How I Began to Read (Part II)

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I talked about my early childhood reading influences in a previous post. Let me pick up from where I had left off.

I discovered many new authors between Classes X and XII. I made extensive use of my school library and my social network to source books. Social media was yet to invade my life; I had just discovered Microsoft Word and the joys of typing out letters on a computer. I had plenty of time and motivation to exercise my social skills in real life to beg, borrow, or steal books.

My parents believed that if a book (fiction) was available at the library, it was a waste of money to buy it. I’ve heard it so often that I’ve grown to believe it, too.

Agatha Christie entered my life at around this time. Now, I’d already worked my way through Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries and I realized that I enjoyed piecing together clues to try and beat the detective at solving the mystery. Christie’s stories had less action in comparison but were equally enjoyable.

Shiv Khera’s motivational books had become popular at the time. My mother found it so useful that she bought a copy for herself and quoted from it at any occasion.

College

I moved to a different city to pursue my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. I read very few books during those five years.

The challenge of living on my own for the first time combined with new classes, new friends, and a new experience left me with little time to read. To make matters worse, the college library was mostly stocked with reference books.

The few fiction and nonfiction titles available were always lent out to someone or the other. However, I was able to find and read Sudha Murthy and R. K. Narayan. I also found a book by William Dalrymple and I was mesmerized by the minute details in his works.

I discovered another of my favorite authors — Robin Cook — while in college. I have a biology background so Cook’s medical thrillers were all the more interesting.

I’m ashamed to say that I began to scour the city’s footpaths for pirated books to make up for the deficient library. I couldn’t afford to buy as many books as I wanted, even though I picked up a lot of second-hand books on rent.

Being poor doesn’t excuse my behavior but I thought I’ll explain why I did what I did. However, I found that pirated books often had missing pages that ruined the reading experience so I stopped buying them soon after. In fact, I stopped reading books more or less.

Work

By the time I completed my education, the charms of the college life and the city had dulled. I was ready for something new. I worked a few jobs in the first few years after college, trying to get a sense of what sort of work excited me.

Now I had money to spare and I could buy books. My favorite pastime was browsing the city’s bookshops. I still preferred to rent second-hand books, mostly because I did not re-read books and I did not have space to store books in my PG accommodation. When I found a book I really liked, I would buy a copy.

I had heard of e-books but was not big on the concept. I didn’t want to read on my laptop. Books were something you held in your hands, touched and smelled as much as read and experienced.

I washed away the stresses of the day by absorbing myself in Sidney Sheldon, Barbara Cartland, Arthur Hailey, John Grisham, David Baldacci, and other American thriller writers.

I also chanced upon Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I enjoyed the simplistic writing style so much that I vowed to buy the entire set when I had a home of my own. Today, I am well on my way to building up a respectable Alexander McCall Smith collection.

I tried to read Amitav Ghosh and Paulo Coelho but I didn’t find their works gripping enough. Except for 11 Minutes, I have not been able to wrap my head around any of Coelho’s works.

Down the Years

There are probably many more authors I’ve read, enjoyed, and completely forgotten about. I have a poor memory when it comes to names of authors and plots of stories.

Philippa Gregory made it to my list of favorite historical fiction authors. I read all the Game of Thrones books like it was an addiction.

I was encouraged by a friend to read Harry Potter but till date, I’ve not been able to bring myself to pick up the books. They simply don’t interest me.

Over time, I’ve gravitated towards regency romances, historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers. These are my go-to genres.

When I received a Kindle as a gift, I discovered that e-books cost much less than their paperback versions. It took some getting used to but once I fell into the habit of carrying my Kindle around everywhere, I never looked back.

When my son was born, the Kindle was a boon. I couldn’t read during the day because he wanted me to play with him all the time. The only time I got to read was after he fell asleep. The sleepless nights were bearable because I had my Kindle.

2020 – The Pandemic Year

In 2020, as the world slowed down due to the pandemic, I found out about Advanced Review Copies (ARC) and NetGalley. I was also approached by Reedsy Discovery to review indie books on their platform. (I was their Top Reviewer 2020).

Thus began my initiation into the book community on social media.

I had a blog where I reviewed books for a publishing services company called Literoma. I found other book reviewers on Twitter to follow and exchange views. Soon, I began to participate in blog tours for companies like Rachel’s Random Resources. I began to work on my blog to design it better and add reviews regularly.

I read 150 books in 2020, the highest number of books I’ve ever read in a year. And I began to experiment with new genres, some I hadn’t even heard about like middle-grade and new adult.

2021

I had been following Blogchatter on Twitter since 2019 but I was scared to engage because I worry too much about what people will think of me. But once I realized I could share my book reviews with a wider audience, I signed up.

By some miracle, I was named one of the Top Bloggers of Feb 21. I also discovered a whole host of bloggers whose work interested me.

Since then, I check the Blogchatter website a few times a week and participate in the never-ending activities on Twitter whenever I can.

My reading volume has dipped again as I’ve picked up more freelance work. But I’ve set a new goal for myself – to read more nonfiction.

So far, I have not read much nonfiction. Self-help books bore me. Probably, I haven’t come across the right books to hold my interest.

Currently, I’m reading three nonfiction books:

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • The Psychology of Money
  • Upstream by Dan Heath

I’ve written an entire essay on how I read. But does reading and talking about books ever stop?


(This post is for Blogchatter Half Marathon Aug ’21.)

7 comments on “How I Began to Read (Part II)”

  1. I too started reading as a student. My father had a good personal collection. Eventually I discovered the Ernakulam Public library which was a three-storey building with all the books I wanted.

  2. Nice to know that you are still following your passion of reading and reviewing books.
    Working on our passion gives us a sense of happiness and fulfillment.
    150 books in a year!!! That’s amazing.

  3. My goodness!! I’m your fan now!! 150 books in a year? How? Congratulations!!! And, thanks for packing this post with lots of information. By the way, I follow you on Insta and I love the way you pack a lot of stuff in little space….keep rocking!!

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