Reader, 20 years later

It has now been a year since I started reading again, in a way which makes me feel like I could not imagine living a good life without reading.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my reading life was interrupted when I started a new life abroad. Over the years, I still read a book here and there but this was nothing compared to the total glee I feel now, as a new born reader.

As a teenager in the late 90’s, being a reader was very much a solitary occupation. I remember reading literary magazines and staying up late to watch literary talk shows. Although I enjoyed the book reviews and discussions, there was a sense a elitism in those medias which made it hard for a 16 year old reader to relate.

I recently joined the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. The book pick for the month of December was How reading changed my life by Anna Quindlen published by Ballantine Books in 1998. In this book, the author articulates what the literary discussions in the media were missing at the time.

’There was certainly no talk of comfort and joy, of the lively subculture of those of us who forever fell asleep with a book open on our bedside tables, whether bought or borrowed. Of those of us who comprise the real clan of the book, who read not to judge the reading of others but to take the measure of ourselves. Of those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewellers. The silence about this was odd, both because there are so many of us and because we are what the world of books is really about. We are the people who once waited for the newest installment of Dickens’s latest novel and who kept battered copies of Catcher in the Rye in our back pockets and our backpacks. We are the ones who saw to it that Pride and Prejudice never went out of print […] Reading is like so much else in our culture, in all cultures: the truth of it is found in its people and not in its pundits and its professionals.’’ (Anna Quindlen – How reading changed my life – Ballantine Books, 1998, p15)

Today, with Booktube, Bookstagram and websites such as Bookriot or Goodreads, the reader’s perspective is part of the discussion. We talk about how we feel about a book, how much we liked a scene or character, we share our anticipation for a new book coming out, we rejoice when we see ourselves represented in a novel. When a few years ago, conversations about books were led by critics, journalists, academics, now it has been taken over by readers. It was a very joyful experience for me to discover all this chatter, and through this blog, it is my hope to share my own experiences too.

Later, Anna Quindlen highlights another important point, when she says that ‘’reading has as many functions as the human body, and that not all of them are cerebral. One is mere entertainment, the pleasurable whiling away of time; another is more important, not intellectual but serious just the same. “She had learned something comforting,” Roald Dahl wrote in Matilda of his ever-reading protagonist, “that we are not alone.” ‘’ (Anna Quindlen – How reading changed my life – Ballantine Books, 1998, p33)

In the past, literary value would be the first criteria I would use to select a book. One of the reasons I read over 100 books this year is that I took on a voracious approach to reading and decided to read what I thought would make me happy. This year I read to be comforted, to be entertained, I read not to feel alone. And it worked wonders!

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