If this month’s focus from the shed is on all things big then I can’t ignore something HUGE that’s been following me around all my life. It sits by my bed, fills my head, and threatens to topple every shelf in my house. You’ve guessed it. It’s my ‘to be read’ pile. 

Look at them! Aren’t they beautiful?

I never catch up on all the reading I want to do. And when I drift from secondhand shop to library to indie stores, filling my arms with books, I tell myself that buying and borrowing them is kind of the same as reading them. Isn’t it? 

Later I’ll get a cup of tea and sit down to look at the pile and smile. I feel well-read and interesting. Erudite, even. But if someone questions me on their contents I fumble an answer (think Father Ted’s confident reply that he preferred the ‘crime’ section of ‘Crime and Punishment’).

I’m not alone, there’s even a word for the phenomenon. Tsundoku (Japanese: 積ん読) is ‘the art of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them’. There’s something quintessentially alluring about new books: the smell, the cover, the blurb, the very heft in your hands. All that knowledge still to be acquired, or the exciting plot to lose yourself in.

See? They can be used as seats.

The thing is, I don’t plan to shake the habit. Clutter you say? Away with you. I’ll accrue more and more, no doubt, until I’m fairly drowning in pages. Words are my friend, it’s that simple. And who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by their friends all the time? Especially quiet ones who sit tight until you pick them up to go on a journey together.

Now stop distracting me – I’ve books to read.

Books: a Love Letter

Dear Books,

What can I say? You’ve been by my side for as long as I can remember: from childhood fairytales to midlife learning; from university libraries to cosy Tuesday afternoons with a cup of tea and a cat on my lap. The world opened up thanks to you.

When life hurt you offered shelter under Ladybird wings, gifted Shakespeare to my confused teenage mind. I got out of hospital and you knew I needed cartoon comfort, leaving Calvin and Hobbes on my bed. Health fears and lockdowns had you rummaging around for something new to surprise me with – the poems of John O’Donohue.

When life was light you offered Thomas Hardy to share my university journey, dropping copies of anything by Neil Gaiman when I was ready to escape into other worlds. When laughter was required you reached out a hand to tickle my sides with Bill Bryson. Lately you seem to know that my mind needs to be expanded and I found a 500-page tome by Yuval Noah Harari on my desk.

Most of all, you’ve pushed The Great Gatsby into my hands at regular intervals to bring me home. Words heal, you taught me that. And I’ll always be grateful.

Happy World Book Day.



“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” Annie Dillard

Watch a little video of the love letter – including pretty pictures