It is almost a year ago that my mother died. In the last weeks I have been thinking about her lifelong love of reading. She always considered herself the informed consumer, the appreciative reader, never the artist. She read (at least) one book a day all her adult life. She dipped in and out of her books the whole day through.
Early morning breakfast, she read her newspapers. She then did some chores or went off into town to do some shopping. Late morning coffee, book at hand. More reading after lunch. Late afternoon she’d meet with friends or make some telephone calls. Before dinner, she read The Atlantic, New Yorker, or the weekend section of The Guardian. Dinner. Early to bed with her book.
The astonishing thing is she would remember the stories, the characters, the plot of this immense library of books she’d read. I’d be reading a book and telling her about some aspect of the story that intrigued me, and she would talk about it as though she also just read the book yesterday. It often turned out that there were years between her reading the book and our conversations.
My mother stowed away a long list of books she meant to buy in the side pocket of her wallet. If she read a magazine article that referred to a new author or book, she’d hurriedly take out the list and scribble the name down and then continue reading. This list was the only haphazard messy thing she owned. In all other aspects of her life she was ordered and meticulous. The list was written in different colours of ink, sometimes the titles or authors names were scribbled illegibly in the margins, others were crossed through after she found them.
I wish I had saved one of those lists. It makes me sad that I will never see one of them again.