The other day, Chris (my husband) did something he hasn’t done for a long time: he threw a book at me. Not in anger, but in wild enthusiasm: ‘You’ve GOT to read this. It’s amazing. It won’t take you long. Promise me you’ll read it.’
How nice, you might think, that my partner and I share a love of reading, that we recommend books to each other and get all excited about discussing something we’ve both read and loved or loathed. Like our own little private book club.
IF ONLY! Our lack of book-compatibility has led to some right old ding-dongs, to put it politely.
You see, the books Chris chucks at me (never passes or places nearby but frisbees towards my head whilst I’m reading in bed) are always non-fiction, sometimes autobiographies, but often business books. And in the past I’d often dutifully wade through whatever snore-worthy business tome he’d begged me to read, because I could tell he was dying to discuss it with someone. But not anymore, amigo. Not. Any. More.
Why? Because whenever I asked him to read something I wholeheartedly recommended, he would agree but NEVER complete his side of the deal. Ok, so I’m a fiction reader, he’s a non-fiction reader. But if I can suffer a bit of non-fiction occasionally, why can’t he accommodate some fiction?
Novel after novel I passed his way, telling him he’d love it if he could just apply some concentration, gain some momentum and then, after chapter 3 or 4, he wouldn’t be able to put it down. But night after night, he’d open the book and be asleep five minutes later, or he’d pick up a magazine, OR, he’d blatantly pick up something from his non-fiction pile, prompting me to lower my book and glare at him. ‘I swear I’ll start reading your book tomorrow,’ he’d say. ‘I’m too tired to concentrate tonight.’ Yeah, rrright.
Things reached a head one day when a novel I’d passed onto him (and let’s just remind ourselves of the score at this point – Tash: non-fiction books 10, Chris: novels, nil) turned up mysteriously BACK on the shelf (unread, obviously). I’d warned him that this particular novel was his last chance to read something I’d recommended or I would never read one of his beloved business books ever again. He’d sworn on his life that he would keep his promise this time.
‘Did you read this?’ I demanded, holding the book up.
‘Um, not yet,’ came the nonchalant reply from behind the Sunday papers.
I gripped the book tighter. ‘It’s been three months since I gave it you.’
‘I’m sorry, it’s just not my thing,’ he said, all memory of our contractual agreement seemingly wiped from his brain. I would’ve thrown the book at him, but I liked it too much to damage it. (John Boyne’s The House of Special Purpose – great stuff.)
‘That’s fine,’ I said calmly, swallowing my disappointment. ‘But know this, I shall never read one of your piss-boring business books ever again, for as long as I live.’
‘Ok, fair enough,’ he chirped quite merrily.
So when that large lump of non-fiction landed on my stomach the other day – almost winding me – there were a number of acerbic remarks I could’ve made in response to his gushing plea that I read it. But having just finished reading Lionel Shriver’s Big Brother at the time, I spotted an opportunity for some hardball negotiation.
‘I’ll read that if you read this,’ I said. ‘But I won’t start yours until you finish mine. And that means every last bastard page.’ Fortunately, the subject matter of Big Brother (the story of a woman’s relationship with her morbidly obese older brother) piqued Chris’s interest and, lo and behold, a miracle took place: he read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. And then another miracle took place – he bought two more novels and read them both!
As for his “amazing” business book, I seem to have misplaced it… Sting! Backatcha! And kerpow!