x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Well read ... but antisocial

I love the feeling of being thoroughly engrossed in a good book. When hours flit by unnoticed, lunch is forgotten, and you become oblivious to everything else, because all you¿re aware of is the words on the page.

I love the feeling of being thoroughly engrossed in a good book. When hours flit by unnoticed, lunch is forgotten, and you become oblivious to everything else because all you're aware of are the words on the page.

At primary school, I remember those 15 or 20 minutes of "quiet reading" time straight after lunch seeming like absolute bliss. Although with hindsight, at eight years old, it's best not to rhapsodise too freely about your love of literature. Books, at that age, are not cool.

It doesn't happen all the time, but when you do stumble across a novel with the power to captivate, it should be cherished. This is something I have always had a problem with. I tend to race through the pages, devouring words far too quickly, and then end up feeling rather bereft when I reach the end. These days, I force myself to take my time, and try to read slowly and methodically.

At the moment, I am holding Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go responsible for me sneaking off early to bed and then reading well into the night. This is the last, in a long line of books, that have made me behave in an unapologetically antisocial fashion. I cringe about it now, but I spent the whole of Christmas Day 1995 curled up on the sofa, utterly absorbed in a book that I'd unearthed from the bottom of my stocking. This act was, as you can imagine, heavily derided by my young cousins and sister, as they ran around the kitchen playing with their new toys, before collapsing in front of the TV to watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Upon finishing the book, and realising that the day was almost over, I promptly burst into floods of tears, wailing that I'd "wasted Christmas". On a driving holiday through Europe, I happened to pick up a battered copy of Charlotte Gray that had been left in my hotel room by a previous guest. Now, the Italian Lakes are stunningly beautiful - as my friend's photographs show - but I'm afraid that in this case they weren't a match for Sebastian Faulks's elegiac prose. And while I thoroughly enjoyed my English literature degree, one of the things that irritated me about it was that the volume of required reading was such that it left little time to peruse my books of choice.

I take my summer holiday reading lists very seriously; you can cover a lot of literary ground while lying on the beach, and it's important not to waste time on any duds. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've still got a few pages of my present read to go, and things are getting interesting.