Breaking away

imageI’m off work this week. Having a staycation in the borough of Croydon. Apart from binge-watching my first boxset (Killing Eve. Good, isn’t it?), I binge read a book for the first time in ages. It was Alan Johnson’s new autobiographical tome, In My Life, and it’s as great as its three predecessors. It’s all about his impoverished childhood in west London, and how he became a postman, then union executive, then cabinet minister. It’s a retread of his previous books, but each chapter revolves around a year in his life and a song that music fanatic Johnson loved in that year – and how music shaped his life.

Reading it felt like eating a bag of sweets – once I started, I couldn’t stop – and for the first time in ages, I read a book in a day. It made me think how I read that bit less since I got onto social media, and I suspect it’s the same for many of us. We’ll read for a bit, then end up Googling something in the book, then end up looking at a friend of the author on holiday in Suffolk on their Instagram account. Then, three weeks later, we’ll finish the book and vow to read more… and then end up listening to a podcast about the author (such as the fantastic Backlisted Pod ( instead of actually reading more books.

Have our brains been ruined by the internet and telly boxsets? I used to binge-read book series, like Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City series, made easier by the fact they were originally serialised in the San Francisco Chronicle, which means they’re full of addictive plots that hook you right in and mean you absolutely MUST read the next one immediately.

Other bingeable books for me have been Clive James’ series of memoirs, Gone Girl (a proper page turner but the ending… just NO), Renee Knight’s Disclaimer (a brilliant, brilliant thriller about what you find on your bookshelf… it’s an absolute must read); Asylum by Patrick McGrath and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Oh, and there’s a great graphic novel by the New Yorker cartoonist Ros Chast called Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, covering Chast’s relationship with her ageing parents and their long, drawn-out deaths. Sounds grim, is wonderful and truthful.

What books manage to drag you away from looking at videos of kittens on the internet? Tell us below.



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