I haven’t even finished packing the camper van yet, and the holiday book pile is already looking like that dam in Derbyshire that may have burst under its own weight by the time you read this. And no, I don’t have a Kindle.
I’m talking solid breeze blocks of physical reading, chunks of the printed word gathered via charity shops, Waterstones, press offices, birthday presents, friends, bus stops – they’ve all come home with me. And now they’re all coming on holiday with me, taking up more room than the tent.
The Japanese have a word for it – of course they do, they have a word for everything – which the internet tells me is a combination of three words: tsundoku, from tsunde (to stack up), oku (to leave for a while) and doku (to read).
So now I can name my affliction in a foreign language, which transcends the obsessive gathering of reading material and the mathematical impossibility of trying to get through it all – there’s actual stress involved. How to prioritise? Do I start with the juicy, satisfying one, or the worthy one? Do people really read the books they say they do?
It’s those intimidating summer reading lists, where smug clever people casually name drop 900 page obscure biographies or impossible novels they say they will be reading in deckchairs, that leave a sense of creeping disbelief; will they secretly hidden a John Grisham inside, or a copy of Heat?
Being hopeless at delayed gratification (I’d have totally failed the marshmallow test) my reading feast will begin with dessert - the fat, delicious new David Nicholls novel Sweet Sorrow – rather than forcing myself to chew through the meat of Sapiens, which everyone says leaves one better informed but bitterly misanthropic. Oh God. When it comes to reading for pleasure, should there ever be a ‘should’ pile?
There’s a bit of 12 Step literature that suggests reading stuff that “requires effort, thought and concentration”.
Maybe I’ll have a go at A Brief History of Seven Killings, even though it’s huge and unwieldy and has tiny print and loads of Jamaican slang. Or that exhaustive biography of Nico that’s been under the bed for five years. The Edmund White biography of Rimbaud that’s been getting dusty, after I compulsively ordered everything Edmund White had ever written on the strength of his Jean Genet book. Will I have time? Who knew holiday reading was such a headfuck?
Standing in the kitchen clutching my to-do list, as time ticks closer to the hour of departure, and wondering where the camping stove is and who has hidden the hammock, and why Amazon hasn’t delivered the giant jump leads that could restart a 747, something solid flops through the letterbox.
I feel a small, familiar thrill at the thunk on the hall floor – too heavy to be a bill, too small to be jump leads. It’s another book. Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture. Yummy. The packing is forgotten, as I sit on the hall floor, engrossed.