When I am engulfed in books

I used to read a lot. I love reading and have been doing it for a long time. I read my first book aged two. Admittedly it was not a literary masterpiece – or even a modern classic. I think it comprised about sixteen words in total, so more of a haiku in prose form and size 48 typeface.

There have been times when I have read less – ironically one of them was when I was an English teacher. I spent so much time reading texts for work, that to do it for leisure seemed bonkers. Another time was when I ran a pub as reading in front of the customers felt rude. Most recently, it was a combination of needing reading glasses, which were a hassle to remember and were not prescription so made my eyes tired, when I bought a tablet, because there are a lot of other ways to consume portable content now (although I do not like reading books on a tablet) and when I discovered podcasts, because I now have them to listen to as I walk the dogs, instead of walking while reading, which always caused people to stop and warn me I would trip over (I never did).

I hate throwing books away and as a consequence have one room in my house which is pretty much devoted to housing my books. I used to refer to it rather grandly as, ‘the library’ but over the years as I have also used it to store files of household administration – piles of paper, some of which are in folders, others just piles.  It is a mess now and suppose if anything, it really should be called ‘the fire hazard’.

I was in there recently, in my annual bid to sort the piles of papers into smaller, ordered stacks – something I routinely fail to complete – when I came across a book I do not remember seeing before. I have no memory of buying this book . It is second hand, so I could have bought it at a massive annual booksale I used to go to, or been given it, or found it on a pile at work that had been left with a sign that read, HELP YOURSELF. Who knows? It was in my home now and I picked it up. The book was a collection of  humourous essays by the Americal writer David Sedaris and is called, When You are Engulfed in Flames.

I threw the book into the bag I packed for my recent holiday as a spare but actually it is the only one I read. The essays were just the right length to allow me to pick up and put down the book in between other activities, but meaty enough to satisfy and laugh-out-loud funny on a number of occasions. The book was published in 2008 but has not dated as the observations on human interactions are as true today as then and his character sketches – some of the best parts of the writing – are nailed with a comic precision I can only marvel at and envy.

I have a lot of books right now in the ‘to read’ queue – more than I currently seem to have time to get through, but I am glad I let this one sneak through to the top of the pile, and even more so because nestled as it appears to have been for sometime among my collection, I was not even aware I had it.  Serendipity has doubled the pleasure.

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