I’m struck with envy each time someone asks me for a book recommendation. I also unfailingly forget anything I have ever read and usually come up with something like: “ummm ... I hear The Hunger Games is quite good?” The reason I’m green is because for some time now I have been in the throes of a deep anxiety about the number of books I haven’t read. At present I have four on the go because reading just one feels indulgent when there are so many screaming for my attention.
My problem is that I
am hampered by choice. What I need is an apocalypse (the end of the Mayan calendar should do it.) Then
I can hole myself up with plenty of canned food and just the books on my shelf. There will be no online orders, no kindle downloads or trips to the
local bookshop. Only those books I can pilfer from the long
abandoned houses next door will be mine (the neighbours would, of course, have been
vanquished; I, the sole survivor, free to devour their libraries and their
The thought of finishing a book, with no idea what’s next would be utterly liberating. I yearn for a single novel to move on to. But currently my inner monologue runs like this: “The Rum Diary is at the movies soon so I’d better read that, but I want to read the Miss Fisher books before the TV series finishes - that can be one of my Australian Women Writers Challenge components. I should read more works by women too, my quota is abysmal. But I need to make sure I read authors from the countries I’m visiting on my world trip this year…oh and I need to look at travel guides.” That’s all without mention of my goals to read every Man Booker winner and keep ploughing through the classics.
My reading memories are of visiting the school library, obsessed by a single author. When I was very little it was Patricia Coombes’ Dorrie the Little Witch stories. Enid Blyton, L.M Montgomery and Jostein Gaarder followed. But once I’d exhausted their respective canons, or if all their works happened to be out that day, the joy of perusing the shelves, choosing books randomly based on the sound of the title or the look of the cover was delicious.
I’m still enamoured by those finds, but paradoxically, my growing literary obsession has put paid to the careless joy of immersing oneself in a story with no thought of the outside. I blame the Internet. Without that wretched device I wouldn't read so many blogs with their glowing recommendations and I wouldn't be able to order a book at the touch of a button. This is not what the pleasure of reading is supposed to be about. As a youngster I would read and re-read with abandon. Now, there are many books I would like to re-visit, but the impassable line of those I have never read prevents me. Have I become the ultimate literary consumer, never satisfied with what I’ve got, always wanting more? Do you suffer from book anxiety too? And if so how do you control it?