Reaching six thousand

“SOME 130 million books have been published in history; a big reader will get through 6,000 in a lifetime. Choose carefully…” tweeted the author, Alain de Botton, on January 7 2017.

And so the chatter started — some were working out the maths while others asked “When did the counting start?”

For me to be anywhere near that number I would have to start counting with the first reader that I brought home from school.

It was the last two words that caught the attention of many of us — myself included.

“Choose carefully…”

It has haunted me since and found its way into a few conversations.

So how do we choose?

I’ve done some research and it seems to boil down to a few options.

“Recommendations from reliable sources” was the leader of the pack, followed closely by the controversial “attraction to the book cover”.

Next came “following authors that we know and love” in equal third place with “whatever is on the list for book club”.

My research was random and unqualified so please don’t quote me, it typically involved coffee or wine and friends — and Google was never invited to the party.

I will admit that I am a cover girl; beautiful covers are a trap for me, although the books themselves have been known to sit unread beside my bed, gathering dust — one day, I promise.

Have you seen The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley?

The hardcover edition has a duck egg blue dustjacket with Elizabeth Gould’s illustrations of a superb fairy wren.

If you take off the dust jacket you will see these little wrens returning to feed their young in an intricately drawn nest, a little hidden treasure.

The book was a Christmas gift, and, I’m afraid to say, it’s in “that” pile.

Or perhaps, the cover of The Witches of New York by Ami McKay, how could you not want to discover what is waiting inside those ornate gates protected by ravens?

I hear you scoff at my shallowness, yet I hold my head high.

The cover often comes up in conversation at the start of book group as we are pouring the first glass of wine.

I’m not the only one affected by it and it seems the e-bookers amongst us miss seeing the covers on the coffee table or beside their bed.

The cover of a kindle doesn’t quite open as many conversations as a pretty book sitting on the table.

But as I continue to muse over the idea of choosing carefully, I realise I don’t actually choose my own reading very often anymore.

At Christmas, I put one or two titles on my Santa list that is pegged to the fridge for all to see and in February — when book group reconvenes — we all offer up a couple of titles and put them to the vote.

Each of us gets a title on the list.

There is a pile beside my bed of “wanna-reads” and a long line across the back of my desk of “one days” and “shoulds” held up at each end by heavy, fake antique books.

In the lounge room there is a large shelf full of “done alreadys”, you are very welcome to borrow any of them, well almost any, and maybe there are a few I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t come back.

So, what of those books you just don’t like, or give up on after 15 or 50 pages? I’ve heard it said that once you start a book you owe it to the author to read to the end.

Really?

Life’s too short — how many pages do you give a book?

And when you are done do you keep it?

A friend of mine tells me that when she doesn’t like a book, she just “pops it in the slot!”

Of course I was a little confused and asked “What slot?”

She puts it in the after-hours return slot at her local library.

However, I can report that the Warrandyte Library does not accept donations so don’t take her up on this idea.

Occasionally, I’m brave enough to box up a few for the school bookstall and each month when I walk by the bookseller at the market I’m tempted to ask if she wants a few boxes.

Instead, I glance at the covers, fight an internal battle and often walk away with another “one day”.

With de Botton’s words echoing and bookshelves bulging, I’m a little more conscious of the titles I choose to delve into.

But the idea of six thousand?

I’m happy to discard such a notion, and return to book-reading to escape, to learn and to enjoy.

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