Having a library isn’t about hoarding stuffy, leather-bound books. It could just be a modest bedside pile. It’s more about keeping a paper trail of where you’ve been and what you were thinking, while saving room for surprising finds. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
First things first: this invocation to read more isn’t about making you feel bad for not finishing The Fountainhead, Ulysses or your friend’s 1,000-page manuscript (although maybe you could lie and say you got further than page seven). Instead it’s about celebrating the act of taking time to read. Why? Well, it’s fulfilling, fun and good for you and doing so in print helps you to retain information better than on a screen.
Crucially, reading offers a simple method of escape (and time travel and excitement) that costs less than a bottle of wine or a packet of smokes (as George Orwell argues somewhat punctiliously in his essay Books v Cigarettes). Without sounding too much like an over-caffeinated literature teacher, there really are other worlds to discover in books – secret lives and jokes and plenty to enlighten, enrage, unsettle and challenge us.
Taking time with an old paperback offers some release from the information bombarding us. As long ago as the 1930s, poet TS Eliot suggested that we were “distracted from distraction by distraction” and books – highbrow, lowbrow or in-between – break the cycle of multi-tasking. Hopefully The Monocle Book of Gentle Living, from which this month’s Inventory pages are adapted, proves this point in some modest way. Here are a few other recommendations, old and new, to transport, tantalise and inspire. Enjoy.
Durrell’s home in Corfu is overfilled with two- and four-legged creatures.
A lively ode to memory and marriage.
Life is peachy (or is it?) until James is left with his aunts.
The surrealist artist’s prose becomes more brilliantly bizarre as it goes on.
Schalansky casts readers away to 50 far-flung isles.
A jovial chronicle of Iyer’s travels to the loneliest and most eccentric places on Earth.
One of more than 20 titles in The Adventures of Tintin.
An old lady and her granddaughter holiday on a Finnish island where time slows and great truths set in like summer rain.
Wise young Christopher Robin wants to stay six forever – and who wouldn’t when you have Winnie the Pooh as your chief adviser? An ageless poem for an endless childhood.
A diary of the artist, writer and film-maker’s garden on the barren coast of Dungeness, Kent, and a meditation on his life.
The pitfalls of family holidays are offset by Hodgman’s witty nostalgia for his own trips around the US.
This lengthy Man Booker prize-winning novel paints a portrait of post-colonial Nigeria and family ties.
The great French author’s turn-of-the-century tale of a courtesan-in-training comes complete with lobsters and lace.
In 11 powerful and poignant essays, the Italian writer lays bare her thoughts on everything from married life to her husband’s death.
A masterful multi-generational story of the Buendía family and their town of Macondo.
The graphic designer and author swaps 1970s New York for a simpler life in Nova Scotia with his wife.
In Ratty’s words: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Dona Flor remarries after her husband dies – only to have him reappear again.