Reading, eh? Not as fun as watching films or TV, but still quite fun, and you can even do it outside - all in all, I reckon it’s worth it. There’s certainly something very romantic about lying back, sticking those tired feet up, popping open a book and getting lost within its pages for an hour or two. Again, I must stress that it is not as enjoyable as watching a film, but it’s still good.
Regardless, it’s a romance that stretches throughout your life - you’re just as likely to want to pick up a book when you’re nine as you are when you’re 43 or 90. Sure, there are periods of singledom, but you’ll always come back around, as I currently am after about a year of literary celibacy, because I have met someone, and I feel we will get on famously.
But this renewed interest in reading made me think - what books have I read in the past, and what books will I read in the future? And I, the everyman, the most relatable man on all spectrums, in the entire universe, will therefore speak for everyone else.
So, direct from me, the oracle, here are all the books that you will read at every stage in your life:
0-5 years old
An alphabet book
Look, when you’re zero years old, you’re not going to be doing much reading, are you? You’ve got more important things to do, like working out what the hell that is that’s coming out your arse, so a couple of big letters on a page is about the wheelhouse we’re talking about here.
A Biff and Chip book
Uh-oh, first day at school! But there’s no slacking - you’re already onto actually reading full-on paragraphs, you rapidly-evolving little genius. Biff, Chip and Floppy will help you on your way.
A book about dinosaurs, obviously
A nice Dorling Kindersley number, most likely. Lots of pics, plus a bit of info your mum can help you digest, too. You’ll be memorising those dino names like the back of your hand in no time, Little Petey Paleontologist.
Or The Twits, or Danny The Champion Of The World - Roald Dahl will birth your young love for novels. And his are proper big, too, and therfore 100% something to show off about in the playground - completing The BFG is no mouse’s task.
Related: anything by Dick King Smith, really.
You’re a hard-nut, not a big old boffin with a bulbous head and stupid little braces on your cords. So it’s obvious, isn’t it - you’re copping Goosebumps, make no mistake.
Scary, spooky, creepy Goosebumps; gotta collect ‘em all. Say Cheese and Die, Welcome to Dead House, Phantom of the Auditorium, and my personal favourite: Ghost Beach. This was the sweet stuff, and there’s no denying it - Goosebumps was life. A life with perhaps a sprinkling of Animorphs, but they were a bit shit, really, weren’t they?
This is a very unique entry on this list, because it is a book (or books) that you can read at any age during your life, and will. It’s funny to kids, funny to teenagers and funny to adults - not many pieces of literature can lay claim to that, can they? Calvin and Hobbes bangs hard, forever and ever, amen.
10-15 years old
Soon you’re gonna get rinsed at school for still carrying Goosebumps around, so if you wanna be one of the big boys, then you’re going to want to pull a Point Horror out your Mitre bag pretty sharpish.
Point Horror was the logical step-up in horror novels (R. L. Stine even wrote a few) - more violent, scarier, maybe even a bit sexier - it felt like it was for adults, when it most definitely wasn’t. Titles like The Lifeguard, The Boyfriend and The Ripper were some top-drawer horror pulp for the youngsters - I ate it up like a well-read cow.
I would like to hedge a bet that at around 11, you read Bart Simpson’s Guide To Life about two hundred times all the way through. If you did not do this, then I pity your foolish, confused childhood - how on earth did you know how to live without Bart telling you what to do? This was easily my favourite book for a long time, especially the ‘sex’ chapter, tee hee!
Ghosts are wicked and The Bermuda Triangle is wicked.
Or any other easily-accessible Stephen King book, really (Christine, Cujo). Either way, you probably got this from a charity shop at about age 12/13, and although you didn’t really understand a lot of it (turns out it wasn’t easily-accessible - should have stuck with Cujo), you certainly reveled in the blood and gore - and that’s basically the only point in books, isn’t it?
Oh yeah and Harry Potter or some shit
But really, if we’re all being honest here - this is a safe space - you didn’t read this until you were 23, you adult baby.
15-20 years old
Something by Shaun Hutson
Stephen King not gross enough for ya? Well then, go down the trash-pulp horror route and pick up a foul book by Shaun Hutson (the inspiration for Garth Marenghi, if you’re asking), the undisputed king of low-culture horror. It’s gore for gore’s sake, and absolutely the sole remit of teenage boys, but books like Slugs, Heathen and Body Count are an essential part of any adolescent reading list.
Which you read solely because you’d heard how gross it is (see above). Well done you. You brought it into school and read the rat bit to your shocked classmates. You’re a playground legend.
Admit it - you read The Game when you were 20, and then you went to Oceana and attempted to ‘neg’ a lady, before being shot down in front of your and her friends, relegated to the dancefloor sidelines, nursing a vodka red bull while said friendship groups subsequently got on like a house on fire. That’s because they talked to each other like normal people, not like a stupid American book told them to, you great big wheezing virgin.
American Psycho again
You probably want to check this out again, don’t you? Turns out it’s even better the second time around, because oh, it’s actually hilarious. As such, you proudly declare it your favourite book of all time, finally doing the impossible: surpassing Bart Simpson’s Guide To Life.
A swift dalliance with James Joyce
It is from around the ages of 21-24 that you pretend to like books that your previous (and future) self would not like. Still, you read them in private, but mainly in public, and in many cases, you’ll entirely convince yourself that you do actually like them. You’ll loudly decree that a certain contemporary author is the GOAT, when in many cases they may not be at all enjoyable to read. You are a fraud.
Because everyone else was reading it. This will become a common theme, unless of course you’re still reading everything that Shaun Hutson releases - if that’s the case, then I respect and admire your mettle.
