Why I’d make a good Costa book awards judge

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions and helped craft the competition entry.

I’ve been a bookworm since the days of my childhood when I used to hide a book under my pillow just so that I could sneak in some extra reading time after being sent to bed. Not wanting to give myself away, I used to read in the semi-dark: one night I was caught in the act, and all my mother could say was ‘reading in the dark will ruin your eyesight’. Fortunately, my eyes have stuck it out thus far, which is lucky, because reading is still my greatest solitary pleasure. I was the eldest child of three; so obsessive was my love of books, and so praised was this love by my Mum and Dad, that my sisters went to extraordinary lengths to show that they, too, loved books: my two-years younger sister would sleep with books in her bed; and my youngest sister proved books were good enough to eat by chewing through the spines of an entire collection of Happy Families.

To the present day, and my bookish habits have been indulged after purchasing my own home: every available wall is covered by a bookcase, and I’m still having to double-stack. At Uni, I made my very own collection of books. For the past five years I’ve kept a journal of all the books I’ve read, which shows an average consumption of 2.75 books a month, and suggests that I finish a book every 11 days.

My knowledge of literature is derived from reading, which means I’m largely unencumbered with ideas about what a book should be in order to be great. That’s not to say that anything goes ā€“ I am notoriously critical ā€“ but my judgments are based on a lifetime of reading books rather than reading literary criticism. I’m able to offer an opinion about everything I read and can usually be both positive and negative. I’m always interested in the way other people respond to the books I’ve read, and allow for the fact that such conversations can impact on the way I interpret meaning without altering my original, subjective response.

Psychometrically speaking, I score phenomenally highly as ‘judging’ in Myers-Briggs typology, which means I have a well developed tendency to make judgements about situations and people (in actual fact, I can barely help myself). I’m not a fence-sitter, but I doubt it’s useful to have that kind of person on a panel of judges.

If that doesn’t convince you, I can admit to being such a bookworm that I’m gradually working my way through 1001 books you must read before you die: even without my unintentional head start, at current rate, I could get through 1000 books in just over thirty years. That’s before I even think of retiring… when I’ll open my own bookshop and officially spread my love of reading.

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