If you had to choose just one novel to represent every year of the twentieth century, how would you decide?
That’s the very question I’m faced with whenever I buy a book, and it’s not a decision I make lightly. So far, most of the books I’ve read for Book to the Future were selected as the result of quite a lot of research.
It does, however, make my job much easier when someone recommends a book for me to read. Which was the case this week.
Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980. Then, in 1986, Simone de Beauvoir passed away. They’re buried in the same grave in Paris’ Montparnasse cemetery.
I was born in the year 1978. Which means that, for a very short time, I shared the world with two of the people who, much later in my life, I’d come to list amongst my personal heroes.
I consider this a great honour.
Sometimes, I like to think of my heart as a small, oddly-shaped bookcase. In idle moments, I ponder the books I’d hide away on these secret shelves.
The contents of this theoretical bookshelf are always changing, as I read new books and remember old favourites. The imaginary dust never has the time to settle before the books are once again reshuffled.
I only know one thing for sure about this pretend bookcase: there’d be a special shelf set aside for my favourite sad books.
There’s much to be said on the subject of reading and timing.
It’s like magic when the right book manages to fall into your hands at the perfect time.
I toppled into the pages of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice like I would into an enormous armchair at the end of a hard day at work. And I stayed there, content and warm, until I’d turned the final page and there was nothing to do but, reluctantly, face the real world again.
After weeks on end of gloomy wordclouds that had subtly, yet relentlessly rained over my every thought, it was refreshing to read something completely different.