2012 is the National Year of Reading in Australia, so I thought I'd share my answers to some of the questions asked of the National Year of Reading ambassadors.
When do you read?
I read the most on public transport. A good book makes the time go so much faster. This year I'm living in Japan, and it's a two-hour trip by train from my little town to Osaka, so I get a lot of reading time in on the train. My Kindle is really convenient for train trips, but I do still read print books sometimes.
It's not easy to get English material here - in my town I've never seen an English book for sale - but there is a motley little English collection at the public library. There are bookshops in the bigger cities with foreign book sections. These are usually like collections you would find at an airport, but some bigger bookstores like Junkudo and Kinokuniya have a decent selection. I am so glad I have a Kindle.
There's a misconception around that librarians can read at work. I've never done that! My current job as an English Teacher is the first I've had where I've had time to read at work.
On a side note, my local train line, the Wakayama Electric Railway Kishigawa Line, has a little browsing library on the Tama train, with lots of books about cats and other animals. It's pretty damn cute.
|Via A blog about Japan, great idea|
|Me on the Tama Train|
|The Tama Train browsing library|
I rarely read a book more than once. One of my favourite books in On the Beach by Nevil Shute, and I know I've read that at least a couple of times.
What was the last book you borrowed from your public library?
The last book I borrowed from my local public library was The Makioka Sisters by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. His books are some of the only novels available in English at my local library, and they are definitely classics. I recently read Naomi, and the comparisons to Lolita are justified. His books hold up really well even eighty years after the first publication of Naomi.
It's quite scary that little has changed in English education in Japan in that eighty years though. Here's a quote from Naomi:
"It's true that she's a bright child, but I don't believe her English is as good as it should be. She can read, but when it comes to translating into Japanese or analyzing the grammar..."
"No," she interrupted with a smile. "You have the wrong idea. Japanese people always think about grammar and translation. Very bad. When you study English, you must not think about grammar. Must not translate. Read it over and over as English - this is the best way. Miss Naomi has beautiful pronunciation. She is very good at reading. Her English will be very good soon."
I must admit though, I haven't used my public library much this year. The English collection is so small, and I can get books so easily on my Kindle. If I do want a print book, Amazon Japan delivers with a day or two of ordering.
Despite being a librarian in Australia and regular user of libraries, in Japan, it hasn't been hard to do without them. This is a concern for the future of public libraries - as books and information become increasingly accessible from anywhere, why would you step into a library? Does the library's future lie in digital collections, or in spaces that become community hubs beyond just a place for reading and studying?
What was the last book you bought from a bookshop?
I won a book voucher at a party last weekend, so I bought Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser and Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.
What was the last book you received as a gift?
Gift is a bit of a stretch, but my boyfriend left a number of books at our apartment when he left Japan, including The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, which I loved. I love how really good speculative fiction like The Chrysalids, Brave New World, 1984, and Never Let Me Go tell us so much about humanity.
What was the last/first ebook you downloaded?
One of the first ebooks I downloaded was Telesa, by Lani Wendt Young. It's been called the Samoan Twilight, but it deserves more credit than that. It's one of those can't-put-it-down reads with the added extra of traditional Samoan legend influences. I absolutely love this book and can't wait to read the next one! I worked as a librarian in Samoa for a year in 2009 and 2010 and it is so fantastic and important to see this book out there adding to the cannon of Samoan literature. It made me so nostalgic for Samoa. Lani has really embraced new media for the Telesa series, which is easily available on ebook for Samoan and Pacific audiences all over the world, and blogs regularly at Sleepless in Samoa.
The last ebook I downloaded was Meeting Mr Kim: How I went to Korea and Learnt to Love Kimchi by Jennifer Barclay. It's not the greatest book in the world, but I'm visiting Korea for the first time in July, and I wanted to learn a bit more about it.
Do you ever cheat and read the end of the book first?
Sometimes, but I try not to.
Do you skim the boring parts or read every word?
I think my attention span is getting shorter! Sometimes I find my mind wandering when reading, but if the book is good then you shouldn't need to skip anything.
At what point do you give up on a book?
I've almost given up on A Game of Thrones. The television show is awesome, but the books are really long and drawn out.
Do you remember learning to read?
I don't specifically remember learning to read, but I'm very glad I did!
What's the first book you can remember reading or having read to you?
It's all a bit hazy, but I remember Spot the dog books and lots of Little Golden Books like The Poky Little Puppy. I thought I remembered my teacher reading Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed on my first day of primary school, and then reciting it to my mum when I got home, but that was 1988 and the book wasn't published until 1989!
Was your family a reading family?
My mum reads books, but my dad doesn't. My mum likes history and war books. My dad does read the Herald Sun newspaper religiously.
Did you like to read as a child?
Yes, I loved reading as a child. I read a lot! I loved visiting Box Hill library. I remember when they had a little garden in the middle of the library in the 1980s.
I remember doing the MS Readathon and reading so, so many books. There was also this Pizza Hut challenge thing I'd almost forgotten about until now called Book It! where you read a certain amount of books and then got a free pizza. Apparently Book It! didn't really increase kids' motivation to read, but a free pizza is still a pretty cool incentive in my book.
|Pizza Hut Book It! badge via Dooby Brain|
I really loved the Baby-Sitters Club series and read dozens of them. I must have read them when I was seven or eight because the characters seemed much older than me at 11 and 13. I liked reading about older girls who had boyfriends and were teenagers. They characters seemed a bit exotic and interesting, like Dawn from California and the arty Japanese-American Claudia. When I could read myself I always liked reading about people a bit older than me.
Estimate the number of books you own
I don't own many print books because I don't often read a book more than once, and I've always borrowed books from libraries. It would be less than fifty. I may buy more books when I own my own apartment or house.
Where's the strangest place you have ever read?
I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn while lying in a hammock on my balcony in the hills of the Upolu, Samoa, on a beautiful warm day overlooking lush forest and out to the sea (I lived just near Robert Louis Stevenson's famous Vailima house). Ivan Denisovich is the story of a prisoner in a Soviet labor camp. It's hard to think of a bigger gap between what I was reading about and where I was reading it.
What author or illustrator has influenced you most in your professional life?
At this stage it's an interest rather than a career, but I do have a strong interest in feminism and gender issues, and Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture inspired me to write my honours thesis on feminism, porn and erotica, looking at why female sexuality isn't treated as positively as it should be.
Are you a constant reader or are there times when you don't read at all?
It ebbs and flows depending on how busy I am.
Do you have a favourite genre?
I like to read a lot of different books. I do like really interesting history books like Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes, Nicholas Shakespeare's In Tasmania, and Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before (also known as Into the Blue).
I also really like what might broadly be called memoirs, like Tina Fey's Bossypants, Benjamin Law's The Family Law or Barack Obama's Dreams From My father. I like books about travel and other cultures, feminism, and lots of other things!
What's your perfect holiday read?
It's got to be something escapist and a bit romantic, like Bridget Jones's Diary or The Jane Austen book club!
That was fun! I like writing about what I like to read.