Some years ago I bought a book. Like most books I buy, I read it all. Even if I hate a book from page one I’ll force myself to finish it, such is my hatred for myself. After finishing this particular book I was convinced that I hadn’t enjoyed it, so I donated it to my local charity shop.
On my way home from this minor adventure I began to wonder if I’d been too quick to judge the book. Maybe I had been wrong. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Could I have judged the book solely by its cover? It definitely had a terrible cover.
Without regard for the oncoming traffic I spun the car around at 60 mph and headed straight back to the shop.
“Hi” I said “I was just in here about five minutes ago.”
“Oh yes, I remember” said the old lady behind the counter “You gave us the Da Vinci code.”
“Yes, that’s right. I’d like it back.”
“I’m afraid that’s quite impossible” she told me.
“Nothing is impossible.” I cried in my mightiest middle class voice, but she didn’t flinch an inch. “It belonged to me five minutes ago, and I gave it to you for free!”
“Yes, a very kind thing to do, sir.”
I ended up having to buy my book back for £2.99. I gave the woman £3 and I must admit that I may have lost my head a little bit when she assumed I wouldn’t want my penny change. A lifetime ban, she called it, but I knew she only worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We’ll see.” I whispered as I left with the book in my hand.
As soon as I got home I started to read Dan Brown’s book again. By the time the ten o’clock news came on I’d finished it. Was it good? I wasn’t sure, which must have meant it wasn’t. My first impression was the right one. I’d take it back to the charity shop tomorrow, which was a Wednesday - a day on which my lifetime ban wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
After donating the book for the second time I was driving home again, the rain was beating down and some Northern clown was saying things on the radio. Suddenly a terrible thought consumed my brain. Had I already made my mind up that I wasn’t going to like the book the second time, simply because I didn’t like it the first time around? I slammed on my brakes and began to reverse the car all the way back to the charity shop, a feat which sadly caused the death of one rabbit and the destruction of one Slazenger tennis ball.
Within a minute of being back in the shop, a scene had erupted, a scene not unlike the day previous. This time, however, I wasn’t dealing with a little old lady. Behind the counter was a man, one of those do-gooders, built like a steam engine, trained in every Eastern fighting practice, but with a gentle heart of gold. He struck me as the kind of man who would sit on the floor, up against a radiator, even if there was an empty chair in the room. Not if the radiator was on, of course, but you get the idea of the force I was dealing with.
Within a minute I found myself face down on the floor with my arm being held behind my back. Made to apologise, I was handed a lifetime ban, luckily I was allowed to buy back my book before I left.
After reading the book for the third time I was beginning to think that maybe it was good after all. Or was I just trying to justify buying it three times? I decided that I definitely liked the book and would think about it no more.
I posted it back to the charity shop anonymously and didn’t think about it for two whole days. Sadly, when those two days were up, I could think about nothing else. Knowing I couldn’t set foot in my local charity shop ever again I had no option but to buy it new from WH Smith. And that is how the terrible cycle began.
For the next six months I found myself buying the book nearly ever other day and posting it through the charity shop letterbox the next. Sometimes, on my worst days I’d even buy it two or three times. I know what you’re thinking; why didn’t I just hold onto the book and not give it away after each read? The answer is simple, after each completion I was convinced that my mind was made up over whether or not I thought the Da Vinci Code was good or bad, and I’d never need to read it again, but I was obsessed. Plus I’m a sucker for giving things to charity shops, because it makes me feel like a good person without having to lose any of my precious money.
The book had taken over my life. I was signing my name Robert Langdon whenever I used my credit card. Chip and Pin was just a distant dream. I’d often spend hours trying to solve riddles that didn’t exist in bus time tables or the number of leaves on a tree. Even worse, I’d put the Da Vinci Code at the top of the Best Sellers list all by myself, and kept it there for far too long. I don't expect you to forgive me, I accept what I've done. Just please, do not punish my children for my failures.
Chester Dockstock, London.