remote and can’t turn them off. Very rarely, though, do I actually read a book.

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‘But this is stupid!’ I hear my shrill internal-Matilda cry. ‘You have a literature degree! For four years you read two or three novels a week plus tonnes of critical responses and scholarly works and didn’t bat an eyelid! OK, most of the time you read the beginning then SparkNotes-ed the rest of the book an hour before your seminar, but still! You obviously enjoy reading, so why are you going to such lengths to avoid doing it now?’

Well, fictional Roald Dahl heroine who lives inside my head and only pipes up when I’m feeling guilty about my reading habits – here’s the thing. I love to read too, just like you. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to commit to reading.

And it’s not that there aren’t any books that interest me. In fact, my bookshelf is straining under the weight of unread Toni Morrisons, never-opened Margaret Attwoods, still-have-that-new-book-smell Colm Tóibíns. Picked up in charity shops, plucked from the bestsellers table at Waterstones, leant out by well-meaning and better-read friends, they mock me from their hastily stacked piles and turn their spines out in disgust when I watch the film version instead.

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I want to read them – honestly, I do. It’s just that I’ve got to go to sleep early tonight. I drive to work, so I can’t read on my commute. If I read in bed I’ll fall asleep. My housemates want to watch Making a Murderer. It’s really hard to read at the gym. I’ve got to write something for my blog instead…?

I could blame technology. In fact I already have, starting this post with a whinge about my iPhone addiction. Surely a Kindle would be an easy way to bridge this gap, then? I have one. A fancy-pants Kindle Fire HD. I use it mainly for watching Netflix in bed when my laptop overheats.

Perhaps it’s my busy schedule, and reading seems like too much of a selfish luxury. After all, TV is way more inclusive – if I want to relax when I get home, doesn’t it make sense to relax with my housemates in the living room, so we can all binge-watch Reign and discuss Mary Queen of Scots’ sassy one-liners and absolutely bonkers plot lines? This would be an excellent and extremely valid point if my pals didn’t work evening shifts, leaving me all on my lonesome anyway.

So now it’s 2016, and five months since I graduated from that literature degree. I’m up-to-date with the latest TV shows, I’ve seen three of the latest releases at the cinema in the last week, and I even know a couple of the songs in the charts (’cause I’m so young and hip). No more excuses. It’s time I get acquainted with all the books I’ve been missing for the last few years.

52 books in 2016 – one a week – is nothing. Really, it’s not hard – in fact, it’s a little pathetic. But that’s my target. One contemporary book (contemporary = published in the last ten years) a week for a whole year. And now I’ve written this post it’s immortalised on the internet forever, so I won’t be able to face the shame of giving up after two weeks.

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Wish me luck, Matilda – and don’t look so smug. If SparkNotes had been around in the 90s, you and Miss Honey would’ve been all over that shit.

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