Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day the week and also the first Tuesday of July. I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For this week, the topic is about the Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Reading.
Whilst I am a “late bloomer” in terms of reading works of fiction, I have always been a voracious reader. At a young age, I started reading magazines, encyclopedias, and general knowledge books. I guess I have always been driven by an innate curiosity that goes beyond the glossy pages. However, I was ambivalent about reading novels. My mind was asking, “how can one possibly finish a book so thick?” I found the answer later on when I started my own journey through the world of literature. It has nearly been fifteen years since I completed my first novel and I can proudly say that I am still going strong. There are way too many good books out there to simply stop. Over the years, my appetite for reading has grown exponentially and here are some of the reasons why it remains one of my top hobbies.
It is a form of escape.
Perhaps the primary reason why I love reading is because it allows me to escape from the ugly realities of this world, even just for a short period of time. Reading is known to help reduce stress. Reading has a calming effect on me down and it also allows me forget everything that weighs on my mind. Yes, the moment maybe fleeting but don’t we all want to go to a place where we can forget about our anxieties, about the things that keep us on the edge of our seats. Reading has become a reprieve, a ready company that always has its arms wide open for an embrace. Once we get back to our realities, we somehow feel lighter, better.
Reading has taught me a lot about history.
Over the past few years, I have become more and more enamored with historical fiction. Not only are the stories interesting but they also give insights and details on events that have transpired. For instance, I have encountered several works about World War II lately. Some of these books, such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and Jose Iturbe’s The Librarian of Auschwitz, even made me experience how it is to be locked up in concentration camps such as Auschwitz.
Some of these works also taught me about the history of places that I wouldn’t have known had I not read these literary works. One prominent example is Han Kang’s Human Acts which taught me more about the 1980 student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea. The book also vividly depicted how the uprising’s impact rippled into the contemporary. More importantly, these works of historical fiction remind us of the lessons of the past, of the mistakes that we should all be avoiding. If one knows where to look, one can find many lessons embedded in the works of historical fiction.
The vicarious experience.
I know this is something that many a reader can relate to. While we read, we feel that the book we are reading is a reflection of our stories, or at least our experiences and the things we want to experience. These vicarious experiences rivets us, keeps us glued on the pages of the book. At countless points of the story, we gasp. “I’ve been there before. I know how it feels,” we keep muttering because that is the experience that reading brings us, a reflection of our own. It is always a pleasant surprise when we encounter moments in books that reminds us of the very same moments in our lives. It is always a wonder when the characters experience things we want to experience ourselves. We feel as though we are slowly being pulled into the pages and become part of the story. As much as we share the joys and tribulations of the characters, we also partake of their pains, their trials.
I gain new friends.
As a plot-centric reader, the story is always the highest point for me. Nevertheless, I always enjoy it when I get to meet new characters and, through them, I gain new friends, and new acquaintances. Yes, they are stuck in the pages but they become part of me, they become part of my story. Reading through Harry Potter, I feel like I have gained new friends in Harry, Ron and Hermione. I had the same experience when I was reading the Percy Jackson series. They are characters that easily catch the reader’s attention, and in a way, they become characters a reader wants to befriend. There are also characters I want to get to know better such as Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield, To Kill A Mockingbird’s Scout Finch, and The Shadow of the Wind’s Fermin. I find myself riveted in their growth and development. I become invested in their stories.
Outside of the book, reading (and consequently, blogging), has helped me gain new friends, at least virtually. Because of my interest in reading, I have become an active blogger. Through the blogging-verse, I get to meet like-minded individuals who I can exchange thoughts with.
I get to travel around the world.
Books transports me to places I never thought I would travel to. Take the past few months, for example. I have travelled to various parts of Africa, then Asia, and then South America. Right now, I am travelling around Japan. I am doing this without having to stand up from where I am seated. Haha. However, it is still my fervent desire to have my passport be stamped in these places.
Such is the wonder of reading. Books made me walk places I can only travel in my dream but I am still hoping to walk these places. I have walked wandered around the nooks of crannies of Barcelona through Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. I have also been all over Istanbul through the works of Elif Shafak and Orhan Pamuk. Anchee Min’s Empress Orchid guided me around Beijing’s Forbidden City. And even though I haven’t been to any of them, I feel like New York City, Paris, London, Tokyo, and Los Angeles are familiar places because of the books I have read.
