As of today, there are 5 days left in the year. There are a mere four books on my shelves that have not been read and I do not think I am in danger of buying a book and breaking The Great Book Ban of 2012 now. It has been a hell of a run, and even though I’ve pretty much won and also learned some perspective, moral of the story, blah blah… I cannot wait to get my hands on some of the books I’ve been coveting lo’ these 361 days.
When it became clear that The Casual Vacancy was not going to be my breaking point, my fiance and bet-proposer, Chris, offered me a small truce of sorts. In exchange for some mercy – and he is definitely looking for some considering the last time he lost a bet he had to watch Twilight – he allowed me to ask for books for Christmas. The rules of the bet had been that I could not buy, borrow, or otherwise acquire any new books in 2012. The books I started the year with were to be the books I finished the year with, thus eliminating any book-shaped Christmas gifts – and frankly sending my relatives into a frenzy over what they were going to get their bibliophile sister/niece/cousin if not a book, which has been tradition since time immemorial.
There are more books on my gimme-gimme-list than I could possibly ask for. And really, if I got them all, I would be 40 books in the hole and even worse off than I started. I will confess that I have found a sense of accomplishment in reading so many of the novels that have been outstanding on my shelves for so long, some of them for years.
I’m afraid that Chris may have come off as a bit of a villain this year, applying to my ridiculously competitive nature to get this bet off the ground in the first place. Trying to go a year without buying a new book is probably something that occured to me, fleetingly, once or twice, but I clearly never went through with it – and probably never would have if this bet had not come to order. Initially using my pride against me, Chris eventually brought about a different kind of pride. Pride in my discipline, pride in my sportsmanship, pride in the sheer amount of pages I have gotten through this year. (Not that I have ever been wanting in the pride department – Chris and I will confess that we both have the rather unfortunate faults of pride and prejudice. Well, not that unfortunate… P&P is awesome. We will also confess that it is damn lucky we found each other, because who else would put up with people who spout that kind of stuff?)
So I want to share a story about Chris where he is quite the hero, in my books.
Last year, when we were on holiday in Bath, I bought a hardcover book called Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. I absolutely loved it and probably gushed about it more than Chris cared to hear, but he has pretty good stamina for that now after four and half years together. Of course – of course – this year the second book in the trilogy, King of Thorns, was released. The impending release date was killing me. Not just because I was looking forward to reading it, but also because I am a crazy person who needs her books to match and therefore needed the hardcover to make my set. Luckily, Chris is also very particular about books. Him being an artist, it’s not just about the words on the pages for him. It’s also about how the books will look on the shelf.
On August 7 (aka Release Day), Chris picked me up at the train after work. I got into the car, kissed him hello, and went to put one of my bags in the back seat. There on bench was King of Thorns, in all its hardcover glory. I turned back to Chris.
“Did you buy that so you could read random pages out loud to me and spoil everything?” I asked. (It’s not as harsh as it sounds – he and I are both quite diabolical.)
Chris glanced back at the book, all nonchalance. “That? I don’t know anything about that.”
I remained suspicious, and it was clear on my face.
“There were some ravens, though, sitting on my car this afternoon. Maybe it’s a gift from Odin,” he said. “I don’t know what I’ll ever do with it, so I guess it’s yours.”
He started the car and drove home, while I sat in rather dumb and adoring silence. If you ask him about it today, he will maintain the pretense – when he commits, he commits. So I have a book on my shelf inscribed “From Odin.”
I could have read it then and there would have been no forfeit, but I decided not to. It was eight months into the bet after all, so I had already started to enjoy the small sense of accomplishment that came with watching my stack of unread-for-years books grow smaller. King of Thorns can wait until 2013 – and I am so excited for it.
The books that were under my Christmas tree this year were:
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, from my brother
Love and the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche, from my baba (grandmother)
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin and Night Watch by Terry Pratchett from Chris’ family
Wreck this Journal by Keri Smith from my cousin
Battle Castles by Dan Snow from Chris. It’s about medieval siege warfare… Chris sure does know his way to this writer’s heart.
I hope you all had a good holiday! Next week will usher in 2013 and a new year of writing, blogging, and reading!