I am in a troubled relationship with reading. I love it for the discoveries it can provide and I hate it for the struggles I many times have to overcome when I find a new book to read. The latter might sound harsh and definitely unusual from someone who has stored up a number of degrees over the years but I don’t believe that I should feel bad about it. Skills and abilities differ, the question is how you deal with the baggage you receive at birth. Pretending how learned I am by citing book titles is not my style. You need to feel books not to tick them off a so-called ‘must read’ list that often include popular but rather empty, meaningless books. You can read whatever you want if the book makes you feel good.

You can find countless articles about issues that the authors connect to the overuse of electric gadgets and the internet. One of these is the inability to read texts longer than a 140-character txt message. They say that there are so many stimuli in our lives that we cannot pay attention to a fat book anymore. This might be true to some but certainly not to me. I always had a certain level of daydreaming problem, and I can assure you the internet was nowhere near me when I was growing up. But I always did have hundreds of books on my disposal. And I did read them. Only I was slightly slower than let’s say my twin sister to whom it takes a couple of hours to finish a 300-page book. Annoying, isn’t she?

My imagination is very fertile and it must be an extremely engaging book to be able to keep my mind on the story. Otherwise it will wander along many other things so I have to return to the same lines several times and I still won’t have a clue what the book is about. I rarely give up on books though. Once I started I would struggle through them regardless of the quality and the topic. One can learn from anything, they say. I have finished a smaller library of books I believe but only rarely I find books that stay with me. One of them is the Roots by Alex Haley.  I most enjoy reading authors from non-European cultures because they add their own language, words and expressions to their writings making my brain work more, keeping my attention on the page longer. I especially like African writers for their unbelievably intelligent use of languages. In their case many times it is not enough to speak the European language given book was written in but you need a deeper knowledge of the culture they come from. It is also useful if you are familiar with a few expressions in their original languages. Yoruba and Swahili writers that I have most often read love to decorate their writings with words of their mother tongue, not speaking about African proverbs and sayings that might seem nonsense without knowing their context. The more you read of them the more you will understand of the stories for an African writer will never leave you without something to remember but it takes time and lots of learning to reach up to their level.

I was not trying to make a point with this post, I just gave up on a book last night that I started reading a few weeks ago and I still didn’t get through its first chapter. Letting go is not always easy but it helps you have a good night sleep at least.




4 thoughts on “Reading

  1. I can very well relate to your feelings, and I guess you hit the nail on the head whey you say it takes a good book to have one’s complete attention. Of course my mood can also heavily influence the way I’m reading. So I might read through a page before I notice that I have no idea about what my eyes went through, in case my mind is set on an issue that’s bothering me. And that can happen even with a story I find great. But when I like a story and my big imagination is set on fire by the words I swallow, that might be the very reason why I feel that I just need to read the lines again. Simply because I’m not sure anymore if the story is about how I interpret it, or it was my version of it.
    I usually read several books simultaneously as I might not feel able to go on with one when I can’t focus on it anymore for some reason. Then I start another one, and in case I feel like that I switch between them. I started to like short story collections in the recent years, and I do wonder if it does have to do with the overwhelming media and the jobs I had in the past few years, the rotating shifts, the problems I faced in my private life. But I still find novels of several hundred pages volume that I might finish rather fast when I have a quiet weekend.
    So I’m happy that I grew up in the age before internet, if that has to do with it, and definitely happy about that I’ve read so many books ever since I learned to do it, as that is experience no other media can substitute, and it stimulates the mind to work in a way that makes you feel alive more than any movies can do.
    I heard about a story written by an African author, Amos Tutuola because one of my favorite albums bears the same title – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I was lucky to get a double edition containing another story by Tutuola, The Palm-Wine Drinkard. That was one of the books I could hardly put down before I was ready with it. One of the reasons, beside the story, was the language used. I believe this is the one you refer to, and I did like it so much right because it shows a lot of the culture they have together with the fantastic events described. We can switch books next time 😉

    • Sure, I can borrow you a few books similar to Tutuola’s! Nigerian writers are extremely good at story telling but they are still not so widely known so I am happy to spread the word!

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