A few weeks ago I took a two hour train ride to my parents. Unlike most people, I am always happy to travel by train. To me, a train ride means me time, also known as READING TIME. That day I was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. At the first train stop a man at about 50 years of age sat next to me. I immediately sensed that he was the type of man that is always looking for a conversation, I could tell by the way he tried to look at my book. I already prepared for him to ask what book I was reading (that happens a lot while reading in public, and I am always happy to answer the question), so when he finally started talking I was kind of stunned for a second: “Isn’t that a book for man you are reading?”
I am convinced dreams are as important as nightmares. Although dreams are more preferable, I think we do need an occasional nightmare for our dreams to remain valuable. When I was about eight years old I discovered both R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: both scared the hell out of me (although the fear I got from Goosebumps was on a whole other level, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appeared in many of my nightmares as well). Nevertheless I am also very grateful to have read both as a kid.
First, I would like to thank R.L. Stine for starting my endless love for the genre called horror, no doubt it started with his Goosebumps (and later on, Fear Street). I have read them all, and every single one of them gave me nightmares and numerous midnight cries. My parents always wondered why I kept reading them (luckily they never took the books away from me), and I myself do not have a clue either, except for the fact that they are also just a very good read. And still, I do this to myself: I know I get scared by scary stories, but I read (and watch horror movies) all the time. Recently, I have read and reread a lot of R.L. Stine’s work, every single one of them was as scary to me as it was eighteen years ago. It made me happy.
Although Voldermort was almost as scary to me as R.L. Stine’s Slappy the Dummy (in Dutch he is called ‘meneer van Houten’, which sounds way less scary!), J.K. Rowling is the one I would like to thank for my childhood dreams. My parents gave me my first Harry Potter book (which I do suspect to be an attempt to distract me from my Goosebumps collection, and additional nightmares). From the first page I was in love with Harry. I dreamed to be in Hogwarts all day, I have never hoped more for a fictional world to be real. I think all this dreaming made me a more creative person then I would have been otherwise: I created my own ‘wizarding world’ inside the one J.K. Rowling presented to me, a world that I could be part of. It started my own love for writing, and fed my love for reading.
I have read a lot of books that I enjoyed. I sometimes also encounter books that I did not enjoy at all. Now and then, I read books that I loved. Very occasionally, I read a book that changed me. This is the kind of book that gives you a very sad feeling when you are turning the last few pages, although you really want to know the ending, because it makes you feel like you are losing one of your best friends/ you are forced to step out of a world that became your home/ you are not ready to be in the ‘real’ world yet. I think my list of these kind of books contains about 30 to 50 books. The following four pieces of literature are definitely on that list, these are the ones that really got me thinking:
Note: Harry Potter is always the #1 on every single one of my lists, I think it is better for the sake of every one that I leave this one out. It will never stop appearing in each and everyone of my blogs once I start writing about Potter.
1. One, No One & One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello
I have to admit, it took me a while to start reading this one. From what I have heard, it seemed to me like it was just a cranky story written by a cranky Italian writer, about a sorehead old Italian man. I WAS SO WRONG. Well, I was kind of right, it is about a sorehead cranky Italian man, but I did truly love it. I finally started reading the first pages of the book when I realized I could really identify with the main character. Which was something I found to be quite remarkable, because I was identifying with a cranky Italian man who seemingly experienced some sort of mid-life crisis.
When I woke up this morning the sun was shining really bright, which made me instantly happy. So, I packed a book, some nice food and went to the park. Reading time!
When I got to the park, I instantly noticed that a lot of people were actually reading. And by a lot, I mean A LOT, like seventy percent of the people a lot. This is something that made me very happy, because lately all people read are other peoples social media statuses. Although it made me smile, it also made me kind of a creep. I´m way to curious about books and also other peoples reading habits, so I was (subconsciously) starring at other peoples books, eager to know what they were reading. Which took one really weird stare from a boy (who by the way was reading The Circle by Dave Eggers) for me to realize that it might creep the hell out of people. So I decided to focus on my own great piece of literature (which is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, not finished yet, but already love it).
After an hour or so, a mother and three young children sat next to me. Two of her children instantly ran to the playground. After ten minutes they were already sick of the swings and slides, so their mother gave them her iPhone to play games and not bother her while getting a tan. The third kid, on the other hand, starts reading a book (sadly, I could not see which book it was). After half an hour the mother suddenly stood up and grabbed the book out of the girls hands, yelling (in Dutch): “You have read enough for today. Go and play with your brothers, NOW!” I was stunned. Like, I was pretty sure I didn’t hear that correctly. I mean, I understand it is important for a kid to play with other kids. But, this mother stopped her daughter from reading a book, so she can play on an iPhone with her brothers. I would have completely understood her position if she had grabbed the tablet as well, and sent all three of them to the playground. I had to watch the girl go from smiling at her book to reluctantly watch her brothers play a game on a phone. It broke my heart.
As a comparative literature student and a self-proclaimed book-nerd, I often find myself in situations and conversations with people who do not like to read (at all). These conversation tend to range from very serious to hilarious, and I am sure many of you can relate to these type of situation. I would like to share and take a look in the world of ‘a reader’, and share one of my stories every week.
This week’s story outlines a situation that I have encountered many times – in many forms.
When in public, – a social event, at work, etc. -, meeting new people, one of the first questions that almost always arises is: “What do you study?” When I first started studying I was always thrilled to answer that I am a comparative literature student. I thought it was cool, something few people (at least in my country – the Netherlands) did. That has changed, A LOT. Lately, I catch myself literally shuddering when someone (especially people who never dare to touch a book) ‘pops the question’. Don’t get me wrong, I like that people try to be interested in something that they do not care for. But most of the time they don’t even try to hide it, which leaves the rest of the conversation hanging between really awkward and predictable. Nine out of ten times this is how the conversation continues:
Me: I study comparative literature.
(10 second silence)
Collocutor: So, do you have to read a lot of books?
Me: Yes, I read at least three books a week.
(10 seconds of shock)
Collocutor: THREE BOOKS A WEEK? That is a lot. Do you still have time to do things you like?
Me: Yes, but reading is one of them.
(At this point most of the people forget they were acting interested. Also, they have reached a level beyond shock. It might be that they just realized for the first time that some people actually like to read books)
Collocutor: I don’t get how one can like reading, it’s the most boring thing. I never read. Well, sometimes when I am on vacation I do.
(a few seconds of silence – probably trying to remember the title of one of the two books he/she once read. – I do like to learn about other peoples reads, but in this type of conversations this is almost always the worst point, by far)
Collocutor: I did read (this can be any type of book, but most of the time they name some kind of Fantasy book I have never heard of.) once. It was great! Did you read it?
Me: No, sorry, never heard of it. But If you name me the author I can l maybe look it up (If it really is great, I would not want to miss it!)
(Stares a few seconds in true horror)
Collocutor: You don’t know it!? I thought you studied literature. How can you not know it!?
At this point I am almost upset, which is in some way also targeted on my own short commings as a human: a human life is simply not long enough to read all books ever written or even all the books on my (never ending) to-read list (oh, how I wish I could read them all). And I am sure many other readers once came to this conclusion. Maybe I should keep in mind that it is not something that has crossed a non-readers mind. So, for once and for all: no! I did not read your favorite book, I did not read A LOT OF BOOKS. Thanks for asking.