A ‘should-load’ of books

Being at the Lifeline Book Fair the other day really brought home to me just how many books there are out there that I really want to read, and how many are in my lucky dip jar simply because I feel like I ‘should’ read them. There are far too many books to accommodate all of these shoulds.

Realising this made me take proper stock of the books that have an entry in the jar, and I realised there were lots there that I didn’t actually want to read. Some had been given to me (and I hate letting people down), while the majority formed part of the ‘should’ crowd. So I did a massive clear out. I got rid of all of the books sitting there making me feel guilty, and all the ones that, deep down, I knew would go the way of The Female Eunuch if they got picked – I’d start it, realise it’s awful, then bury it in my desk-drawer-book-graveyard.

But then something surprising happened – one of the ‘shoulds’ slipped through the cracks, and I loved it. It was Voss, by Patrick White, and when it came out of the jar I was immediately disappointed and angry at myself for leaving it in there. Until I started reading it, and realised why it was in there in the first place: it’s fantastic. The first couple of chapters feel almost like a Jane Austen novel, (which Jane herself didn’t write nearly enough of, so it really scratched an itch that I thought was never going to be scratched again) and even when it starts to go a bit crazy (along with most of the characters), it’s still a cracking read.

The only problem with this is that I can’t stop thinking about all the books that got scrapped from the jar, and how many of them are similarly awesome. But then I remember The Female Eunuch, and I feel better again.


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