Reading has always been a passion. Reading anything there was to read.
Reading included almost any piece of printed material that came into our house when I was you. Every page of the Daily Mail was read, including the business reports and the cards for horse race meetings.
Every column of the weekly Western Gazette was read. The newspaper could be quite eccentric in its content, filling any space with syndicated material. Once, in 1976, I found the death of an IRA hunger striker at the foot of a column of notes on the activities of a local Scout group.
Along with the newspapers, I would scan through the pages She, the monthly magazine my mother read. It seemed cutting edge stuff for a teenage boy in the Somerset of the 1970s.
Reading included the four books borrowed fortnightly from the local libraries, each joined when we had exhausted the potential of the previous one.
No opportunity to read was wasted, if there were no books and no papers, then breakfast time might be spent reading the cereal packets. Niacin, thiamin and riboflavin remain as the memorable commendable contents of Rice Krispies. To this day, I have no idea of what they are and whether eating Rice Krispies for supper could lead to a surfeit of such elements in one’s body.
A lifetime of reading has led to the conclusion that no matter how many books I read, the number I want to read seems to grow even greater.
Perhaps it is a case of choosing the wrong books. I found a biography of Siegfried Sassoon for £3.50 in a charity shop and was sixty pages into the five hundred and thirty pages it has (plus footnotes and an index) before I realised that it only covered the years of his life from his birth in 1886 until the end of the First World War in 1918. Sassoon lived for nearly another half century, dying a week short of his eighty-first birthday. To finish the story will mean reading at least another volume. Is it spending too much time on a single subject?
I am tempted to make a list of books I should read. Being sixty this year and living, perhaps, to eighty, I could set a target of one book a fortnight, which would mean twenty-six books a year and five hundred and twenty books over twenty years. The problem is that the list might be very quickly filled with detective novels. Someone somewhere must have devised a system to ensure the reading of books that should be read.