It was a question posed that gave rise to many more. One of these ‘before-you-die’ things that leave us all feeling fragile, aware that time is short. But lists are great things for sparking debate when you’ve nothing to say, as all newspaper editors know. Lists though, don’t usually allow for just one item.
So, it was posited to me recently, what is the One Book, to read before you die?
It got me thinking. My death, my books? Well it shouldn’t be anything I’ve read before; and I don’t think it should be fiction, which rules out all manner of wonderful writing, trilogies, series and works not to be named.
But if it’s my recommendation to others that’s another question altogether, for it probably is going to be something I’ve read before.
And then there’s the nature of the forthcoming event, expected or otherwise. And as we all know our time is too short, and it can end when least expected. On the other hand if you’re undergoing a long and painful treatment, saturated in chemo for instance, devoid of the energy to turn a page far less hold a book, where does that leave you?
It would be nice to be read to, in person, at the side of the bed. An audio through headphones wouldn’t work, no matter how skilled the narrator. Slumber would interrupt the flow. But a personal reader, a mellifluous authorial voice, with a tale to tell, that could work. It would be nice to go with a smile on the face. That would get them talking.
So what do we need on our final journey? Something fluffy, sharp wit perhaps; leave them laughing. Or a mighty tome, a realisation that it hasn’t been all that bad. A treatise on what may, or may not, lie in waiting perhaps? Well if it’s what you want to think about then why not.
Or it could be your own story, the memoirs you never got round to finalising; death bed dictation.
So where did this come from, I hear you ask, as I too queried? One Book. That’s a tough ask. Well it came from deep thoughts, a request and some fine words. You read them here; that Guest Post, and The Snow Goose.
So what would yours be; the one to read before you die? There may well be two questions here, two different answers, – the one you want to read; and the one you suggest for others.
I’ve been chewing it over for a few days, and think I know where I’m going with this. It’s an interesting exercise to carry out. Let me know how you get on, while I firm up my thoughts and prepare some notes for you. There’s one on the shelf that could just be the answer, both of them in fact.
Or perhaps, like the Queen of Hearts, you may wish to wallow in mallow; drift into the areas that bring treasures back to mind; and go out filled with the joy of those memories, passing on a book for others to enjoy. But for others it comes without those very special connections. Which takes us back to where we started. Is it the book you want to read, or the one you recommend for others? It’s going to be an interesting list. Just one each mind.