From 1999-2001, while living in London, I would go on epic, overambitious book-buying sprees, telling myself I was heading into town to “write in a cafe” only to return with bags laden with books from the hipper end of the US literary canon, perhaps hoping that the sheer fact that I owned them would turn me into the writer I wanted to be. When I think of the way my book shelves looked when I was 23, I realise they perhaps were no more about me than they were about a stranger I subconsciously imagined would one day visit my house. This stranger was an uncommon combination of extremely tasteful, hugely judgmental and ridiculously attractive.
I waited very patiently for this stranger for quite a while, only for the finicky bastard not to show. Somewhere along the way, I became a more honest book owner: I now know that nine times out of 10 I’ll enjoy a book about a dysfunctional family or the comedies of small-town American life more than I will one about a drug addict or rock star. I don’t hold on to books I didn’t enjoy – even those that critical wisdom told me I “should” have – and I no longer keep a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow around the house for hypothetical purposes.