A guest post by Nurfatehah Shamsul
I like to think that I’m a fickle reader and an even more fickle buyer, but I know that’s a lie. I say to myself (and to others) that I won’t pick up a book and purchase it just because everyone and their grandmother has read it. But in reality, I read Fifty Shades of Grey because it bothered me that I wasn’t in the loop. I have even paid for books before I read the synopses because I liked a character’s name. Here is a list of other questionable justifications for book purchases I have made so far:
1. It has a good title: The temptation to own a beautifully-named book is strong and fuels the curiosity for you to know more of what lays inside. Books I had bought purely for the name include The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, Song Yet Sung by James McBride, and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thankfully, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Thirteen Reasons Why turned out to be really good books. I have yet to read Song Yet Sung. I’ll get there. One day…
2. A blogger I follow said it was the best book they have ever read: When I was in Form 5, I saw my homeroom teacher wrote ‘easily influenced’ in my student file by “accident”. She smiled knowingly when I protested and insisted that wasn’t the case. After three years, I now concede defeat. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire was bought because a post on my Tumblr dashboard sang praises to the series. I don’t remember who the blogger was, nor did I read the book’s synopsis, but a click on the ‘Purchase’ button meant that it was coming to my door steps soon. Another book was Please Take Care of Mother by Shin Kyung Suk. The latter made me cringe because of the awkward translation and the approach the writer had taken at trying too hard to make the audience cry. Luckily, the Mistborn series ended up as one my favourite books and has become my quality benchmark against other books of the high fantasy genre. Just goes to show: you can’t trust everyone on the internet, but others have pretty good judgements too.
It’s easy for B:READ to write about “fostering a stronger reading culture” in Brunei, right? The committee has managed to establish a presence and keep ourselves together for two years. We organise events, store hundreds of books, and keep talking to you guys on our Bookswap group on Facebook. Isn’t this what we do? We’re adding on to the noble work of the overworked teachers and underpaid librarians of the country.
That said, we have our limitations. Our schedules are not free; our resources are not bottomless. Our to-do list and mind maps of ideas will never be completely achieved. In truth, we could use your help in doing something quite simple to encourage a stronger reading culture – by ensuring there is a reading culture at all.
We know that you’re reading. You log into GoodReads regularly and can’t resist popping by the bookstore when you’re at a shopping mall. But do you have someone to talk to about reading? It’s completely okay to enjoy reading alone or without a community surrounding your hobby, but if you’ve never tried otherwise, we invite you to consider opening up the people around you to reading.
You don’t need to become a full-time reading evangelist. Where reading may otherwise be viewed as an outdated, anti-social or “smartypants” activity, let’s make reading more “normal” in Brunei:
1. Don’t be shy or embarrassed about enjoying reading
You don’t have to hide your inner bookworm!
- If a friend asks you what you did on the weekend, and you spent a whole Sunday reading, don’t apologise about being “boring” – tell them what was great about the book!
- Don’t worry about going into a crowded cafe alone and planning to spend your time quietly reading. Heck, cafes aren’t the only eateries where you can read. Don’t worry about bringing a book into a fast food restaurant or a food court. If you’re eating alone, you have the choice on how to pass the time; if you can do it by staring out the window, or browsing Instagram on your mobile phone, why not read a good book?
- When a good friend is going abroad and has asked if you want anything, “a bestselling thriller from a book shop” is a valid request. Continue reading
What book got you into reading?
It would have to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. It was a required reading for Literature class in college. I love magic realism. After reading it, I was led to some of his books like “Of Love and Other Demons” and “Love In the Time of Cholera”. Reading has become extensive since then. With friends who are literary buffs too, I was led to authors of the same genre, South American writers such as Laura Esquivel “Like Water For Chocolate”, Isabelle Allende then of course there are the poets Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda, of whose poetry were like a favorite past time.
Was it just magic realism genre that got you into reading?
I scanned through my old Multiply account and found out the books that I’ve read in college included Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Wurther”, Ranier Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”, John Fowles’ “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. Judging from the selection of books, I guess you can dub me a romantic.
How did you get into reading?
When I was in Primary 6, a friend of mine, DK Ainil, constantly urged me to read. We were best friends, and according to her we should have the same hobby. I used to hate her for that as it felt like she was trying to impose her hobby on me. One of the things she did to fish for my attention and curiosity was to constantly give me free books to read. I still remember being forced to read a silver covered book, with some sort of greenish and gooey-looking caption ‘Goosebumps’ emblazoned on it. Apparently, as put by Ainil, ‘Goosebumps is the current thing’ at that time. Thus began my love of reading. It didn’t start off well – I had loads of nauseated moments trying to decipher some ‘alien’ words when I first started, but somehow that didn’t stop me from reading. Initially, it was largely because of my fear of ruining my friendship with Ainil, but now, I can argue that I’ve developed my love of reading because of my own efforts.
From Goosebumps, where did you progress afterwards?
What exposed you to reading humour?
As a kid, I used to read those children’s joke books. I liked puns, even from an early age. Being one of the few people in my class who appreciated jokes in English (I went to a school where English literacy is quite low), I ended up always calling my cousin to tell these jokes. She lived in USA for a while, and as a kid I was excited to have someone to tell these jokes to. Looking back on it, she must have found me so obnoxious.