Sea of Reads

Peripatetic, itinerant, eclectic musings about books, politics, history, language, culture, and anything else that interests me.

Giving Up Books, Cold Turkey

I know, who would want to, and why? Well, Bibi van der Zee, a contributor at, did it for a week — and she had her reasons:

I decided to try giving up books for a week because I have come to the point where I wonder if they are holding me back. On the whole, the world seems to think that books are always a good thing, that you can never get too much of them. People admit to being bookworms in the same way they admit to being “just too tidy really”, or “a bit of a workaholic”. But if you are a compulsive reader like me, who reads walking down the road, and while she’s making her children’s dinner, and on the loo and in the bath and in bed and on the bus, and at every other possible second of the day, and if what you’re reading is mostly . . . well . . . pulp, then sometimes you end up feeling as if books are eating you up instead of the other way round. Sure, there’s a smattering of literature and high art-type stuff in there, but mostly it is whatever I have fished off the shelf at my nearest Oxfam that morning – detective stories, romances, horror, sci fi . . . any kind of fiction that I can gulp down in large enough, quick enough bites.

How’d the experiment go?

By Thursday, my early glow has worn off after a long day coping with winter, an ill parent, one particularly grumpy son, and the general detritus of life. I am incredibly tetchy and snappy; more than usual? Impossible to know (everyone’s too scared to tell me), but Friday is the same and even a little worse and I can’t find any way to relax, to switch off and get away from the things that you list in your head at 11.30pm at night. After school on Friday evening, when the boys have had tea and watched a bit of TV, they racket off downstairs for a game of hide and seek, and I slump down on to the sofa for a half hour that would usually involve a novel, a cuppa, and maybe a biscuit. Instead, after staring at the wall for a bit, I fetch my laptop and do some more work. Life feels deeply, wintrily joyless. It feels wall-to-wall grey.Books, I realise, have been one of my longest, truest friends. When I’m anxious, sad, angry, in need of comfort, a book is often the first place I will go: I even have books that I regularly re-read when I’m feeling particularly awful (can I just recommend the Bitch in the House if you’ve been a particularly bad mother that day?). And now I have just cast them aside, as if all my flaws are their fault, and not the other way round.

There’s a lot more; read it here.


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This entry was posted on March 4, 2010 by in Reading Life.
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