Sunday Salon: Book pressure

sundaysalonMy bookish experience of the last few weeks has a distinct resemblance to a saying I remember from my childhood:   You wait hours for the number 11 bus and then three come along at the same time…

Late in July, shortly after the Man Booker prize long list was announced I trotted off to my local library clutching my list of the contenders for the 2013 title.  Silly me. I had forgotten that when I did the same thing last year I came away empty handed. I was too early it seemed and the books were not even on order within the library system. This time wasn’t much more successful. Yes there were some copies of one or two of the books in the county system but ….. they were all on reserve for the reading groups. So individual punters like myself wouldn’t get a look in until these groups were done with them.  Protestations about the  inequity of this approach proved to no avail.

Luckily these groups didn’t seem to linger long over their chosen novels.  Yet come August when these treasured works began to be released for us  plebs, there was not surprisingly a long waiting list. So I waited … and waited for one to come my way. Then suddenly last week my name made it to the top of the list. Not just of one but of three books.  You’d have thought there would much jubilation in the Booker Talk household at this news. Well yes and no – because although the books are now in the house, because there is still a waiting list, I have to read them within the stipulated three weeks and no, it was made clear, I could not renew them.

Which poses something of a difficulty. Because though I can read relatively quickly, there is no way I can read three books in three weeks. Particularly when one of them is the 832-page The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.  I did manage to read the shortest one – Alison Macleod’s Unexploded . But now I am up against the clock to finish Tash Aw’s Five Star Billionaire which has 500 pages within 7 days. I hate rushing through books – I want to linger and savour them not gobble them up. But if I send this back heaven knows when it will come my way again.

I should vow that next year I will be more disciplined. But somehow when the moment comes I have  a feeling that good intensions will have all evaporated.

How about you – do you ever get over enthusiastic when buying or acquiring books and then find yourself with a mountain to climb??

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on September 15, 2013, in Sunday Salon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. I binged on all the Booker longlisted titles last year but I had it easy compared to this year’s tomes. I did accept a few fines in the end where I couldn’t finish a book for the Friday it was due but dropped it back in on the Monday etc. I read a bit faster than you I think but I’d still struggle with big, immersive books on a deadline like that.

    • Luminaries went back to the library today unopened sadly. though not due back till 20th I know there are two people waiting so it seemed unfair to make them wait when I knew I couldn’t get to read it

  2. It is the law of library hold queues. You can put books on months and weeks apart and it is inevitable that your turn for them will come up all at the same time and you will not get any renewals and have only three weeks to get through them all!

  3. I have never attempted to read the Booker nominees in advance of the prize announcement, but I “get” the pressure you described. In fact, about 10 days ago I picked up Adichie’s Americanah from the library, while I was in the midst of reading Trollope’s The Small House at Allington. These are both long books, and I’ve been trying to make progress on each of them, knowing I will not be able to renew the Adichie. Theoretically I have plenty of time to finish it, but I still feel the pressure!

    I’m looking forward to reading your reactions to the Booker nominees.

    • it’s taken a while for that Adichie to get into your hands isn’t it? I remember you were looking forward to it even before it was published. I know I am not going to read all the nominees – now that really would be pressure – but I thought if I read just one or two then I could compare them at least with the winner…

  4. Yes, I am in the middle of it right now in fact. In my case I had chosen one book to review, and I am reading another one for a virtual book club I’m in (we will all be blogging about the same book on the same day). I acquired both books (adding up to almost 1200 pages) at the same time and they both have deadlines close to one another. I basically just did a calculation of how many pages I would need to read each day in order to meet both deadlines, and treat it as “homework.” I agree with you – the pressure takes the joy out of reading, and at the moment I am actually feeling a bit resentful of having to read one of the books!

    I was also VERY tempted to add Five Star Billionaire in the midst of all this, but somehow managed to control myself!

    Good luck with your books!

    • Five Star Billionaire is proving very enjoyable so far. I love the depiction of modern day Shanghai. I too have resorted to that ‘homework’ approach when I was trying desperately to finish a book for the book club meeting. Wasn’t much fun though

  5. Good luck, I look forward to your reviews of those books as I always keep an eye on the Booker shortlisted books, but this year I am not trying to read them all before the winner is announced.

    • fortunately I never set out to read them all before the prize was announced which would be way too much pressure. the books I happen to have on loan never even made it to the shortlist

  6. I feel your pain! I do that all the time, and don’t know why they don’t give more time to read a book, especially the chunkier ones. We all have lots going on in our lives, they should also let you renew them at least once. Just my thoughts…

  7. That’s pressure!. Not press. Interesting slip!

  8. Maybe I need a little bit more press. I do well with deadlines! And I have no deadlines anymore.

  9. I rarely if ever feel pressure to read the latest books. I had a brief worry a couple of years ago that that didn’t sit well with book blogging but I decided not to concern myself about such things! I do feel pressure to make more of a dent in the TBR. But every time I read a handful of books I reward myself with a spot of book shopping…Ahem!

  10. I have made good progress on the TBRs I own…I don’t even think about the virtual ones. If there is no physical counterpart sitting on my shelf, it doesn’t exist yet.

    I do request books from the library periodically and try not to take out more than two or three at once.


  11. And those number 11s always took longer to come and were in larger packs when they did arrive if the weather was frosty. I spent nine years waiting for the number 11! And I’ve had the same experience with the Booker list, although fortunately two of the novels that have arrived for me are ‘Harvest’ and ‘The Testament of Mary’ which have the advantage of being brief.

  12. Yes. Just yes. The physical TBR is … getting there. And the virtual TBR … shudder.

  13. I take out too many books at the library and then end up taking quite a few back unread. I usually get out older books, though, so I don’t have to wait on a hold list like you. 🙂 Or 🙁 I do read some newer ones, but it really has to be something that I go “Ooooh, ahhh.”

  14. I experience this same scenario all the time… unfortunately. Quite often I must return the book unread and add it to the growing list of books to read another time when life is less hectic.

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