Thursday, July 2

The To Do List - Mike Gayle

British author Mike Gayle is married, mortgaged, with a daughter and a child on the way. Yet, on the eve of his 36th birthday he still doesn't feel like a proper adult, at least not in comparison with his new and unquestionably grown up neighbours. He and wife Claire are fairly certain Derek and Jessica don't leave milk spilled under the fridge for weeks on end, or still wear undies over a decade old. Long a list writer, Mike writes an oberlist that ends up being 1,277 items long - it ranges from "eat more salad" to "clean windows" (numbers 1 and 1,277 respectively), and covers aspects of family life ("fly kite with child"), friendship ("have John and Sue over for dinner"; "post Jackie and Mark's unposted Christmas card"), love ("write love letters to wife like I used to"), self improvement ("read something by Freud"; "get to know cheese") and fiddly bits of business ("finish Guardian quick crossword begun in April").
To ensure he stuck to it, Gayle emailed all his friends with his intention to do all of his list within a year, giving them permission to tease him unmercifully if he failed. He inadvertently included his agent in the mass emailing, who approached a publisher, which is not only how Gayle stuck to it but also how The To-Do List became a book.
Gayle's voice is straight-forward, funny and honest. From the first page I found points of reference, from the unread (but once longed-for) DVD box sets to the evil siren call of procrastination and the arduousness of tackling War and Peace.
The book combines his attempts to meet his aims with reflections on his life, and the year he spent between birthdays was more than a pursuit of adulthood - it was an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, reassess relationships, and take stock of his life. As an inveterate writer of many undone To Do lists I was inspired to create my own, far more modest 250-item version that I similarly hope to achieve by this time next year. One item is writing reviews of books in a more timely manner - Alex

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