In a world where achievements come in the form of fast racecars and senior citizen skydiving, there’s a lone wolf in West Yorkshire with his eyes set on a record that’s in the grasp of practically anybody who has walked past a bookshop. Meet Frodo Leatherbound, a literary iconoclast hell-bent on venturing where most of us haven’t intentionally dared to tread.
He hopes to break a world record with the largest collection of unread books on his bookshelf.
As we enter his cluttered, yet charmingly pretentious library (really, his living room, from what we can see of it), it’s a sight to behold. We are mesmerised by the towering shelves bulging at the seams, crammed with books Frodo can’t even remember the names of. Some of these volumes, we notice, are duplicated two, three, even four times, like they’re breeding more books in various editions and bindings.
A cursory glance will reveal an impressive mix of subjects; there is everything from biographies of long-forgotten pop stars to the collected wisdom of world leaders, Guinness World Record books dating back two decades, poetry anthologies, hundreds of classics, a smattering of contemporary tomes, and three signed Delia Smith books.
Aptly named, Frodo insists his genetic disposition to book hoarding is a legacy passed down through some bookish DNA, courtesy of parents who have refused to comment. In a wave of nostalgia, he recalls his youth, growing up amidst a world of picture-books, hefty journals, huge hardbacks, and even the charming pop-up books that characterised his formative years.
‘It’s been a hell of a ride, living amongst these books and not being able to read a single one,’ he confesses, ‘they just sit there, taunting me every day, saying “when the hell are you going to open us? You’ve brought another bag home, yet can’t even be bothered to shelve us properly? Pathetic man”. It’s hard to have been forced into this literary embrace from when I was a child, but I figured why not take it up a notch and make something of it?’ With an ironic smirk, Frodo leads us over to the cluttered desk in the corner where there are two books that actually have bookmarks in; Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and a toilet-joke book. This man might be all about the unread, but he’s not above a classic behemoth or a good chuckle when nature calls.
‘I’ve loved literature and reading since I was a child,’ he muses, his eyes drifting over the shelves before settling on the desk. ‘But, honestly, who has the luxury of time these days? Between my job and hobbies, seeing friends and family, who could possibly spare the time to read? Whenever I open a book, I just think about how I could be doing something more interesting. These two,’ he says, gesturing at the desk, ‘they’re the ones I’m reading right now. War and Peace is… well, it’s actually the reason I thought about going for the world record. I’ve been so exclusive to these 1,500 pages, I haven’t strayed from it for the last fifteen years.’
An impressive feat indeed, Frodo has managed to rack up 3,072 titles without opening a single one — all immaculate and untouched (except for the sacrilegious two on the desk). He takes pride in his unconventional approach, but he also admits that he is no stranger to judging a book by its cover.
‘Yeah, I’ve got five copies of Dracula in case the world’s supply of vampire horror stories dries up,’ he jokes. ‘There’s the nice paperback, the note-taking paperback, a sturdy hardback, a clothbound beauty that looks great on a mantlepiece, and an illustrated edition. Of course, I haven’t read any of them, but it’s good to have them just in case. After I secure the record I might go for a sixth copy — one that I can actually read so I can keep the world record title shiny and clean.’
To snag the record, Frodo must provide photographic and video evidence of his untouched book pages, none marred by an inquisitive finger; he is sure that he can provide this and his peers can vouch for him, that they’ve never seen him so much as glance in the way of his bookshelves. He is, according to them, very faithful to his War and peace.
Frodo’s little stunt has piqued the interest of quite a crowd, from the highbrow interior design gurus who are mad about his unique take on home decor, to the skeptical traditionalists who argue that books are meant to be read, not shelved like a sacred altar to illiteracy. He confesses there were even a few hotheads with angry placards, picketing his front lawn in a protest against literary tyranny. These die-hards demand books should bear the scars of life — dog-eared, underlined, battered and beaten, proudly stained with the coffee of early morning despair. But Frodo is a tough nut, remaining undeterred by the commotion.
‘Why clutter my brain with knowledge,’ he quips, flashing a sly grin, ‘when I can clutter my bookshelves?’ We catch him sliding a fresh, uncracked book right next to Metamorphosis.
So, folks, keep your eyes peeled as we embark on this journey into Frodo Leatherbound’s world. Maybe we’ll discover that wisdom isn’t found in the pages of a book, but in the unexplored enclaves of a dusty bookshelf.