08 August 2011

Books et al.

I've always been a voracious reader. Don't you just love that collocation, 'voracious reader'? It literally means that you eat books. And that is exactly what I did. I ate them, devoured them. From a very early age, I read and read and read. Voraciously, insatiably, unremittingly. Now, I would also add, indiscriminately. As a child, I read everything I could lay my hands on. (Which, as you can imagine, meant that I read quite a few books I couldn't understand or fully appreciate.)

When I now think about my childhood reading, I see myself in the countryside, at my grandparents' place in the summer. I'd take a book and head off into their huge garden, find myself a spot under a tree (it was too hot in the attic) and spend hours there, lounging in the hot, motionless silence of summer afternoons. I'd get up and pick a pear or go and gorge myself on raspberries. Idyllic is the word that comes to mind and, although my grandparents' house did not have manicured lawns, rose gardens or breathtaking views, this picture always reminds me of English countryside. Must be all the 19th-century novels I read there :)

I've also kept a reading journal. Since 1985. No profound thoughts or enlightened observations there, just a list of books I've read. Ordered chronologically, all 20-odd years of my reading. The first entry is Alexander Belyayev's KEZ Star (Zvezda Kec in Serbian translation), a forgotten classic of Soviet children's science fiction. It seems unbelievable that it was a prescribed school text only 25 years ago!

And I've filled several notebooks into which I copied sentences and passages I liked, sometimes whole pages. I still do that. It may seem pointless nowadays, with all the online collections of all possible quotations from all imaginable books, but I find it difficult to connect to these. These are just heaps of texts, other people's texts, bland, expressionless, meaningless to me. Not my quotations.

These days I read much less. Partly because of all the work-related reading, partly because I have far less time to waste away under a pear tree than when I was 13. But the addiction is still with me. I don't go anywhere without a book, I can't go to sleep if I don't read at least half a page. I'm usually too tired to read more than that anyway, but that's a story for a different kind of post. This year I've set myself a challenge, over at Goodreads, to read 20 books. Not many, but I'm not counting work-related literature. And I'm 2 books ahead already, which I consider to be quite an achievement, as one of them is Murakami's 600+ page The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and another A. S. Byatt's 500+ page Possession. Not that sheer volume matters, but neither of them is exactly a breeze to read.

Now, if you've borne with me this far reading this pictureless post, tell me something about your reading habits. I won't ask you what kind of books you like or who your favourite author is (I've always hated these two questions!). Instead, tell me when and where you like to read and how your reading habits have changed over time.


  1. Ne mogu da verujem!Imamo vrlo sličnu istoriju čitanja, počevši od onog neselektivnog čitanja svega i svačega, i ja vodim dnevnik čitanja (prvu svesku u kojoj sam beležila šta sam pročitala sam izgubila na moju ogromnu žalost), beležim citate i to otprilike kao i ti od sredine osamdesetih godina:))) Jedino što sam ja bila nešto starija kada sam sve to započela.
    Mislim, stvarno....

  2. @ bensedin art: što Kris reče, copy-paste :)

  3. It must be so amazing to look back through your journal at all the books you read - which ones you remember vividly, and which you forgot!! I used to read all day too, swimming in fiction all of the time. Then about 10 years ago I suddenly couldn't read fiction At All. Maybe one supremely good book a year, one or two more if I'd read and loved them already - the rest of the time, I was swimming in nonfiction. I don't know why this happened but I sure am learning a lot! not least, the artistry that goes into making nonfiction just as absorbing and magical as everything I'd read before.

  4. Sad mi je žao što i ja nisam vodila dnevnik čitanja ...
    moje čitalačke navade su vrlo ciklične, ima dana kada ne ispuštam knjigu iz ruku, onda napravim pauze. Ponekad se zakačim za jednog autora, pa tražim sve što je ikada napisao, a ponekad radi toga ostanem razočarana, recimo slučaj sa španjolskim Zafonom. Naprotiv, Petterson kao autor krimića mi je jako dobro "sjeo" i kad naiđem kupujem.
    Volim čiste stranice, volim miris tiska na knjigama ... radi toga ne volim knjige iz knjižnica; neka mi oproste knjižničari, ali kada dobijem u ruke prljavu i musavu knjigu, s flekovima od masti i kajgane prođe me volja primiti ju u ruke.
    Volim site "what should I read next?" tamo ukucam ono što mi se svidjelo i onda oni preporuče što bi mi se još moglo dopasti.

