I read my first book at two (or three, but not older, I don’t think): a picture book of course, but one that was meant for much older kids, able to read. My parents did not have access to the sort of books geared towards toward toddlers these days, so they bought me what they could—a comic book with a storyline and characters far beyond the reach of a two-year old.
I remember sitting on my grandmother’s lap in the afternoons when she would read out loud the dialogues in the book, and explain what was going on.
With the sort of whims, likes, and dislikes that can be expected of a toddler, I decided that was the only book I liked, and there soon came a time when I could narrate the story by myself when the book was put before me, pointing at each scene in its individual square and babbling the story, much to the amusement of my family and our visitors.
I grew up devouring books: those suitable for my age, and not. I read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary at 12, and rapidly followed it up with the collected works of Bernard Shaw, all the Russian masters, Shakespeare—in short, anything I could steal from my father’s collection.
When I turned 18, I went for an Honors in English literature, where I mostly read books outside the syllabus in my spare time, because I now had access to the British Council and the American Center libraries, in a bigger city.
But in studying for the exams I lost some of the love I had for books. I was expected to dissect poems instead of merely enjoying them, analyze novels instead of getting carried away by the stories and characters—it turned me off reading for a good five years before I turned to my old love, and second-hand bookshops became my second home again.
From then onwards, I’ve taken to reading with a renewed vigor…I read as a break from life, as an exercise in thought, as a supplement to my writing—because sometimes I also have to read like a writer. It is nearly as big a part of my life as my writing, and sometimes I struggle between the two—because there is not enough time for me to read, write and do everything else we call ‘living life’.
To me, I live the most when I’m reading, especially certain books that have made me fall in love with them. But more about that in another post, because I think it would need another post to talk about what reading means to me today.
How about you? What has your reading journey been like?
I always am fascinated to read about people's journey of their writing or reading experience or their path to their artistic self discovery, so I enjoy your post. You read quite a lot of classics I see. I read "Madame Bovary" from Flaubert and "Une vie" from Maupassant and both hated it. I hated how women were portrayed in it. I much prefer Jane Eyre which i am currently reading.
I like the sentence you highlight " read like a writer" it is true. We do that, don't we! So you haven't said what you are currently reading.
My reading journey was derailed by a 2nd grade teacher who would violently shake students who had not done their "pleasure reading." Her behavior made an oxymoron of "pleasure reading," and I rebelled by becoming the slowest reader imaginable. Reading was work to me, and I would only do that which was required. It wasn't until my 20s that I began to devour novels, and I made up for lost time. These days, though, I don't read enough. I seem to be going through a phase, and I look forward to it's being over… I miss getting lost in a book!
Lee, I guess all of us writers are born readers 🙂
Jennifer, I remember exactly the feeling of reading books that were much too grown-up for me!
Nutschell, living would have been unbearable without books, as far as I'm concerned :). And this is as old a blog as Daily (w)rite –your first time here, so welcome 🙂
Amberr, we all have fascinating reading journeys!
Yusuf, thanks for sharing not only your reading journey but also your current reads.
pps currently reading Ghost Train to the Eastern Star – Paul Theroux and Snuff by Terry Pratchett and bits and pieces of travel books concerning Malaya- for reference.
ps Digital books – ebooks have changed my life and encouraged me to read a lot more – making books more accessible to me wherever I am.
I can't remember early reading – except stealing my brother's Batman, Superman and Eagle comics and reading them (1950s). I do remember being introduced to Science fiction by a teacher at secondary school and that changing my life. Days aft…er school and weekends were spent in the local library – trying to read the novels from A-Z. It was naive but gave me a lot of insight into different types of reading matter (early 60s). Late 60s and I was copying my 'intellectual' friends reading Huxley, Orwell, Kafka, Kerouac, Ginsberg,Tolkien etc etc. That led to a spurt of reading (70s) 'Penguin Modern Classics' – as many as I could get hold of – Satre, Gide, Camus, Genet, Mishima – I simply devoured them. Collected and read a whole lot of SciFi – Fantasy including Michael Moorcock, then Crime Fiction. (late 70s early 80s) reading Freud, Jung and still reading E.M.Forster, Waugh, Chesterton – shying away from American novels and reading mostly English and European (in English translation). 90s mostly books about Psychiatry/Psychology and Art, with Terry Pratchett as a lightener. Now I read anything that takes my fancy – from Creative Writing to Terry Pratchett and book about travel – Paul Theroux, Michael Palin, Durrell etc
I started with Bernstein Bears, Dick and Jane readers, moved up to Sweet Valley Twins, and I know rest comfortably in the realm of adult fiction. 😀
I've always loved reading. Summers would have been unbearable without all those books to keep me busy.
PS.I love this new blog of yours! It has a clean and fresh design. 😀
I love that you talk about books as being a sort of contraband because this is sort of what they were for me. When I was about nine, my sister started taking gymnastics at our local civic center. Sitting through her classes were possibly the most boring thing ever. I used to sneak off to the library next door halfway through the lesson and read the most grown-up thing I could get away with reading.
Looking at books are some of my earliest memories. Even before I learned to read I liked to just look a the words in print. Of course, I always enjoyed picture books. Much of my early reading experience came from reading the dictionary. As I was learning to read I would frequently look up words and find new words. I grew up with a passion for reading.
Tossing It Out
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So You Want to be a Writer?
Anne, thanks for sharing your journey 🙂
Jen, you're lucky, and possibly have a lot of discipline and willpower to be able to read for pleasure despite being a writer!
Joshua, you'll be surprised how quickly kids grow up..keep your books ready.
As far as I can remember, I've always been able to read. I know this is not technically true, but I don't have any memories before being able to read. In short, I read whatever I can. Now, with two kids, finding time to read for pleasure is almost an impossibility. Honestly, I can't wait until they're old enough to read them some of my favorites, though those are way beyond a four and two year old.
I agree that nothing kills a love of reading like having to dissect a book! I still hate Jane Eyre because of this. I haven't picked it up since, and I loved Jane Eyre before university.
I read for pleasure now, pure and simple, which is what books are written for, after all!
I think the only books I remember as a kid were Dr. Seuss. And Fun with Dick and Jane. (An early primer way back when.)
I remember going to to the school library a lot and I think read every book in it. I know I read all the Trixi Belden and Nancy Drew as well as every book written with a horse in it.
Then I started reading torrid historical romance. Kind of never broke away from that. I didn't really start reading the classics until I got to college. Now I have such eclectic taste, it's hard to say what I like.
And I know how you feel about reading as a writer. I have such trouble with that now.