My secret obsessions

Readers of this blog will be familiar by now with its theme : to read all  the greatest books, in chronological order, approximately one title per week.

But other urges and lists lie unspoken beneath the surface : until now!

This reading quest may already seem a bit daunting. At last count, my book list stands at 1,040 titles, extending from 4000 BC to 1970. (I add a few more years on the end every time the mood strikes!). My last post was #275, The Dance of Death by Hans Holbein, circa 1526, which means that as it currently stands, this quest is over one quarter achieved, at 26.44%. But other quests lie hidden in the murky marshlands of my dreams, unrevealed even to my nearest and dearest before today.

Much more casually, I am also working through the 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read before You Grow Up list. There will be some crossover titles here, but at present I will find a picture book or chapter book for the under 8’s and read it in quiet moments in my library or bookshop jobs. Those I can’t find are often on YouTube as read-along videos. Currently, I have cracked 11% on this list, reading The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg last night.

Ok, so far these seem achievable if very time-consuming pastimes. But wait, it gets more impossible ….

I have sprinkled this blog with other interests on occasion, notably my hope to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats across Britain. In 2018, I completed the first stage, across the South Cornish coast as far as Plymouth. There is no one set path or way to do this (I have books on at least 4 different routes) but my current plan, inspired by the late John Butler (see his route and wonderful photography at  totals approximately 1,360 miles (2,190 km). My Cornish stretch totaled 154 miles (248 km) so I’m also 11% completed there. Whenever this particular obsession flags, I only have to watch a Youtube clip from the super-inspirational Abbie Barnes to make me itch to put my hiking boots on.

Let’s dial it up a bit more. I have been given or bought several walking list books over the years, the heftiest being … yes, you guessed it : 1001 Walks You Must Take Before You Die, edited by Barry Stone. Now I know what you’re thinking .. just not possible. And you’d be right – even I acknowledge that. While there are many are only a few hours long, there are 30 that are over 1,000 km long, including the monster Great Trail (Canada) at a WHOPPING 24,000 km – that alone would take 3 years. And they are scattered all over the world, although there is a very definite USA bias. But that doesn’t mean I can’t add the occasional one to my life now and again. I had a trip to Sydney planned before Easter, which would have knocked off 3 : The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb (600 metres, but up), The Rocks Historical Walk (4 km) and the Spit Bridge to Manly walk (6 km) but world events have put that on hold for now. Walking Kimmy every day is about all I’m managing. Current tally on this list is 5.25 : West Highland Way (Scotland), Lake Burley Griffin (Canberra), Queen’s Garden in Bryce Canyon (Utah), Wainwright’s Coast to Coast (England), Diamond Head (Hawaii), and the aforementioned Cornish walk which is 1/4 of the 600 mile South West Coast path. Grand total = 0.52% 🙂

Ok, so now you know we’re well and truly in Fantasy Land, we may as well keep going. Since my lovely and equally travel-obsessed wife is not a long distance walker (more of a long distance shopper to be honest), let’s add in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Currently at 1,121 sites across the world, including some islands so obscure they are literally thousands of miles off regular shipping lanes, this is equally unachievable to complete, but each site would be interesting and memorable. To date, I estimate I have been to 25 of these (indeed there are listed examples of the Gondwana Rainforests of Eastern Australia not a dozen km from where I live), but also The Sydney Opera House, The City of Bath (England), The Grand Canyon (Arizona) and Mt Fuji (Japan). So only 1,096 to go (2.23%)

I can hear the men with the strait jacket knocking at the door, so just time for one more. You will have heard of bird watching, a very popular hobby in many countries. But mammal watching? Same deal, except mammals tend to be shier and nocturnal. Check out legendary Jon Hall’s site at

Jon has seen 1,876 species of a total of 5,860 in the wild from all over the planet. Even if I were to ignore bats and most rodents, that would still leave over 2,300 species. My current total? 15 (0.64%), including echidnas, koalas, humpback whales and elephant seals. But to be fair, seeing mammals in the wild is either a targeted and dedicated exercise requiring patience and experience, or a totally serendipitous windfall, both relying on a large amount of luck. Still, I hope to grow this number in the future.

These nice men have my jacket ready so I’d better go now. They said I can bring some books with me, so that’s good right? 🙂 My very best wishes for your own impossible obsessions and quests. They may be impossible, but that’s no reason not to start.

Series Completed Remaining Progress
Mammals of the World (excl. bats, rodents) 15 2328 0.64%
1001 Walks You  Must Take Before You Die (2015) 5.25 995.75 0.52%
Land’s End to John O’Groats walk 154 km 1360 km 10.17%
World Heritage Sites 25 1096 2.23%
Reading the Classics (pre 1970) 275 765 26.44%
1001 Kids books to read before you grow up 110 891 10.99%

PS Just came back from a 20 minute walk with Kimmy. We saw magpies, crows, pigeons, eastern rosellas, black cockatoos and a kookaburra. Did someone say birdwatching? 😉

PPS I didn’t even mention geocaching, Disney theme parks or 70s British TV comedy!



    • Damn, you got me! I was working through 1001 movies, and got maybe a third of the way but too many Arthouse movies. But stay tuned for the classical music appendices when I get a little further along the literature timeline. (And she thinks I jest …..)

      Liked by 1 person

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