Me as a reader and the reading habits: are we on time, or do we miss the train?
Although this is a website and a blog about my books and my writing process, we should never forget that a writer always starts his journey as a reader.
To go back to my early years as a reader, I have to revive the memory that, before the age of twelve, I was someone who read infrequently. Although I was surrounded by books, I think I had an inferiority complex in relation to words, which was quite evident by the difficulties I showed in reading and writing. It was not an easy process, the transition to a situation where I already felt comfortable with letters. And, although I acquired reading habits after childhood, the truth is that this did not prevent me from “catching the train on time”.
We are all very worried about “not missing the train” in all areas of life. This permanent yearning does not allow us to see that with will, almost anything is possible and that childhood, despite being a crucial phase in our evolution, is not our living testament.
My journey in reading and my learning
It was a hot summer, and it reminded me of being on my bunk, when I started thinking about all the Jules Verne books that my father had bought for us, many years ago. I don’t know, even today, what made me take the decision to start reading one of those several volumes, and I confess, that after the first few pages, I wanted to give up.
I resisted, to the very end, to give up reading the book, and I’m glad I did, because it was the feeling of conquest and confidence I gained from that moment, that made me open my heart to books. From this point on, I never stopped. I started demanding more and more of myself, and after a few years, I was an assiduous and compulsive reader, who had already read some classics, like “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck.
My vocabulary had expanded to a degree I never thought possible. I realised that with these new reading habits I had become more fluent in writing and could better express my feelings. This was a difficulty I had both in writing and speaking. From a cognitive point of view, I felt I was better able to deduce certain ideas, and I gained more insight.
Reading is a good thing. In fact, it’s very good, and I’m speaking from personal experience. That is why it is so important to talk to children about books, because even if a passion for words does not come naturally, there is a much greater chance that they will pick up a book later on.
A book is an instrument of power. It is something with which we can redesign our creativity, our insight, our culture and our sensitivity, towards others and towards the world. With books, we develop a broad critical spirit, and in the future, we will hardly accept made-up ideas that do not fit within our mental standards. All this is of incalculable value.
My preferences as a Reader
Like any reader, my literary preferences have changed over the years, which is quite natural. It is also natural – and I have read and heard about this phenomenon – that after a long period of reading, we feel the need to stop, with this repeated routine, at least for a few years. All this is normal and salutary. It is part of our evolution as readers
Like everyone else, I started reading a lot of novels. Fiction stories, Isabel Allende’s books and some classics, were among my favourite bets. I learned a lot from books when I had no one else beside me to teach me, and for that I am eternally grateful. I liked books in which the heroines were women, and gradually I absorbed the fantasy texts, from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” collection.
This article does not do justice, to all the beautiful and fantastic books I read, until I entered college. I have forgotten the names of some, but I know that, in one way or another, they all contributed to me becoming the person I am today.
Only years later, after reading a small book of chronicles written by a Portuguese journalist, I returned to reading again, with redoubled energy. I realised that, at a different stage of life, I now needed to absorb the History of the World. To understand what happened before us, and what the cultural references of our society were. I really enjoyed reading “The Templars”, written by historian Dan Jones. From here followed the readings of some biographies, including of the great Portuguese writer, “Eça de Queirós”, by Maria Filomena Mónica.
I am not elitist, nor partisan, in my readings. I read everything from detective, historical, entertainment, and of course, spiritual and collective reflection texts (I’m thinking of the book “The Civilisation of Spectacle” by Mario Vargas Llosa).
When we dive deeply into reading, we then realise how many books there are in this world. It is impossible to read them all, but we can, and should, make our reading list for the year; this way, we can have an idea of how many books we can read in 12 months. This is a suggestion I leave for all those who sometimes feel lost with the millions of books published in this world. The “classics” should be part of our education, but it is even more important to pick them up when we already have some life experience so that we can understand the cultural structures that emerge from our current experiences. I am too, still in the process of creating that list, for myself.
I am really coming to the end of my article, but much remains to be said.
Don’t forget to give your children a book on their birthdays and on the days when we celebrate the Book. One day, that book will help them much more than we can ever imagine.