I left my book at work Tuesday night. I hadn’t finished it. It was just a terrible error that left me bookless Wednesday morning.
Ok, to most people this wouldn’t sound like much of a big deal. Anyone who actually reads this blog though probably understands the horror of being bookless. I mean, not totally bookless because I have shelves full of them at home, but without the book I was in the middle of reading.
I’ll come back in a moment to how I dealt with what I think anyone would agree was a very serious situation. It made me think though about other times I’ve been left bookless.
Usually it happens if I finish a book faster than I expected. I’ve gone in to work. I’ve read on the tube and suddenly I’ve finished or I’ve discovered there’s not nearly as much left to go as for some reason I thought. Normally I guard against that. If I’m about two thirds or more of the way through a book I carry a spare.
Having a smartphone helps. I have some books on my kindle app. It’s not really how I like to read though and I tend not to want to read anything really good on a mobile phone screen.
Otherwise though, if I’ve nothing on the phone (or the battery’s low) and I’ve no spare then I’m reduced to reading free newspapers left on a seat, adverts, or worst of all nothing. None of those are good outcomes.
It’s not that I have no other interests. I’m not even shy. Still, I’m a reader and if you are a reader if you’ve time free and you’re not doing something else then odds are you want to use that time to read. If you can’t, well, it’s peculiarly frustrating.
Thankfully this time I did have something suitable on my phone. I’ve been slowly reading through the kindle version of the Penguin Classics edition of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. It’s an 18th Century Chinese collection of short stories (many very short) and it’s an odd mix of folklore, fables, Ripleys’ believe-it-or-not style material, ghost stories and supernatural romance.
Strange Tales is over 600 pages long and it works best if read a little at a time. I imagine it’ll take me another year or so before I finish it all given how I pace the stories out (which I absolutely recommend to anyone else thinking of reading it).
That got me through Wednesday morning, but Wednesday I was away from my office all day, so I still couldn’t get to my book. This morning, Thursday, I cracked. I’m now reading Ellis Peter’s first Cadfael mystery. It’s a very fast read, so I’m hopeful I can finish it quickly and get back to my original book.
So there you go. One moment of distraction and the result is Chinese ghost stories and a medieval murder mystery. Not ideal, but it could have been much worse. If you want real horror, I once found myself on a two week skiing holiday with a busted knee, ten days stretching before me sitting in a hotel room, and only enough books for two of those days because I’d been expecting to be out on the slopes, in bars or asleep until it was time for the flight back. Dark times.