By Alan Meban
There’s a small chance that you heard me on the radio over the new year telling Dearbhail McDonald that I’m not really into resolutions and would continue not to make any this year. I unknowingly misspoke as I very definitely am making a change in 2020.
Like many programmes broadcast over the holiday period, the show was pre-recorded during the week before Christmas. Having spent two hours in the studio pretending that it was already 2020, I called in immediately afterwards at a party and started wishing people a Happy New Year instead of a Merry Christmas as my mind struggled to regain its grip of the actual date. I can now appreciate why the time-travelling Doctor Who walks around in a perpetual state of discombobulation.
As an only child, I was very content to sit and read, consuming vast numbers of books, often carrying around a couple at a time, even on the shortest of journeys, in case I’d finish one in the back of the car and not have another to start. Then the home computer rage interrupted P7 and provided on-screen distraction, playing games that slowly loaded from unreliable cassette tapes, and typing in programme listings published in magazines and books. Even then, my reading habit continued, taking a slight swerve into the non-fiction stacks in the local library to devour the few books they stocked about computers.
“I’m once again hooked on that childish joy of becoming immersed in the melding of my imagination with that of an author, being taken on the thrill ride with unexpected characters in interesting places, as a good story is well told.”
A week of work experience as a teenager volunteering in the old Lisburn Library one summer was heavenly. Each day began an hour before the doors opened to the public, either alphabetising the fiction shelves that wrapped around the outer walls or else squinting at the Dewey Decimal numbers stuck to the spines of the non-fiction titles to sort them back into order in the central aisles. Each evening I’d use my library tickets – these were the days before the introduction of library cards with barcodes – to take home a couple of books, flying through the pages before returning them first thing the next morning and placing them back on the shelves.
As the years went on, I began to read less, though I’ve continued to love books and accumulate them in the belief that one day I’ll get around to reading them. Tsundoku is a Japanese portmanteau that describes the acquisition of books that pile up in your house unread. A building inspector would condemn as unsafe the skyscraper of books on my bedside table. (One website helpfully suggests that e-tsundoku may be applicable to unread books languishing on Kindle devices! I’m slightly guilty on that front too.)
So it’s time to tackle my mountains of dead trees. I’d a run of success over the summer, quickly finishing a series of books by local authors (Jan Carson’s The Fire Starters and Dave Duggan’s Oak and Stone are recommended for adult readers.) And with a bit of downtime over Christmas, and a heavy cold that got me out of food preparation duties, I really enjoyed blasting through three or four titles in a week.
You’d probably agree that January is the most depressing month of the year. Certainly between the bitter weather, the long nights, the credit card bills after December, and the stress of getting young and old back to sensible bedtimes and ready for school and work, it’s not the most conducive time of year to break a habit or build a new one. But given the head start I made at the end of 2019, I’m willing to take a chance.
I’m once again hooked on that childish joy of becoming immersed in the melding of my imagination with that of an author, being taken on the thrill ride with unexpected characters in interesting places, as a good story is well told.
My unexpected resolution for 2020 is to read more. I’m not setting a target figure as books come in different shapes and sizes, but I’ll be disappointed if I don’t average at least one a week. It could still be a while before I need to dig out my dusty card and borrow some books from the well-stocked local library, but in the meantime, I’m back in love with reading. So with that, I’m off to make a cup of tea and settle down with a book. Happy New Year.