You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.
Me I love to read! That’s it. That’s the post.
Lol. On the real though, I have loved reading for as long as I have been able to do so. I started with those tiny ass fairytale books that are probably around 20 pages long before moving on to Secret Seven and Famous Five. With time I was reading Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys (I lived for those crossovers) and everything Sweet Valley, from Kids to University (though High was my favourite). By the time I was 12 I had moved on to big girl books with Nothing Lasts Forever by Sidney Sheldon being the first adult book I read.
I have written about my bibliophilia a couple of times on the blog so I will try not to repeat myself unless I cannot help it.
Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
During one of my therapy sessions in 2017 I mentioned to my therapist that I love to read and have loved it ever since I was a wee little lass. She then revealed that reading is a form of escape and at first I disputed it. Isn’t binge-watching a series a form of escape too? But I did some research on the subject and of course my therapist was right. Books let us escape the limits of time and space. As Stephen King said, “books are a uniquely portable magic.” More often than not you will find that people who have been avid readers all their lives started reading to escape painful situations in their childhood that their brains were not developed enough to process. I have said before that I grew up in a very violent household so that is one of the things I was reading to escape.
Emily May, another avid reader from a young age, had this to say about books in her review of (Don’t) Call Me Crazy:
I love that David Mitchell quote because yes it is true that books do not offer real escape. After all, you cannot read any single book forever. Either you end up finishing it or you need to put it down and get back to real life. But for a few blissful minutes/hours you get to completely slip into another world and enjoy some much needed reprieve from your troubles in the real world.
I love books, by the way, way more than movies. Movies tell you what to think. A good book lets you choose a few thoughts for yourself. Movies show you the pink house. A good book tells you there’s a pink house and lets you paint some of the finishing touches, maybe choose the roof style, park your own car out front. My imagination has always topped anything a movie could come up with. Case in point, those darned Harry Potter movies. That was so not what that part-Veela-chick, Fleur Delacour, looked like.
Karen Marie Moning, Darkfever
Guise! The book is always better than the movie. Always.
Well, almost always. A few exceptions spring to mind, Nicholas Sparks anyone? But it is a scientifically proven fact that 99.9% of the time the book is better than the movie. Lol. I understand that it is impossible to capture everything in a movie as it was written in the book, but sometimes it is like filmmakers do not even try.
I could go on and on and on and on (you get it) about this point but that quote from Ms. Moning sums it up perfectly. Which is why I am looking forward to reading the concluding books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series as the final season of Game of Thrones did not do the storyline justice. Kuna venye Dany’s descent into madness can only be told well in the books as George R.R. Martin will have hundreds of pages to tell the tale. The series rushed things so much with so many characters and as a result so many things made zero sense. For example, in one episode Dany is pissed that Jon is no longer DTF, in the next she is (rightly) fuming about Missandei’s murder then before you know it she is all fuck dem bells and is burning all of King’s Landing … tupeleke pole pole tafadhali.
Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.
Joyce Carol Oates
I have learnt empathy from reading as books really allow you to get into a character’s head and understand their point of view even if you do not agree with it.
It is important to try and understand the thoughts and feelings of others, whether you agree with them or not. You also do not need to have shared experiences with someone in order to feel and display empathy. I cannot say this enough but if there is something I wish people had more of in this world it is empathy. Especially now with the current socio-political climate prevailing in the world. Just imagine what would happen if everyone cared? If we celebrated what connects us rather than what divides us. The number of people denied equal opportunity by politics, sexism and archaic cultural practices would be practically non-existent.
According to Inc. there are three different types of empathy:
- Cognitive empathy is the ability to understand how a person feels and what they might be thinking. Cognitive empathy makes us better communicators, because it helps us relay information in a way that best reaches the other person.
- Emotional empathy (also known as affective empathy) is the ability to share the feelings of another person. Some have described it as “your pain in my heart.” This type of empathy helps you build emotional connections with others.
