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Day fourteen

November 14, 2016

There is a pile of books in one corner of the bedroom. I think of it as that pile.

In that pile are books people have given me for Christmas or my birthday, books I’ve purchased myself. These are not books I felt I should read. These are books I wanted to read. Yet some of them have been in that pile for two or three years.

One of the questions you are asked when your level of depression is being assessed is whether you have difficulty concentrating when reading. My answer was no. Reading? Me? No problem! I am a reader.

And that is true. Up to a point. After all, I cannot get to sleep at night without reading for at least an hour. Reading is something I do every day. That makes me a reader, right?

For Christmas last year a friend of mine gave me a copy of A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, the book which had just won the Booker Prize. When I unwrapped the present and saw what the book was, I had two thoughts almost simultaneously: ‘Oh, lovely!’ and ‘I know where that book is going’. It was going to be added to that pile. And it was.

I’ve never read anything by Marlon James before, but there are books in that pile by authors I’ve read before and loved.

How have these books ended up in the out-of-sight-out-of-mind pile in the corner? They have ended up there because that’s exactly what I needed them to be – out of sight where they can cause me minimal guilt.

Guilt? Yep, that’s how I would describe it. These are books I should want to read, but I haven’t been able to face them. There are some non-fiction books in that pile, but mostly they are fiction. Capital L Literary Fiction. (See? It says so right on the cover: Literary Fiction.)

In my depressed state I simply could not face the challenge of Literary Fiction. Too hard to engage. Too hard to concentrate. Too shaming to admit. Stick it in the corner. Out of sight, out of mind. (So out of mind that, when asked if I am having difficulty concentrating when reading, I think I am answering truthfully when I say no.)

I mention this today, because a few days ago, after I finished my latest library book (Medicine River by Thomas King), I looked at a couple of books I’d picked up at the Seattle Mystery Book Store, figuring I’d start one of them next. I didn’t. I put them down, walked over to the corner of the bedroom, and got down on my knees to look at that pile.

A decade ago, when I started working for a development charity in the UK, I contacted the country directors of the four west African countries which would be my primary focus. I introduced myself and asked them if there were any books they would recommend I read to help me better understand their nation. Only one of them, the country director for Nigeria provided me with suggestions, all of which I read. Two were non-fiction books, but the third was Purple Hibiscus, the debut novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. I loved that novel. And I’ve loved everything she’s written since. So of course, when Americanah was published a couple of years ago, I put it on my Amazon wish list. I was delighted when it turned up in my pile of Christmas books.

How could it go from my Christmas pile to that pile? It did.

Well, a few days ago I pulled it out of that pile and started reading it. And I loved it. (So much so that when the latest Rebus and Bosch turned up in my post box the next day, I did not put Americanah to one side in order to dive into my birthday books. Now that is impressive.)

Is it the meds? I don’t know, but I can only assume so. Well done, meds. Bravo. I think it might be time to move that pile out of the corner. Let’s hope so.

From → Black dog diary

  1. janeshead permalink

    You’ll want to make sure the meds are up to speed before opening Seven Killings. That is one DARK novel. I couldn’t finish it. (I may go back to it one day when I’m feeling strong.) It has certainly cured me of ever wanting to visit Jamaica.

  2. Thanks for the head’s up. I was already planning to go for other books from ‘that’ pile first. Will now defintely do so.

  3. krysross permalink

    I had the same reaction to Seven Killings. It was impressive but just too dark for me when I tried it.

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