This is bought with a bunch of other self-help books, because you are 25 and still (whisper it) have zero clue what you actually want to do with your life. You’ve graduated and are working, but you’re not making those waves, dammit, not scalping that bunce, not raking in the frogskins - you need some help. Only thing is, and please do realise this: self-help books are a waste of time.
You’ve either got it in you or you don’t. Just follow your gut, not some dead bloke from the ‘30s who doesn’t even know what a fidget spinner is.
American Psycho again
Yep, still your favourite. Related: you might be a serial killer.
30-35 years old
Yay! You got given a cookery book for your 30th! Think of all the lovely pasta dishes you can make! Think of the scrumptious slow-cooked lamb with roasted vegetables! Think of the souffles!
YOU WILL NEVER EVEN OPEN THIS BOOK, NONE OF THESE THINGS WILL EVER COME TO FRUITION.
This is the single 30-something’s version of reading The Game. If you’re still single at this age (good, as you should be) then you’re going to want to - perhaps desperately - grab a book about dating. Not a how-to guide, per se, but just one about it, like Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, or something. Just a big slab that you can read to feel better about yourself - you’re not alone. Also, paper soaks up tears quite well.
In your 30s, if you didn’t do it in your late 20s, is when you realise that you haven’t read all the books that you should have read. And just like you finally got round to watching Forrest Gump the other day after all these years, you feel you should transfer that sensibility to your book reading. So you do. For one book. Then it’s back to the dating books, isn’t it? Come on, you’ve gotta get a girlfriend somehow.
Haha! Thanks for this! *Shifting backwards slightly* I can’t wait to use it! *Backing into the kitchen* I’ll just pop it in here! *Putting it in the fucking bin and throwing a match in* Love pulled pork!
Sure, you read I Am Jackie Chan and The Rock Says… when you were about 13, but it’s time you read a proper autobiography. Someone like Steve Jobs, or I don’t know, Harry Redknapp - yeah, you like those two don’t you? Biographies are always good, aren’t they? I’ve never read a bad one and nor will you. Stay on this train for as long as you want. Bruce Springsteen’s probably got a new one out, meant to be well good, I assume.
I think, in the grand scheme of things, this is where you lose interest. You’ve done all your bullshit intellectual stuff, you’ve read every single biography in existence, so what have you got left? Well, you still like Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, so it’s the book equivalent - a banging bit of Lee Child. Easy to read, easier to digest, immensly satisfying, can be read with a beer, and - if you’re particularly adept in multi-tasking - the TV/radio on in the background. A Jack Reacher novel is the literary equivalent of a wank: it’s enjoyable, simple and you can get through loads of them. You wife probably looks down on you for doing it, too.
From the same person, too. They been round to three dinner parties at yours since they got you the last one, and you lied and said the mousakka that you made was from the book - it wasn’t, it was from Marks and Spencer, you phony. Made a mistake there though, didn’t you? Encouraging them, thinking they’re having any significant impact on your life at all - you’ve spurred them on and they’ve gone and got you another fucking cookery book. “Can’t wait to try out the spicy potato wedges!” they say, as you grimace behind their obnoxious heads. They will never taste the godforsaken wedges.
You’ve been with that brain for a good few decades now, probably about time you found out what’s going on in it, eh? The perfect book to read and still pretend you understand, and also to name-drop in meetings. “I’m reading this great book and it’s all about the mind,” you say to a boardroom of sighing interns, “you can really apply its theory to the workplace.” More sighs. Sighs everywhere. Directed at you: a human who is the physical manifestation of a sigh.
Look, the difference between 10 years old and 15 years old is huge - you’re going to cover a lot of ground in those short five years and your reading ability is going to blossom like a beautiful flower. There’s a lot of change, basically. 40 to 45? No real difference really, is there? You’ve found your rut, and you’re staying in it - there’s no real surprises from here on in. You’ve made your bed, cry in it.
At least with this one you tried one of the recipes. An omelette is easy, that’ll do for dinner - your kitchen is on fire and the cat’s dead.
Good old Reader’s Digest - friend of the older person, helper of the out-of-touch. A book that tells you how to treat a sprained ankle AND thread a needle? Yes please, Mr Book-keep, a copy in my hands, pronto! Thing is though, jokes aside, you will use this book because it is extremely handy. Of course, there’s always the internet, which is a thousand times more useful than a slab of dead tree, but sometimes it’s just nice to pick up a book, isn’t it? Keep that tradition alive, you doddering old curmudgeon.
Look, fiction is a thing of the past - you don’t read novels anymore, because they’re for the young, the wide-eyed, the open-minded, the sheep. You’re a man of the world, you know the way it works, and you’ve had enough, so obviously you’re going to take up photography. A nice big book full of very useful information, no wizards, no talking animals - just cold, hard, facts. It’s never too late to win a Pulitzer. (It is.)
50-55 years old
’Bout time you sorted out that back yard, isn’t it? Looking a bit sparse, a bit bare - whatever will the neighbours think? Get yourself a book on gardening, put some gloves on and ruin the knees of your jeans. Get stuck in. Fiction, your arse.
Well you’ve done all the Lee Child ones haven’t you, and Andy McNab is sort of ‘real’, so you can bend your self-imposed no-fiction rule a bit - GET THE BLOODY BEERS OUT!
Two things are getting old now: this joke, and you.
55-60 years old
OK I’LL COOK THE FUCKING CHICKPEA CURRY SANDRA
60+ years old
You are a heathen, and it is essential you repent otherwise it’s the fiery pools of Hades for you, you godless infidel.
A cookbo - actually I’m just going to fuck this bit off now, bye.
Post-disclaimer: I have never read a book