A VERY small list of things which annoy me at this time of year...
Number one: those books of lists which start appearing everywhere.
Number two: the people who buy them.
Who are you and why do you do it to yourselves? Why do you do it to the rest of us?
What is it about a generic paperweight cash cow which lists, for example, 1001 films you must apparently see before you die that makes you think handing over the best part of £20 is acceptable?
And do you realise you’re the reason that from October everyone else can no longer walk into a Waterstone’s without being assaulted by albums we must listen to, paintings we must see, books we must read or buildings we must visit.
A third thing which annoys me at this time of year. It is beyond my capability to walk past those books without having a quick flick through.
It’s natural, isn’t it, to want to see if your favourites are there?
Mine hardly ever are.
That’s partially because I’m under-read, under-watched, under-listened and under-travelled – and partially because I reckon the compilers are even worse.
I don’t question my taste. I question theirs.
After all, one thing they should do before they die is spend less time writing 300-word faux-predictable analysis of Jane Eyre and more time trying to emulate the authors they claim to admire.
And one thing those who buy them should do is spend less time reading books about reading books and more time reading books that are proper books. If that makes sense.They call them toilet times, don’t they?
I think that means trendy types place them in silver racks in their bathrooms looking intelligent and cultured waiting for visitors to dip in while dropping one off, and then – presumably waiting until said toilet visit is satisfactorily concluded – start a conversation about the merits of da Vinci, Dickens or Darth Vader.
Who would even do that? Oh... my brother actually. He has a couple of them on his shelves. I end up thumbing through those too.
But visitors to my bathroom will find a slightly damp copy of an old Sun and a note telling them to watch out for the dodgy lock.
Inverted snobbery? Absolutely.
Because one thing I can guarantee I will never want to do before I die is pick up influences from a mass-produced, uninspired stocking filler. I’ll stick – like we all surely should – with listening to recommendations from, you know, real life people; from friends, from bands and authors I respect, from the old bloke who sits slurring his words in Shakespeares.
And yet, I guess I’m pretty much alone.
These books are now extending into seventh and eighth editions. Rather than disappearing quickly at the start of January when your mam is no longer looking for presents for second cousins she doesn’t really know and likes even less, they’re sticking around; a constant on bookshop shelves.
People like lists it seems.
So here’s another one, from me to you, this October: read The Bridge Of San Luis Rey, listen to British Sea Power, boycott all 1001 books.