According to the book review website Goodreads I recently finished reading my 1,000th book. They didn’t notify me of this, there’s no gold star on my profile and my book collection did not break into spontaneous applause (Harry Potter high-fiving Humbert Humbert, the Mitford sisters dancing a celebratory can-can). But I knew the second I finished reading my 1,000th book because I have been watching this day creep closer for four years. Four years of diligently maintaining my Goodreads account, including two afternoons carefully uploading every book I’d read since childhood. Give or take a few Where’s Wally? books I can be fairly sure that We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie saw me reach this milestone. Assuming I live into my 90s (which my penchant for pasties and panic attacks suggests is unlikely), I will read just over 3,000 books in my lifetime – which doesn’t seem like an especially high number.
Finding out what the last book Liz read was is one of those questions I’ve never been able to ask. Instead, in the months leading up to her death I read constantly, three, four, five books at a time. Words were a way to push what was happening out of my head, and two years later I realised I was a couple of books off my 1,000th. As Liz’s death had kickstarted a period of compulsive reading, I wanted the book to be relevant to her, something that would somehow make up for all the books she would never read. Obviously no one book would ever manage that (although for my activist aunt, Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists comes closer than most) but the idea of a worthy book has stayed with me.
The books that deserve a place among my remaining 2,000 reads are those with an idea that excites me. I’m making room for novels like Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo, Sirius by Olaf Stapledon, The City and the City by China Miéville, Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, We Were Liars by E Lockhart, The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane and The Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m going to spend more time reading authors I enjoy and relate to, either because of their use of language (Jackie Kay, Toni Morrison, Monique Roffey, Andrea Levy and Orhan Pamuk) or their subject matter (Jenni Fagan, Jhumpa Lahiri, HG Wells and Kazuo Ishiguro). In short; I’m going to demand more from the books I read. I’ve got 2,000 books left to read, at best, and I intend to be ruthless in choosing them.