In recent years I’ve decided that messing around on my laptop or on the Internet are the greatest sources of time wastage and indiscipline in my life. Today an old love gave me a gentle reminder that it, too, was a major contender, when I spent 5 hours in just two bookshops, forgot about lunch, and bought 9 books.
I originally had big plans for today. I meant to hit the shops at Covent Garden and revel in complete frivolity. Instead I found myself a slave of that old bookshopping thrill, helplessly drawn to laden shelf after laden shelf as the second last shopping day before Christmas inexorably slipped away.
Six books from Judd Two Books, a second-hand bookshop in Russell Square. The classic Criminal Law textbook by Smith & Hogan was a good buy at half price, and it will hopefully improve my current floundering in the subject. My chronic need to become less ignorant led me to The World Since 1945 and Issues In World Politics. My interest in early humankind nurtured by Jean Auel and Piers Anthony books led me to The Neandertal Enigma. The two other books I bought are meant to be Christmas presents, so I won’t name them, but right now it’s all I can do to keep from hiding them and keeping them for myself.
Three books from Waterstone’s, two again meant to be Christmas presents, but I really really want them! They had a three for two offer, where you could choose three books from the selection and the cheapest would be free, so I chose two books as presents, and got Miss Wyoming (Douglas Coupland’s latest) for myself.
And remember, before all this purchasing came browsing. Leisurely, glorious browsing. A flip through the featured poetry books of the year. A taste of Prague from a travel guide. Another chapter of The Sandman Companion, which I’ve been reading in bits in bookshops but not quite got up the commitment to buy (it’s 14 pounds). The opening of Don DeLillo’s Underworld, which I read every now and then to remind myself of the fact that I must read the whole book some time. The blurbs on a whole row of Stephen Jay Gould books, trying to decide which one to read first if I ever get round to reading him. I have a multitude of must-reads and should-reads neatly categorized and listed in my head, but when I step into a bookshop, it all degenerates into a huge sprawling mess summed up only by I Want.
Words on paper. Such simplicity. Such beauty. Such bastardry. I want my day back.