There was a recent outbreak of polite, mild excitement at The Bookshop, Welwyn Garden City,** when the Book Fairy delivered a number of titles from the '1001' and '501' range. In a burst of creative frenzy and lateral thinking, we put them all together on a display table. Never, surely, was a retail envelope so ferociously pushed. In an inter-surge period, a colleague and I naturally gravitated towards, and began interrogating the volume entitled 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. We began making a tally of, as it were, how close we had come to death, but abandoned the effort on the grounds of embarrassment, and then agreed how we hoped to find even less correspondence in 501 Most Notorious Crimes.
This led me to think about a sequel which might appropriately accommodate one's post-life needs, hence my working title 'A Small Handful of Books you Really ought to Read After You Die'. If the vision of Heaven on which so many Christians were sustained through their formative years is accurate, then surely a copy of Cloud Atlas will be a necessary tool to navigate this realm, so that the trauma of parking one's harp in a reserved space could be avoided. Assuming that another famous tome offers guidance on etiquette, and lists appropriate subject matter for small talk, then Conversations with God may well ease what could be an awkward introduction to the Supreme Being. It might be imprudent to mention beetles, for example, the creation of which caused God to get notoriously carried away, and about which It is probably still embarrassed. If, however, the Buddhists have got it right, you might wish to switch to The (Re)Bourne Identity or even Bringing up the Bodies.
I am resisting the temptation to buy this book as, beautifully-produced 'though it is, and despite the alternate frissons of vindication and outrage I would enjoy as I identified the inclusion and exclusion of pet authors, its girth would finally unsettle our domestic book-to-space ratio, and we would be obliged to move house, which would upset the cat no end.
More on our exciting stock range later.
**Never knowingly mistaken for a haberdashery.