The illicit relationship with books

I love to read.

One of my earliest memories as a child was of my dad and I sitting at the Toa Payoh library reading. At that time it was probably one of two libraries in Singapore, the other being the one at Stamford Road. We would sit at a table in the children’s corner and my dad would read a book out loud to me as my eyes patiently followed every word he pointed at. I also remembered an Indian librarian walking by us while pushing a trolley, smiling at the sight of us. Back then we could borrow up to 4 books at a time and when the library bumped it up to 8 books per card, I thought I had scored jackpot when I could borrow with my card, my dad’s and my mom’s. I remember queuing patiently at the counter till it was my turn to get my books checked out. Back then, the librarian had to open each book, take out the card, date stamp the book, and slot the card with my library card till I return it. I love the resounding thump the date stamp makes with each book the librarian stamped.

I was a librarian in school.

I’m not sure if it was my love for books or my mild OCD that made me think of joining the school library. I would hide there for hours reading through the shelves, in between doing any actual library work. even till today, I subconsciously re-arrange books on library shelves or book store shelves. Kinokuniya unknowingly has a caped crusader out there roaming its shelves, nudging books in line and glaring at offenders who dare put books back in the wrong place.

I read till I had bad eye sight.

As a kid, I read wherever I could. At the table, while eating, on the bed. My favourite reading position was lying on my side and I’d flip sides every 20 pages or so. This led to me developing astigmatism, where lying down reading changed the shape of my eyeball from a sphere to rugby ball shape. Most people with astigmatism have a mild reading of 50-100. mine are 375-275 left/right eyes respectively.

Reading becomes a religion.

I choose my books based on a few simple things: recommendations by friends, bestsellers lists, what’s placed on the Kino shelf next to the cashier. At the library, authors starting with A get my utmost attention before I drift off somewhere along G or H shelves. After awhile, I choose based on the cover of the book. I usually read the first page of the book and if the story or style of writing grips me, it goes into my collection. Next would be the font style and size. sometimes even the texture of the paper makes my decision. It’s not unusual to see me flipping between 3 editions of the same book while I decide which font type I preferred to spend a week building a relationship with.

I read to avoid the world.

Reading transports me to another world. When I used to take the train to work, the book came out the minute I boarded the train and I tuned out to the crowd around me, only to pause intermittently to move out of other commuters’ way. Even when I boarded the staff bus to office, my nose is still buried in my book so now my colleagues learn to leave me be. People complain constantly about crowded buses and trains but I never see it because I’m in another world.

Then the reading stopped.

When I got the car, I stopped reading, coz obviously you cannot read and drive at the same time. I considered getting audio books but listening is different from reading. I felt I was turning stupider as the days went by. It also felt as if I was losing touch with words. I soon had difficulty spelling words, especially those with double letters such as “occasion” or “recommend” without having to use spell check. I couldn’t form ingenious phrases anymore without googling the second half of the phrase. I felt like my mind was regressing. I began to panic.

I discovered Goodreads.

I used to read so much that it got to a point I sometimes forgot what book I read and would end up buying or borrowing them again, only to realise it when I was 5 pages into the book. So I began to keep a record of the books I read. it’s one of those hardcover lined notebooks. I would draw columns down the pages; one for title, author, date read, date completed. I even had one for book rating so I’d know how much I liked the book.

I tried to keep a list of books to read so I don’t spend too much time at the library or book store wondering what to get next but I could never keep a very good list as I kept a great many lists everywhere. So when I found Goodreads i was ecstatic. Not only could I keep a list of books I read, I could keep a list of books to read. Not only that, I could keep track of the books my friends read and expand my book list. I could also follow my favourite authors as they post updates on their latest books or works in progress. However as great as Goodreads is, it still lacks a function which recommends books based on books you’ve read, much like Amazon’s recommendations of books based on other people’s purchase similar to the book you’re looking at. I spent a painful few hours searching for books on Amazon and adding them one by one onto my Goodreads list.

Goodreads also allows me to challenge myself to read more. i’m on a 50 book challenge for 2011, a grand feat since I started it only last month and I’m already 16 books behind target. But I’m optimistic.

I’m now reading David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet and I like the book. it’s slow-moving coz the writing style is very detailed and the content is rich. That’s all I can say. As much as I love reading, I suck at book reviews.

So if any of you have a good book to recommend (no classics please), do share them with me. Oh find my at my Goodreads account!

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2 comments

  1. Tricia · · Reply

    i used to spend time at TP Library every Saturday by myself while in primary school! and i was a school librarian too. heck, i even ran my own library by cataloguing all my books, and giving borrowing privileges to friends who registered as members. as a child, i loved categorising and paperwork *rueful*

    1. hahaha i did that too! i made library cards for some books but it was so tedious i gave up.
      i tried to write my own books too. when you showed us Lauren’s ninja stories, reminded me when I did my own “choose your own adventure” book!

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