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[personal profile] laleia
I love to read.

When caught up in a good book, I can lose minutes, hours, days. People have argued that I don't read books, I devour them, plow through them so quickly I'm surely missing out on important details. But I can't help it. Once I start a good book, I simply can't put it down until I know how it ends.

I used to read more. Nowadays, so much of my reading is reading fanfic on the Internet, which is a similar but entirely different experience. Before the Internet, however, when I was younger, I read so much more than I do now. I read almost an unhealthy amount, which sounds strange - but my parents certainly believed so.

There was probably some part of my life where my parents encouraged me to read. Reading is, after all, a form of education and my parents (like most first-generation Asian American parents) prized education. I don't remember that part of my life.

For as long as I can remember, my parents discouraged me from reading. They thought I read too much, that I was unhealthily obsessed with reading. In retrospect, when I look back on my childhood, they may have been right. These are behaviors I engaged in before the age of 10:

- When I was younger, I used to sneak books into bed with me and read them in the dark (no wonder I have terrible eyesight). My mother made my bed once and found upwards of 10 books in my bed. This was back when I was reading picture books, so I must have been 5-7.
- Reading books in bed did not stop when I was older. I used to hide paperback books in my pillowcase when I heard my parents coming up the stairs.
- I used to read during recess instead of playing with the other kids. I'm sure I didn't ONLY do this ALL the time because I had friends and such, but this behavior concerned both my teachers and my parents.
- I used to read EVERYWHERE. I'd read in the bathroom (because the thought of spend 45 seconds in the bathroom with no book to entertain my mind with was horrible), and more dangerously, I'd read while walking. I'm pretty sure this is what convinced my parents my reading was unhealthy. I got in trouble because some other Chinese American parent driving by had seen me walking home from school while reading a book ... more specifically, I was crossing streets with my nose buried in a book. This is understandably dangerous behavior so when said parent reported this to my parents, my parents were understandably upset.

For these reasons and more, my parents tried at several points in my childhood (first time I can remember is middle school, perhaps sixth or seventh grade?) to ban me from reading. They said, "You're not allowed to read any more books."

Of course, I snuck books anyway. By that time, I wasn't relying on the public library so much as the school library, which I knew inside and out. Through high school, I continued to read everywhere, and developed somewhat of a reputation in high school for being "the girl who walks through the hallways reading".

When I look back, I do agree that perhaps I may have read a bit much, but I don't agree with my parents' attempts to ban me from reading. In part, this is because I find their motives suspect -- a repeating theme was "If you're going to read, you should at least be reading Good Books" where Good Books was defined as educational books. (At first, this included classics, but when I devoured them too easily, it pretty much restricted itself to nonfiction books, the genre I mostly avoided.)

I think that I learned a lot from all the reading I did (my vocabulary, for one, even if I largely misuse these days and sound pretentious without intending too) regardless of whether or not it was nonfiction and to be frank, nonfiction just never ... did it for me.

I love to read because I love the story. The style of writing is important, of course, but the story is what keeps me reading in the wee hours of the morning. And something I feel like I've heard from multiple sources, is that reading for plot is just Not Literature.

Literature (you know, the body of works where after you've read it, you can brag about it to people and sound like reading made you smarter) is about reading for thematic purposes, is about reading for the poetry of the writing style or the way the themes resonate with you or the subtlety with which the author alludes to contemporary events.

Whereas I read fiction entirely for plot. And when I reread, it's for plot. And when I do my selective rereads (where you go through and reread your favorite bits), it's again for plot. It's generally not until the fifth or sixth reread that I slow down and look at more than the plot, that I stop and admire the scenery, so to speak. And any book that earns that fifth or sixth reread is automatically on my Favorites list.

(Not permanently, though. I never thought it could happen, but the Mary Russell Holmes series that I used to unabashedly adore and reread umpteen times now ... are kind of blah to me. I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps part of it is because I admitted to myself that I think a teenaged girl meeting a 50-something-year-old Sherlock Holmes that she later marries is creepy.)

In any case, over the next month (?), I think I'm going to try to do a series of Book posts in which I essentially gush about my favorite books ever and why I like them and which parts I reread most often.

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laleia

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