Thursday, 6 March 2014


A small selection of some of the books scattered about my house - unread

Today is World Books Day. It is also the day when the result of a national study was published in the Independent newspaper stating that the average British household contains 138 books, of which more than half have never been read.

Earlier today I asked Twitter friends if they also had shelves full of unread books, to which I received a resounding YES, with answers such as the following - 

We've started to give the unreads shelves of their own.

I have more unread books than read. But that's the joy of building a library, isn't it.

Buying books is almost as much fun as reading them.

They're not unread, they are just waiting, forming an orderly and beautiful looking queue.

My queues are not very orderly, but I also admit to owning books which, as yet, remain unread on my shelves. More titles are piled beside my bed, or on the sofa and floor of my office. Some of them are bought for research purposes, to study when writing historical novels. Others are waiting for me to enjoy whenever I happen to have free time, at which point my filing system applies - in that if I would never read them again or recommend them to a friend then out they go, through my front door and down to the local Oxfam shop. 

In this ruthless ability to prune I am different to those in today's report who claim to hang on to their unread books because they are emotionally attached to them - or else because they like the 'look'. One friend did admit that when she moved house she went to her nearest charity shop and bought up as many books as she could to arrange on new but empty shelves; to create a homely literary feel with the bonus of those old cracked spines to give the appearance of having been read. 

Well, I suppose they had been. By someone, at some point in time. Other readers once held those books in their hands and turned the pages back and forth. And what a good feeling that is - to hold a physical paper book rather than basking in the glow of an electronic reading device. Not to say that I do not own one. I confess to having downloaded more books than I could ever hope to read - an invisible mirror of my walls where a 'bulging' virtual library lies silent and patiently waiting, yearning for darkness to turn to light. 

What explains this greedy collecting of books? 

There is the pricing issue of course - the fact that a novel can often cost even less than a cup of coffee does. There are Kindle books offered for free, or else so  very cheaply sold that - hey - why not have six of them! But that is another issue - and quite another can of worms - though I think it does facilitate what could be called an addiction of sorts. And I'm sure that I am not alone in anticipating the thrilling rush whenever I open a glossy new cover and wonder what worlds might soon unfold -  to step out of my own skin and enter those of the characters in fictional realms. 

Where is the harm in that, and, isn't the pleasure well expressed in this quote from a G R R Martin book - "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies... The man who never reads lives only one."

I choose life  - or is it lives! Now, where is that Irvine Welsh Trainspotting book? It's been gathering dust on my shelf for years...


  1. I read about that study and comments some people made about the results and it infuriated me. I'm pretty sure that I've got more read books than unread books on my shelves but I don't see the harm in having unread books on the shelves. They're certainly not there to show off and dazzle anyone who visits. I have them because I intend to read them - I freely admit that I may have overestimated the amount of reading time I'll ever get in my lifetime but still, a girl can dream...

  2. Hello Kath - I tried to reply to your comment last night, but it wouldn't show up via my iPad or phone. So, here I am trying again…

    Thank you so much for reading the post - and I do so agree that we all need more time to read all the fantastic literature out there.