Sunday, October 18, 2009

How Well do you Know Your own Books?

The Guardian Books Blog has a post on the premise of Susan Hill's book: Howards End is on the Landing (read the first chapter here)— While digging around her bookshelves for an elusive book, she soon finds herself waylaid from her original purpose. She finds a book that she hasn't read, and that pulls her on to the next and then another one and the next and many more others. She realizes that she has numerous unread, long-unopened titles in her library and resolves to not buy books for another year. The year she would use to get to know her own books again.

The Guardian blogger than runs a "mental finger" down her own shelves and picks out books that she hasn't got around to reading yet. And invites us to check our bookcases, tables for unread books and read one of them over the weekend.

Well, circumstances prevented me from doing the second part of what she recommended — having come across the blog post only today morning. But I did rummage through all the books on my table (and decided to leave the shelves for later when I am feeling less lazy) and as expected came across quite a few as-yet-unconsumed books. There's Orhan Pamuk's Other Colours — an unexpected present from a friend. I do occasionally dipstick into that one, reading an essay or two. It is a slightly bulky book. The kind that is not easy to carry and read in Mumbai's crowded local trains. Most of my reading happens in the trains on my daily commute to and from office.

Just next to it, still wrapped in the plastic bag it was packaged in, I found Marjane Satrapi's awesome graphic novel, Persepolis. I assume it is awesome going by the reports and reviews. I haven't yet read it. Along with it was also The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. I had picked up both the graphic novels at a discount a couple of months back. Still hadn't got around to unwrapping them. On the top of another stack are a couple of books -- Stephen King's On Writing and Brenda Ueland's If you Want to Write — which a friend bequeathed to me before moving on to another city. Since, the person also happened to be my manager, who regularly plodded through and reviewed what I wrote in the line of duty, I am wondering what he is trying to tell me by giving me these books. I should get to them . . . hopefully sooner than later.

Buried under a pile of books, and long forgotten, were Vivek Tandon's A Blind Man's Map of Mumbai and Joseph O'Neill's Netherland. Under another pile was Devdutt Pattanaik's The Pregnant King — a retelling of little-known tale from the Mahabharata of a king who drinks a potion meant for his barren queens and becomes pregnant himself. I like the Mahabharata and regularly pick up literature associated with it, especially the subversive kind. I had bought a copy of The Pregnant King and I suppose I meant to read it soon. It needed some archaeological excavation to unearth it again. Also unearthed were Kankana Basu's Cappuccino Dusk and (what is happening to me!!) Milan Kundera's The Curtain and Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies. Yes, as of yet unread.

There are also two (towering) stacks of books at one end of my table — books I have read, but which I need to read over and over again. For my studies (long in a state of stasis).

And I haven't investigated my bookshelves yet.

With most books, what happens, I suppose is, I pick them up, because I find them interesting and mean to read them. But there are always other books to be read too — the ones that I have borrowed friends and need to be returned soon. The ones I borrowed from my library and which if I don't return timely, I would be paying a heavy monetary penalty. By the time I am through these books, the ones that I have bought have been buried under new ones that I have bought or borrowed. I suppose, like most others, if I don't read something I have bought in the first few days, it soon makes its way to a corner in my mind, it goes under the radar, so to speak. Each time I come across them I tell myself, I will get to them eventually, after all I own them. There's no hurry. Meanwhile let me finish the ones which my friends have lent me.

I will read these, yes. Now that I am aware again that I have all these unread books, I will get around to reading them. Eventually. Just let me finish the first two books from Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments Trilogy, City of Bones and City of Ashes. Post that, I promise, (if I don't get my hands on the third book in the trilogy or any other fantasy and sci-fi) I will get around to my stack of unconsumed books.

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