For The Love of Reading

6 10 2009

Books have always been a source of delight and pleasure in my life. When I think of books, words like ‘enthralment’, ‘magic’, ‘fulfilment’ and ‘glee’ fill up my head and heart – a life-long adventure of words that become friends. As I was growing up, books always succeeded in bringing me much fascination. Just like the good old Curiosity Cat, I wanted to know more, read more, learn more. Luckily for me, curiosity didn’t kill me. Satisfaction brought me back, again and again, to wondrous settings and characters.

I don’t like to classify myself, yet there is some truth in many assumptions made about so-called middle child syndrome. I was always the shy, quite one, trying to please everyone and loving them unconditionally in a naive manner (although I was not blind to their faults, rest assured). In truth, the withdrawal from the ‘real’ world allowed me to immerse myself in others. My parents were always an encouragement. As one reads, one learns to develop both reading and language skills, the acquisition of which can help one gain success and understanding later in life. Like any child, I started with reading basic books, things like Otto and other picture-flap books. Then, in the third grade, I found my first true love.

The book’s name was The Patchwork Cat, by Nicola Bayley and William Mayne. It tells the story of a tabby cat that has a patchwork quilt he absolutely loves. Then, one day, the quilt is accidentally thrown out, and tabby goes on a journey after the garbage truck, rescuing his prized possession and dragging it all the way back home. A simple story, but with so much meaning. Besides the fact that I absolutely adore cats, the charisma, stamina and determination of the tabby inspired me. I was sad with him, I felt the thrill of the chase with him, and finally felt the triumph and jubilation of reaching his goal. I read the book at least once EVERY DAY, and I owe a lot to my third grade teacher, Ms Swart, to whom the book belonged. She used to have a bookcase in the class filled with various kinds of books. As soon as we had finished our work, we were allowed to talk with her, work on our hobbies, and read. She always made everything fun, and put so much effort into helping us with both our basic education and further enjoyment/learning.

As the years passed, I found myself enraptured with horror, suspense and mystery stories. Goosebumps, The Hardy Boys, and other short story anthologies would fill my schoolbag. The library, a treasure trove of stories and vibrancy, was my favourite haunt. These ‘young adult’ books were later replaced by Sherlock Holmes, the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and an abundance of Stephen King – without a doubt my favourite author. Although most type-cast King’s work as horror, there is an entire scope beyond that which he covers: the primary fears lurking in the human psyche, influences of our everyday surroundings, politics and social structures. Elements of his stories may seem surreal…but, he portrays and explains everything so realistically, one cannot help but be absorbed by it, and ultimately wondering: “what if it’s true…?”

There used to be a children’s programme on K-TV called Wishbone. He was a dog who would take the situation he found himself in, and then compare it to a story. Part of the narrative would then belong to the world of the selected story, be it The Count of Monte Cristo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Tom Sawyer. In this way, I was encouraged to start reading more of the classics, which later would become part of my staple diet (as it certainly is now at university). During my five years in high school, I had the most wonderful English First Language teacher, Mrs Stassen. She had such insight, enthusiasm, zeal and charm for reading, writing and language that it has inspired me for the rest of my life. Whenever I read or write now, I always think back to her, and especially the one text that is my all-time favourite novel: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Coincidentally, as I am such a Stephen King fanatic, The Lord of the Flies is the one book that King wishes he himself had written, and he rates it as one of his three favourite books.

Before all the commotion arose around Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, its vivacity had captured me. Daemons, alternate universes, and zesty characters tantalized my reading palette and left its sweet taste in my memory. It is brilliantly written, and I would recommend it to any lover of fantasy fiction which, on the plus side, makes you think about the world, what is being written, and issues it addresses. It is enough to engross any reader. Then, naturally, came the Harry Potter series, which I also started reading before all the commotion. An infinite amount of wisdom, inspiration and splendour can be drawn from it, yet still, people rather choose to slander it and read negative things into what is written. It is more than just the triumph of good over evil – it is a learning, growing process, standing up for yourself, for what you believe is right and just, and for going through all the trials and tribulations, even though it’s hard. It shows us that life isn’t easy, but one can persevere.

On a lighter side, Irish writer Eoin Colfer supplies one with a pleasant buzz as one reads the Artemis Fowl series. Artemis Fowl, a young criminal mastermind, deals with the world of fairies, pixies, sprites, elves, goblins and trolls – first trying to take their gold, and then working with them. The wit, sarcasm and humour in the novel (mostly supplied by the highly eccentric but brilliantly smart centaur Foaly) enhance the plot and feel-good vibe the novel hopes to bring to animation. Another feel-good, humoristic novel is The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (Terry Pratchett) – a twist or pastiche, even, on the story of the pied piper.

Now, in university, although the books are prescribed and the reading at time tedious and ‘dull’, the wonder of words can still be found everywhere. The university library has so much more: all the books, the articles, the fact, the fiction… enough for a student of literature to drown in happily. Because of my new learning, I enjoy old novels I have read so much more. The Dark Half by Stephen King is filled with magical realism, the Gothic, the uncanny and the self-other binary, all which can be found in literary study. Freud and Jung illuminate aspects of the story for me, and seeing into the shadow side, that dark destructive half which, metaphorically, is the writer’s self is the essence of literature to me. My journey through the world of reading is far from over, and I cannot wait for the rhapsody to continue. Reading, to me, is LIFE.

Some of my favourite books (not placed in order of preference):

* The Patchwork Cat – Nicola Bayley & William Mayne (1981)

* The Hardy Boys series – Franklin W. Dixon

* Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

* The work of Edgar Allan Poe

* The Lord of the Flies – William Golding (1954)

* His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman [Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (1999)]

* Harry Potter series – JK Rowling [HP and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997), HP and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), HP and the Goblet of Fire (2000), HP and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), HP and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), HP and the Deathly Hallows (2007)]

* Artemis Fowl series – Eoin Colfer [Artemis Fowl (2001), The Arctic Incident (2003), The Eternity Code (2003), The Opal Deception (2005), The Lost Colony (2006), The Time Paradox (2008)]

* The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents – Terry Pratchett (2001)

* The Dark Half – Stephen King (1989)




One response

6 10 2009
For The Love of Reading « The Skinny on my Jeans (Genes) | ReadersOwn.Com

[…] Original post:  For The Love of Reading « The Skinny on my Jeans (Genes) […]

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