In July 2016, I made a commitment to read 100 books over the next 5 years. That’s an average of 20 books a year, or 5 books a quarter. To keep this commitment, I created a simple xls, listing the reading month/year, book title, author, my own 5 star rating and some commentary (to remind me of the essence or the key take aways). The xls serves two purposes, reminds me of my target/commitment and refreshes the benefit that I had from reading those books.
How do I pick the books that I want to read? Firstly, I start with the attitude and mind set that I want to broaden my perspectives. So, I do not limit myself to specific genres or categories. I do remind myself of favorite genres from times past, that I have not read due to a working career that consumed my time and attention. Secondly, I browse the NYT or Amazon’s best sellers list and read the reviews to identify books that I want to read. Thirdly, I open myself up to consider books recommended by Joon, friends, etc. Fourthly, when I visit the library, I scan the shelves for picks that have been set out by staff.
My reading habits was established during my childhood days. My mother, was the school principal at a convent primary school. One of the unofficial perks was that during the school holidays, we were allowed to borrow books from that school library. So, I readily consumed the children’s fare from Enid Blyton, titles such as the Famous Five, etc. I progressed to Westerns, Detective/Mystery, Science Fiction as I grew into my teens. Each genre had its own compelling characters, settings and action that engaged me.
So, what are some of my notable reads since I started this journey in the summer of 2016? Ted Chiang’s “Stories of Your Life” is a fantastic Sci-Fi read. The various short stories depict very possible futuristic scenarios based on (advanced) technology, but what makes the stories compelling is the underpinning and interplay of the human psychology. The 2016 acclaimed movie, ‘Arrival’ was adapted from one of Ted’s short stories.
Jodi Picoult’s “Small Great Things” is the best exposition into the Black American life and experiences in USA. I was very moved by the various characters, and could start to appreciate the perspectives, world views and subtle signals that emanate from a society that is not color blind. It so moved me, that I felt it should be a required college reading text that students should be able to discuss and engage in. This is the only book, so far in my list, to garner a ‘6’ on a 5 star rating system!
As a Catholic, Edward Sri’s “Who am I to judge?” is the only book, so far in my list, to garner a special highlight that reminds me to re-read it periodically. It gently reminds me of the struggles that the contemporary world’s relativity may have on my own internal values.
So, after a year and a half on this reading journey, I have read 39 books, which is 39% of the original commitment. How has the reading affected me? I get a better appreciation of the creative genius of the various authors. I get a deeper insight. I get satisfaction from just reading. And perhaps, the reading subtly encouraged me to start this blog! 🙂
I have always been a ‘reader’! From childhood, reading had always been a delicious part of my life…I really don’t recall how it all started, whether I’d started reading before I could walk(!) or whether it was just an escape mechanism into a world of fun, fantasy and adventure! Luckily, my parents indulged my obsession and books were readily available to me. My parents would always joke that if I went missing, they’d find me next to some bookshelves or in a bookstore or library… So, by the time I was 12, I had read all the works of Enid Blyton, (I really mean ALL- from the school series of Mallory Towers, St.Clare’s , Naughtiest Girl , child-sleuths Five Find-Outers, Famous Five to her fantasy folk series of Enchanted Woods and so on..). I loved school stories- the Chalet School series was one of my favorites..and Richmal Crompton’s Just William series of unruly schoolboy William Brown kept me in thrall.
It was lucky for me that I attended a ‘convent’ school that had a wonderful library…a treasure trove of books that I constantly borrowed from. I also spent most of my allowance buying books….I wish I had kept my well-worn library from yesteryear.
Education-wise, of course I went into something that would require me to read! Yes, I majored in English Literature. Ah bliss, having to read and read and read for my degree, and discovering many, many more genres that were appealing and so interesting.
So it has come to this; Reading to me is like breathing…I read everything and anything. I like mystery novels, murder-mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, true life depictions, historical-based, .. oh, what don’t I like! I have just finished Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and I did like that too. The many references to 80s pop culture totally resonated..and yes, I really really like YA novels too! ( though I am a YA three times over..). Did enjoy Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic recently and will start on The Immortalists soon, right after I finish Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. So many books, so little time! Actually, I do multi-task reading too, since I have to prepare for the Camino, am also reading Hape Kerkeling’s I’m Off Then (very entertaining so far..), and doing some Spanish reading (not much, but getting more comprehensible- can order food and drinks in a cafe now!).
Bottomline is, I find out who I am every time I pick up a book…immersed in it, I ask myself questions all the time. Answers may not come, but thinking about my responses is the reward achieved.
I end with a quote from the incomparable Ursula Le Guin who passed away recently-‘My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.’ May we all be humans and fools.