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40 at Forty – the premise

On January 13th 2018, I will be 40. About two years ago I was musing on this significant date starting to loom on the horizon, and someone suggested doing something significant around the number 40. All sorts of wacky ideas took hold, but about five or six months ago my thoughts clarified, and I realised what it was that I wanted to do.

All of my early life, I was obsessed with reading. I have a school report from Year 1 stating that I set a school record for the number of books read in one term (44, if anyone is interested, and I don’t know if the record still stood when the school closed!). Our local library and my parents’ bookshelves were the source of constant wonderment and new material, and I hoovered up books at a ridiculous pace. I had a series of excellent and encouraging English teachers, and continued to read large amounts after dropping formal studies in English at 16.

I am not entirely sure when it was that reading became a less important thing in my life. Certainly at some stage in my adulthood, it has very much dropped off my radar, and I am sure that this has had a lot to do with the ever-increasing ease of use of the internet, and the ever-developing offerings on the television. It is far too easy to take the easy route and watch “just one more episode”, or that rather rubbish film that you suspect you might have enjoyed a bit last time it was on. Equally, it is almost impossibly easy to reach more content at one’s fingertips that we could have dreamed of only 20 or 30 years ago.

So, the time has come to do something about it. Throughout the course of November 2017 I spent some hours putting together a list of friends that knew were interested in books and reading. Inevitably, some of my other friends reading this might wonder why I didn’t choose them. If that is you, them I’m sorry – I only had 40 spaces, and I tried to make it as varied a list as possible. Potentially, you and I have never talked about books, or I simply didn’t make the right connections. Please be assured that no-one was left out out of slight! I emailed all of these 40 people to ask for a recommendation of 1 book that they thought I should read, after outlining my project. I was overwhelmed by the warmth of feeling I received back very quickly – everyone has been enormously positive, and I have received an amazingly diverse list of books.

To those of you that have contributed a book – THANK YOU! If you listed more than one, I took the one you suggested as the best. If you didn’t specify, I took the first one on the list. I only had two rules – no books that I had read before, and only one book per author – only two of your choices breached these so I took the next book on the list. Amazingly there was not a single duplicate.

So there we are. 40 books for me to read, in my Fortieth year. And blog about them. Should be easy?

Those of you who know me will know that I am never happier than when somewhat overloaded, so I thought I might throw in a second challenge – 40 5km races during the year as well. This will be a bit of a challenge as I have been ignoring short distances in favour or marathons or longer for a couple of years now, and in particular have not really done that much running in the year or so since my youngest was born. He’s been to his first Parkrun in the running buggy now though, so there’s no stopping us.

I haven’t yet decided if I am going to try and fit in any other 40-related challenges or lists yet. There may be a photography-based one, or something to do with cooking, but I might see how these two go first. Wish me luck!

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