- Compassionate empathy (also known as empathic concern) goes beyond simply understanding others and sharing their feelings: it actually moves us to take action, to help however we can.
While I have always had emotional empathy, reading is what taught me cognitive empathy. Books are laden with fleeting looks, shared glances and a whole host of other nonverbal communication that have taught me to read between the lines IRL. I have honed this skill with every book I read and now I confidently say that my intuition is my superpower.
Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.
I have 58 unread novels on my bookshelf 😐 and I blame Goodreads and the book vendors in the CBD who sell secondhand books for KES 100 (approximately $1). I joined Goodreads in April 2015 and I was obsessed with it as I spent an obscene amount of time exploring the site that year. As a result my ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) shelf on Goodreads has 187 books, so if you combine that with my IRL bookshelf I have 245 books I would like to read.
Clearly I see it, I like it, I add it to my Goodreads TBR shelf, I buy it ni form. Will I get through all those books? Probably. Probably not. I am betting on the latter though unless I stop buying new books until I read all the ones presently on my bookshelf. But try as I may I cannot go to the CBD without seeing what the book vendors have to offer. Even if I only have five minutes to spare I will quickly glance through and see if there is anything I have been looking out for, or if something tickles my fancy. I have bought countless random books by authors I have never heard of because I think the cover art is dope, the title is interesting or it says “Oprah’s Book Club” on the cover. And can you really blame me because at KES 100 the bibliophile I am has nothing to lose.
Case in point my current read that I bought because it was KES 100, has an interesting cover and I love vampires.
Sometimes my random buys pan out and I discover a new author I enjoy, other times not so much. But that is okay because I am building my library one book at a time and it is my hope that at least one of my future twin girls is a bibliophile as well.
I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
First of all, I agree with Mark Twain that Pride and Prejudice sucks major balls. Lol. I read it as part of my 2015 Reading Challenge and Lawd it was a struggle!!
Second, this is why I say it is important to read books that you enjoy. From time to time I get asked about my reading habits and it amazes people that I am able to read 30+ books a year. While 30+ books a year is nothing to scoff at, people like Emily May are currently on book 112/150.
So yes I read a lot, but there are a shitload of people outchea reading well over 200 books a year. In fact, Emily has consistently read over 200 books a year ever since she started the Reading Challenge in 2011.
So back to my measly 30+ books. Lol. In order for you to read a lot you need to build your reading muscle and the only way to do that is to read consistently. That sounds catch-22ish but the only way to read consistently is to read books you enjoy. Sometimes people get caught up reading what they think they ought to be reading, and then three months later they are still on page 69 of the same book 😐
Yes the classics are important, as well as contemporary hard-hitting works of fiction like A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, but build your reading muscle first before attempting to read such heavyweights. It is the same way I cannot join a gym today and tomorrow I am doing lunges with 20 kg dumbbells. The same way it takes time to build strength in your body’s muscles is the same way it takes time to build your reading muscle.
Also, life is too short to read books you do not enjoy. Which is why I proudly have a ‘Did Not Finish’ (DNF) shelf on Goodreads that currently has five books.
I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.
In Q2 of this year Vitabu Vyetu, an organisation that improves literacy levels for children aged 3-13 from the urban slums through their tailor-made reading programs, put out a call to action for volunteers and this is the application I sent in.
In what will come as a surprise to no one, following that bomb ass application I was called for an oral interview and passed. But sadly I had to turn the opportunity down as I am only available on weekends and the logistics of getting to the centre that is open on Saturdays proved to be impossible. And I did not want to start something I could not see through as at the end of the day it would be the children to suffer.
But I am still down to volunteer and the minute they open a Saturday centre in Kibera or anywhere else closer to Ngong Road I will be the first one to sign up. I have said many times before that I want to continue my mum’s legacy and fight for women economic empowerment and the education of young children. While I have the best role model ever to borrow from and build on (RIP JS), I also feel that I need to do things my way because this journey is my own. And teaching children to read, thus introducing them to a lifetime of the magic of books, is as my own way as it can get.