I did not want to post a book review on a Saturday because well, I just didn’t. So I wracked my pretty mind (humor me!) for a topic and then I thought, why not pontificate on reading?! More particularly, on my reading. The way I read and subsequently blog. It’s not that I am not a social person, I am. I like talking to people who have the same hobbies as I do (or obsessions if you are talking about reading) and I like the people whose blogs I read and who I follow on Twitter. I just tend not to say much and be in my own little corner of the world. Which is why I hardly ever do readalongs. Because I read too fast and I finish too early and well, I’m making excuses so ignore me.
We are talking about reading here. There will be pictures!
I prefer physical books. I do have a Kindle and it’s marvelously convenient but I find that it kind of sucks the soul out of reading. But those are debates you have already heard or had so I will not go into them any further. I had a meeting with my thesis supervisor the other day and she asked me about my reading. How it started, whether it was encouraged and what urged me to apply for the program I’m currently doing. It’s kind of an interesting story so I shall share!
In Fiji, they used to (they may still, I’m not really sure) give book prizes at the end of the year in a school wide ceremony to students who came first, second and third in the end of the year exams. So that was all the encouragement I needed to work hard. Anyway in Grade 1, I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was but the one winning the first prize got Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift! And not even the kiddie version! I was flummoxed and more than a little disappointed. Because I couldn’t read it. I didn’t know most of the words and it seemed boring (there were no pictures). This led to some wailing and bitter tears and avowals to come last in the next years exams (I was a kid of extremes, okay?) before my mom got me Great Expectations, the kiddie version! Which had pictures and fitted in the palm of my hand. It had a blue cover and I have no idea where it went.
But I was incensed that there existed a book I couldn’t read. So I started to learn new words and read as much as I could and a monster was born.
One of my uncles was also a teacher (my mom was a teacher too at the primary school I attended) (Fiji’s a small country, okay) and I was in Grade 4 the year he was in charge of buying the book prizes for the prize giving ceremony. He came to my house in the evening and put down a box of books in front of me and said you have the whole night to read this because it needed to be handed in the next morning. And oh my goodness, I spent three quarters of the night reading! With a torch because my mom wouldn’t let me stay up late. I fell asleep in class the next day but it was so worth it.
We had one library in Lautoka City which is where I am from. One measly public library and they only allowed patrons to take out two books at a time. I had a kiddie card and wasn’t allowed to take out anything that was interesting as by the time I reached sixth grade, I had outgrown the baby books. I wanted to read something else. Something that would challenge my intellect more. Or gave more illicit pleasure, anyway. So one day I went to the library and asked the librarian if I could get an adult’s card. She filled out the form easily enough but told me I needed a parent’s signature. This was a problem. I lived some distance from the city on a sugarcane farm and while it wasn’t too far, it also wasn’t a journey we made too frequently. Besides, I wanted to take out books now! So I went outside on the pretext of getting my Dad’s signature and after checking that no one was around, I signed the form. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I forged my dad’s signature in order to get books out of the library. Well, not too ashamed. I did get better books.
In high school, we had a pretty miserable collection in the school library. The young librarian (whose brother was a classmate of mine) hated me for some reason and wouldn’t let me read the books I wanted to. This is still in Fiji, by the way. So we would sneak off from the bus station after school on Fridays to the thrift store that carried used books bought from Australia. They were sold for 25c each and we would save money we got for recess everyday and then splurge on the books. It was amazing and it was dangerous as it meant detention if we got caught leaving the bus stop in anything other than a bus to go home. But I was a prefect (hur) and I used my power in ways it wasn’t meant to be used. *cheese*
The books that shaped my formative years were mostly:
Enid Blyton was a favourite author and Dolly Fiction was this Australian series that presented standalone books about Australian teenagers navigating the wild course of adolescence. Living in Fiji, I was highly fascinated by the lifestyles (and romances) of these girls who did not look like me and whose lives were so different from mine.
I also read a lot of romances, both contemporary and historical, simply because they were the kinds of books most readily available and most abundant. When we moved to Canada in 2001 and I saw my first library and found out that I could take out 50 books at one (!!!) time, it was heaven.
Okay, I think I have bored you enough for today. If you have managed to get this point in this highly fascinating recollection of my reading experiences, I salute you. Funnily enough, I intended this post to be a semi- rant about the trends in YA literature that make me want to tear first my hair out and then the hair out of whoever is closest to me at the moment. Tomorrow I am going to post a review on The Hobbit, the movie, because I’m just cool like that. Thank you for reading.