my reading evolution

On the week-end, I made a trip to the library, and then to the book store. I wanted to browse the library before I went to the bookshop because I hadn’t been to the library in a long time, and wanted to scope out what books I could borrow so that I didn’t have to buy them (sometimes I feel like I own way too many books, but then I wonder if there’s such thing as “too many books”…)

(By the way, yes, this was the post I was supposed to write before I went off and wrote that tangential post instead. The preamble kind of ambled away and became the whole post.)

As I was browsing through the library and then through the book store, I found myself reflecting on the evolution of my reading choices. When I was younger, I read a lot of fantasy novels. I still read fantasy occasionally but sometime during high school, I started reading classics. In late high school, and then throughout my uni days, I think I started reading thrillers and sci-fi. I also went through a phase of reading action/crime novels, usually involving secret agents or something and very complicated plots.

These days, I find myself drawn to what I would call “powerful” books, or “emotionally powerful” books – novels that are masterfully written to draw out deep human emotion. These usually have some focus on human suffering – be it physical, emotional or psychological – and often (or increasingly so, anyway), coincidentally have something to do with war. (Of course, I still read more light-hearted books too. Have to have a balance, right?)

I used to avoid novels that were translated from other languages (because I was always a bit wary of the potential of a translated text to fall short of the beauty of the original, regardless of how well the translation is done), but now they make up more and more of my to-read list. For example: “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Marquez, “Snow” by Pamuk, “The Shadow of the Wind” by Zafon, and numerous works by Murakami – these are all on my TBR list.

Reflecting on the evolution of my reading, I’m actually quite amazed. If you had told my 12-year-old self, or even my 15 or 16-year-old self that I would move away from fantasy toward the books I’m reading now, I probably wouldn’t have believed you (or maybe I would have – I dunno, I was gullible and impressionable back then).

In the last two weeks, when I have made two trips to the same book store in search of books to purchase, I have, each time, wandered over to the YA/teen section in search of books by Brian Jacques. I think I went through a phase in my late primary school years when I almost exclusively read the “Redwall” series. There are a lot of books in that series, and I reckon I must have gotten through the majority of them. I know there are several I haven’t read, but it’s been so long now, I don’t know if I could remember which ones.

I’ve only ever been able to find one book by Jacques in the book store. It’s one that I’m pretty sure I haven’t read (it’s just called “Redwall” and might be the start of the series) but each time that I see it there on the shelf, amongst the random other books that never existed in my childhood, I cannot bring myself to pick it up and take it to the counter. It is always with a strange sadness that I put it back on the shelf. Part of me wants to read it – wants to buy it – but another part of me worries that I’ve outgrown it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jacques is a brilliant author (I was still reading his novels in high school too) but the beauty in his novels is different to what you’d find in the works of Marquez or McEwan, for example. The stories are still wonderfully constructed, but they were written for a younger audience, and I worry about being disappointed if I read them now.

But, then again, maybe I don’t need to revisit Redwall. Maybe the memories are enough. The “Redwall” series provided so much inspiration to me back then, and if I’m still thinking about it now, that must mean something, right?

My favourite of the series was probably “Salamandastron”, maybe followed closely by “Martin the Warrior”. I don’t remember the storylines exactly, but I remember that they were awe-inspiring, and compelled me to read more and write more. Hmm… maybe one day I will buy a copy. Perhaps not to read from cover to cover, but for sentimentality reasons, and for those days when I’m feeling nostalgic.