Funny reading habits

When I was young, whenever I picked up a book, I tended to go straight to the story and ignore things like “introduction”, “preface”, “author’s note” and “acknowledgement”. To me, then, the story was the most important thing. I believed the reader could get to know an author via the story itself — the style, the language, the shaping of the characters, etc, which more or less should reveal certain aspects of the author’s personality. I believed the story should be a mirror that reflects the author’s image, although sometimes this image can be partially covered or slightly distorted.

Then my reading habit changed. These days, whenever I pick up a book, I read it from cover to cover, including the often-too-long “acknowledgement” section in which the author can dedicate his/her thanks to dozens of people. I read what other people say about the book, and I read what the author him/herself says about it. I read the cover design, the typeset, the publisher’s information, the publishing date, and the copyright notice. I read the various fonts and sizes used throughout the book, of both the headlines and the body text. How a book is constructed, physically and aesthetically, fascinates me.

These days, reading a book is much more than consuming the words. Checking it out on the Internet is even more important, just to see what readers from Amazon, Wikipedia, Google Books and even the now closed Borders have said about it. The views of other bloggers are even more important — it is often from various blogs that I receive more information about the book and the author in particular, e.g. the “anecdotes”, the gossips, the compliments and the insults, the positive and negative memories both personal and collective that echoed in one’s heart during the reading. Very often, reading the comments of other readers on a book helps me understand more about the readers themselves. It helps me imagine the impact of the book on them.

These days, reading a book is no longer enough — I feel the desire, the urge, and very often the rush, to read all the other books written by the same author, as chronologically as possible in terms of their publishing dates. It is like a siren’s call to me, “Come, come and see the true face of the writer, the true spirit, the bright and dark sides and all the invisible corners, the talents and the flaws, the proud gestures and the hidden wounds.” It can sometimes be a pain in the neck, as it is almost impossible to have the money to buy all the books I want to read. Neither do I have time — a lifetime is too short! And there are so many writers out there.

And there are movies, stage plays, videos, games and even songs inspired by books — the offsprings, the friends and neighbors, the distant relatives of these books. The unborn babies and the long dead souls. There are numerous other books about the books that I have read. Newspaper and magazine articles, academic and industrial essays, book group discussions, even jokes. How can one truly know a book and its author, without having read all of these?

Still, I feel it necessary to have finished all the books written by an author before I can begin to understand him/her. An author evolves, shifts his/her shape and size, twists all over like an octopus, changes color like a chameleon. An author grows and expands and reaches out his/her many feelers, and there is no limit, no boundary, no cage. The only way to really see an author is to follow his/her every footstep, until he/she reaches the end. Then, even beyond the end, the author continues to call, “Remember me…” And the call never ends.

So I think my reading habit is funny, not funny ha-ha, but in the sense that having read a book does not mean anything — one has only taken the first tiny step towards a very, very long journey. How sad, how pathetic it is, then, to be a reader, for the journey of reading is like a never-ending tunnel that is pitch black all over. But there is still hope! It will not be called a tunnel if there is no way out.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Amy Bedi
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 02:50:04

    Its the same with me! Earlier I also used to read only the story part but now I read from ‘cover to cover’. Nice entry. Very relatable. Its good to see that I’m not the only psycho reader (no offence) who undergoes the painful journey of ‘discovering’ a new author.


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