Essential bookkeeping


picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Recently, a friend asked me to get a book for her while I was out shopping. The rules were simple: I need a beach book. Well, deceptively simple. Because really, what makes a good beach book? Something brainless that you can easily sink your teeth into? A story so engrossing that you can’t put it down? A book by your favorite author? Or simply something you just don’t mind getting all wet and gross?

In the absence of a clearcut definition, I rummaged through shelves looking for that vague something, meanwhile feeling an extraordinary amount of pressure on my shoulders. And that’s when I happened on Nick Hornby’s book: Stuff I’ve Been Reading.  To be honest, I’d glanced at this book online when it came and thought, “Why would anyone care?”. I mean it’s not a review of books as such, it bears no story, it’s just a journaling of thoughts surrounding books read by Hornby. And that struck me as the publisher trying to make an extra buck on the name of an established author.

But then, at the bookstore, I leafed through the book. And I loved it.

You see what Hornby does at the beginning of each chapter / entry is begin with a balance sheet of sorts: Books bought Vs Books read. And this stirred my curiosity because the books he buys are just so varied. And it turns out that he buys far more than he reads, and that actually made me feel quite…normal! It also made me look at my own book statistics with a different eye: the lists one can make are endless.

For instance:

Pages read so far in 2014 vs 2013: 7,928  vs 8,792

Fiction vs non-fiction books read so far in 2014: 12 fiction vs 13 non-fiction

Books bought this year:  17

Books read this year: 25

Of which E-books vs Audiobooks vs Physical books: 10 vs 4 vs 11

This kind of incessant list-making of statistics could pretty much go on for a whole day so I’m going to stop myself here. The bottom line is to get reading done, but beyond that bottom line is that competitive ego that wants to see how she’s sizing up against someone like Nick Hornby, or quite frankly even you (how are you sizing up?).

Maybe I’m not the voracious reader I used to be, but I’m definitely not doing that badly, in terms of reading progress. I got a nod of confirmation from the universe just the other day, as I was out for a drink with some friends. The table next to us had a group of 22-year-old girls drinking sangria and philosophizing about the meaning of life, the beginnings of career-making and the unsuspecting changes that occur when growing older. And then one girls says, in a voice of authority reserved for generalized statements: You know once you hit thirty, you stop reading. I can start to see it even now, I mean, I used to read 5 to 6 books a year and now it’s all dwindling to an insignificant number. 

Well, you know, nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone I know has read at least 5 or 6 books so far this year, but maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd. Or maybe we’re all in denial that we’re past thirty.

Yeah, that must be it.