  5. What a nice coincidence with this post: http://turtlegirl76.com/2011/08/08/before-i-was-a-knitter/ - it actually describes my reading habits quite accurately, apart from the last bit with the e-reader (I don't have one and don't really want one, but I do miss the reading)...

  6. @ Mary Keenan: I know some people who have experienced the same feeling about fiction as you. I enjoy an occasional non-fiction book but still like fiction better as my bed-time literature.

    @ Roman Tales: Razumem to sa knjigama, znam mnoge ljude koji ne mogu da čitaju knjige iz biblioteke iz upravo istih razloga. A znam i neke koji čak neće kupiti knjigu u knjižari ako su je drugi ljudi dirali pre njih!

    @ fridica. Indeed! Thanks for the link :) I have mixed feelings about e-readers. I don't like reading from a screen, at least not fiction, so I suppose it's not for me and yet, I quite fancy the gadget. Or, rather, fancy an idea of having one :)

  7. This year I've had so little time at home to just sit down and read, at home I prefer to knit because you can do that while you're taking care of a toddler, and with reading it seems too risky.
    so I always carry a book in my bag, and read on the bus or while I'm waiting for my ride.It's a little slow, but the upside is: I don't mind if I have to wait at the bus station for long. The bus is late and I think: great, I have time to read a few more pages :)

  8. When I was a kid I used to devour books. I must have read a new book every two weeks. Nowadays, I'm ashamed to say sometimes months go by without me reading a single page. You know how it is, work and hobbies. Plus I watch way too much TV. But I do try to read at least one book a month. I like to read on my couch, in the mornings or early afternoons, when it's still light outside. But if it's an interesting book, I'll read it anytime, day or night, until I finish it or until my eyes start to hurt way too much - whichever comes first.
    I used to keep track of the titles, but never wrote any quotes down.
    P.S. Ovo što reče romantales o fobiji od knjiga iz knjižnica - totalno opravdano. Ne bi vjerovala u kakvom stanju znaju biti knjige koje ljudi vraćaju u knjižnicu. Pozdrav od tete knjižničarke ;)

  9. @ tena: Now, that's what I call a positive outlook on life! :)))

    @ honeysuckle: I bet! But library books for me have this special aura about them, the smell (which I've learned to like less with age ;) ), the tattered look, the stains, all witness to a life a book has had. And I loooooove libraries! At work I'd go to a library even when I don't need anything (but shhh, don't tell our librarian ;) )

    BTW, I don't think I've told you my 'maturski' was in library science :)

  10. Trenutno najvise citam knjige za decu, za uspavljivanje- pa najcesce uspavam i sebe.:) Uglavnom, zimi citam vise nego leti, a najvise sam citala dok sam dojila moje bebe. To su bila posebna uzivanja:)

  11. moram da priznam da je u mojoj porodici 'voracious reader' ipak bio moj brat. Mada sam ja znala u stopu da ga pratim sa procitanim knjigama, ipak sam najvise vremena provodila u slikanju ispod lipe. I kada ti opisujes tvoje sedenje u bastici, ja u glavi imam sliku stocica ispod lipe i, zahvaljujuci mom tati i mami, okolni veliki ruzicnjak. Inace sto se citanja tice zadnjih godina najvise volim da zaronim u fantastiku pa cak i neku deciju literaturu, a svako leto mi je gotovo rezervisano za Zil Verna:))

  12. murakamiiiiii!!!!!!! konacno jos neko ko deli moje ludilo! :D

  13. I am so with you on the voracious reading as a child! I read through parts of the Britannica, cereal boxes, abridged Shakespeare, you name it.

    Now I read a fair amount of non-fiction as well as my first reading love, fiction. I read on public transport (when I'm not looking out the window!) and definitely before I fall asleep. Actually, my bookreading time must share space with my online reading. :(