Be prepared for verbal diarrhea. This is what happens when I write about one of my passions. I wrote this for an assignment and had to control myself before I wrote a 3000-word essay on it when it was only meant to be a reflection.
I love reading for leisure. I read many genres but my favourite genres have to be the romance genre and the thrillers. It was fun to trace my reading history and look at how I have progressed as a reader in this exercise. Of course, I had help from Bookjetty.com, a useful site for checking availability in the public library and keeping track of titles I have read. Let’s begin!
I started reading actively in late 1997 when I was in Primary 1. I had access to only fairy tales and Enid Blyton short stories owned by my classmates. In Primary 3, I finally got a library card and proceeded to make up for my earlier deprival. I read countless books from series such as Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, The Naughtiest Girl, Fantastic Five. I read Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. I read abridged versions of classics such as Robinson Crusoe, Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I read books by Roald Dahl. The list goes on. I loved reading so much that I never had enough time to finish reading what I wanted and carried books around with me everywhere and even read them under the table during lessons.
I finally got around to reading Harry Potter in Primary 5, after all the hype from the movie had died down somewhat. As a result of that, I began reading paranormal themed books from the Young Adult shelves such as the Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also read other paranormal/thriller series such as Elizabeth Chandler’s Dark Secrets series and Violet Eyes and Silver Eyes by Nicole Luiken. Luiken’s novels introduced me to the world of speculative, dystopian fiction, which never failed to disappoint me, even when I don’t actively seek out novels in this genre.
By the time I was in secondary school, I grew tired of the books on the Young Adult shelves. I began to gradually move on to books on the Adult section shelves. I started reading romance novels – contemporary and historical – and thrillers, moving from author to author. From the school library I picked up the Anne of the Green Gables series, the Chalet School series, and Julian May’s Diamond Mask. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn for literature class in Secondary 2 but never read it again after the year ended. This was unusual since I have a tendency to re-read books that I own. Looking back, I realised that it must be because I saw it as a school text.
I read more literary texts in JC since I was taking H2 Literature in English then. I had gained a better though rather superficial appreciation for literature then. The syllabus took me through Dickens’ Great Expectations, Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Shakespeare’s Othello and King Lear. Meanwhile, outside of school, I continued to read the romance novels and thrillers that I am still reading today. I still saw them as separate domains – one was reading for school, another was reading for leisure.
In university, I took a couple of modules which exposed me to texts such as J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Jeannette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Luigi Pirandello ‘s Six Characters in Search of an Author, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest. University broadened my worldview and helped me appreciate these literary texts more fully – something I was unable to do in JC. However, I still had a tendency to read such texts deliberately, looking out for themes and literary devices. This hampered my enjoyment of the texts and I continued to see reading literary texts as reading for school. I never read them again after the module ended. On the other hand, for books that I read for leisure, I often re-read them. Reading for leisure was a treat during semester breaks – I read without deliberation but critical awareness still creeps in. This was especially obvious for novels that I was re-reading. However, it did not affect my enjoyment of the books.
For a long time, I always saw reading for school and reading for leisure as two separate things. I realised that it does not always have to be so during my Enhanced School Experience. My CT and I had selected an extract from Survivor in Death, a novel from my favourite thriller series by J.D. Robb, for a lesson on unseen prose. It was fun and exciting to be using a text that I love and I was familiar with. Using that extract actually allowed me to see why I enjoyed that particular series so much. I realised then that there was no need for to draw a line between reading for leisure and reading for school/work.
Reading The Giver by Lois Lowry for my micro-teaching session was also rather enlightening. Since it was short, I chose to read it for leisure without being overly concerned about literary devices and themes first before analysing it. To my surprise, I enjoyed the story. I know that I need more exposure to the classics and the canons as a literature teacher but had always felt inertia in reading them. Hopefully, by reading these texts for leisure first with some unavoidable critical awareness before analysing them, I would be able to overcome this inertia.