Books are for reading


In which I announce a book distribution: one for many of my friends this Christmas, plus a new policy on passing on read books more actively

I am embarking in a slightly new direction at the moment with reading. Throwing bibliolatry to the wind, I renounce collecting books. I had the idea suddenly yesterday to give a decent book to each of my friends. That is rather a lot of books to buy, so I have bought some and will give away others that I own. When it comes down to it, it will be many, many years before most of the books I own will be re-read, so why sit on them? Given the choice of re-reading Copperfield or another book which I have not read, surely I would almost always go for the new book?

Nonetheless, I do have more friends than really good books available. Indeed, I have found it hard to think of very good books to give because I have such high standards. The book has to be in some sense enduring; not unpleasant for Christmas (ruling out most modern fiction; even the books I have enjoyed recently like Graham Greene do not quite seem suitable as Christmas presents); the books have to be accessible, so that they land near the top of pile of Christmas books to be actually read; lastly, they need to be in some sense touching or deep. In order to assess the books of course, I need to have read them or know about them rather well, and again hours in Heffer’s embarrass me, as in each alcove I spot several top authors by whom I have not read a single book. For shame. If I keep on munching through notables covering on average one new author a fortnight, as this term, I will be mostly educated by the end of the year.

With these hard criteria in place, I have ended up with a tottering pile of eighteen books on my desk as I speak as a first-pass down my list of close friends. Distribution is about to start, but I have a slight problem: I have made sure that everyone has a book on my desk which is suitable, but some books could go to one of several people. I will put the list here so you can dibbs your Christmas present if you see something you really like the look of.

By being late, I will have to post quite a few, but I am happy with being impulsive sometimes. I hope people actually enjoy what they get.

PS. It ought to be safe to announce this here without invoking jealosy in my friends, on the grounds that if you read the blog you are almost certainly a very close friend so should be getting a book. I don’t quite have enough for everyone though. If one does not turn up eventually and this bothers you at all, please remind me.