I am becoming a global citizen.
I have, in a way, become a global citizen because of my interest in reading. Not only have I travelled around the world but I am also learning about the different colorful cultures that exist. I am learning about the diversity of our world, and in a way, I am gaining insights into what makes other people tick. My current read, Junichiro Tanizaki’s classical work, The Makioka Sisters, is brimming with details of Japanese culture that was prevalent pre-World War II. Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women, on the other hand, taught me about the haenyos of Jeju Island. On the background, the novel gave me rich details of the island’s history.
Another aspect that I enjoy about learning other cultures is that I am able to draw similarities between them and my own culture. When I was reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, I was reminded of some elements of Igorot and Filipino culture. It was actually uncanny that the book left an impression on me; of course, I am aware that it is a must-read but these similarities made the book even more memorable. I had the same experiences reading Latin American novels as well. It is maybe because Philippines, like most of South America, was once a Spanish colony. I am miles away from becoming a real citizen of the world but my reading journeys have brought me closer to learning about the world we live in and the diverse denizens that occupy it.
I enter new worlds.
One reason I love reading is that it makes me enter new worlds that are different from the world we are walking on. It can also be seen as an extension of reading’s function as a form of escapism. The easiest examples that I can think about are C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. These are also idyllic places that I want to explore. Now that I think of it, English writers have that natural ability of building worlds that are compelling, magical, and, well, mind-boggling. They also have that eccentricity of abbreviating their birth names, I observed (HAHA).
Through reading, I also get to enter subterranean worlds such as the worlds crafted by Haruki Murakami. His worlds are always complicated and are not to be taken on face value, I have learned. I have also entered Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea, and Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. Each book possesses a world that can absorb the reader.
An exercise of the brain.
Reading has many benefits. This is something that we all know of course. Definitely one of the biggest benefits of reading is that it stirs my imagination. Watching a scene is easy to the mind. There is no need to make the brain work doubly hard for everything has been set out before one’s eyes to view. However, reading is not as simple as watching a scene go by. One has to recreate the scene in one’s imagination. Because of this, one line can be interpreted a hundred different ways and it is one of the things that make it interesting. These differing opinions as to what a line or a scene means is fine because this is one of the goals of reading – make the brain work. Reading is, in a way, an exercise of the brain. And yes, reading also helps improve one’s concentration and focus.
One important benefit I have derived from reading is that it helped challenge my perspectives on different things about life in general. The different perspectives embedded by authors in their narratives helped to greatly improve my understanding of things. While there are some perspectives that don’t sit well with me, the mere fact these different perspectives challenged my personal views is enough to appreciate reading and its benefits.
Reading has enriched my vocabulary.
My vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds since I started to take reading seriously. During the first years of my reading journey, I acted like a sponge. I took note of every new word I encountered. Some of these words are “fathom”, “albeit”, “loquacious”, “inebriated”, “tumult”, “plethora”, “enigma”, “mundane”, and “sedentary”. The list is quite long, to be honest. Most of these are words that one don’t ordinarily encounter in daily conversations but I got to learn about them because of my reading habit. I have also incorporated these words, and many more, into my own vocabulary. Some have even become quirks of my own writing. For instance, I rarely use the phrase “I cannot understand”. In its stead, I have been using “I cannot fathom”. Albeit and absurd have also become prominent presences in my writing. One of the more recent works that I have been incorporating in my writing is “seminal”. Before that, “quotidian” has become a fixture of my writing. It has become my habit to substitute these new words I learn on their more common synonyms. I do this to make the words stick to my mind I guess.
Books keep me company.
At countless times, especially during the lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, I find myself lonely. Because of life as well, it has become quite a challenge finding friends to keep one company. During these times, I turn to reading and books to keep me warm on lonesome nights. They are my friends. At times, I refer to my books as my date for the night. Sometimes, satisfying our needs is not as complicated as it seems. We can keep it simple. For me, I just need a good book and a warm cup of coffee.
I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Tuesday post. How about you fellow reader? What makes you enjoy reading? I hope you can share them in the comment box. For now, have a great Tuesday and a great week ahead! Keep safe, always.