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Friday, 11 May 2007

More bedside books
After sharing a list of my current bedside books last Monday, I asked a couple of CRB contributors to do the same.

Marlon James (whose last appearance in the
CRB was in a conversation with Mark McWatt and Annie Paul in our November 2006 issue) posted his list over at his blog, Croaking Marley. It starts with Zbigniew Herbert and ends with a 500-page "history of the west", and it makes me wish I could give up all other forms of occupation and take to my bed for a year, to do nothing but read.

And here, dear readers, is a list compiled by Jonathan Ali (who most recently reviewed books by Willi Chen and Pamela Mordecai in the February 2007
CRB). Jonathan opens with a little lament about the reading habits of his compatriots:

Books to the left of me, books to the right....

What your bedside reading says about you is relative. It’s relative to the attitude that the culture you live in has towards reading. In Trinidad, if your bedside reading comprises more than one book, and said book isn’t by Dan Brown or Terry McMillan or Deepak Chopra, or isn’t Harry Potter and the Something of Something, you are a freak. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t think having a stack of proper books by the side of the bed is a freakish thing to do (and if you’re reading this you must be), then make of the following what you will. Most of these books I’m re-reading, some I’m reading for the first time and some I haven’t read yet.

Books on my bedside table (to the left of my bed):

- In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, Edward Luce
- The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, Amartya Sen
- An Area of Darkness, V.S. Naipaul
- India: A Wounded Civilisation, V.S. Naipaul
- Guns, Germs, and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Past 13,000 Years, Jared Diamond
- Enterprise of the Indies, edited by George Lamming with an afterword by Lloyd Best.

I haven’t touched the last two books on this list in months. But they serve a valuable purpose where they are: they make it easier for me to reach over and pick up one of the other books, in particular the Diamond tome, which is quite fat.

Now, to the right of my bed is my desk. I draw books for reading in bed from the stack here as much as I do from the bedside table stack. On my desk at the moment:

- Malgudi Days, R.K. Narayan
- The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony and Other Stories, Franz Kafka
- Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings, Jorge Luis Borges
- Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
- The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, Salman Rushdie
- Shame, Salman Rushdie
- The Duppy, Anthony Winkler
- Almost Heaven, Niala Maharaj
- Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction from Jamaica’s Calabash Writer’s Workshop, various authors
- She’s Gone, Kwame Dawes
- New and Selected Poems, Kwame Dawes
- Arion and the Dolphin, Vikram Seth
- “The Women of Pedro Almodóvar”, an essay by Daniel Mendelsohn, from the March 1, 2007, issue of The New York Review of Books
- The Oxford Concise English Dictionary
- The Trinidad & Tobago Telephone Directory, 2005-2006 (I don’t read this in bed)

Not books (but of artistic interest):

- Heaven Up Here, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Black on Both Sides, Mos Def
- The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears, and Donnie Darko, directed by Richard Kelly

As I said, make of these lists what you will. Just in writing this I’ve realised that my bedside reading is all non-fiction, and the books on the desk almost all fiction. This is unintentional, of course. But is it significant?

-- JA

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