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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, October 02, 2021

The Evolution of My Reading (Part 1) – A Meme stolen from abookolive on YouTube

Although the YouTube meme was (at least primarily) aimed @ Olive herself I thought that quite a few of the questions could’ve easily have been aimed at me. Therefore, this post! So….

When did you get into reading?

Oddly, as related here several times, I didn’t really get into reading until my early teens. Only half-jokingly I related this to the cumulative effects on the brain of puberty. I’m convinced that I ‘woke up’ and needed brain food BADLY!  

Was it something you always liked since school or did your love of book develop over the years?

Although I COULD read prior to school and, no doubt, read what I needed to in order to get through my lessons I never really read for pleasure throughout school. Being essentially from a working class background and going through standard State education there wasn’t a HUGE emphasis on reading for fun as very little was expected of us as a group.

Have you always been a voracious reader?

My reading gained a fair amount of rocket fuel from around 14. With very few breaks since then I have tended to reading anything I could, whenever I could and for as long as I could without burning my own eyes out.

Who/What influenced your interest in reading?

I think it was two main people. The first was my English teacher who obviously saw something in me that cried out to be fed with books. Even though I was in my early teens she leant me her award copy of ‘1984’ by George Orwell. Now, what possessed her to lend a kid like me a book like that is difficult to comprehend but it did make me think about things a lot and may well have started my political development as well as my literary one. The second person was a friend of my brothers. I remember clearly that I was sitting at home probably looking bored when he arrived to visit my older brother. He had a paperback in his hand and said that he’d just finished it, thought it was pretty good and thought I might like it. It was a rather dog-eared copy of ‘Triplanetary’ by E E ‘Doc’ Smith. It contained a heavy dose of PURE rocket fuel that completely lit up my mind like it was on drugs. I have never looked back from that day…   

What was the first favourite book or series you remember?

From my early reading? Probably ‘The Lensman Series’ by E E Smith!

What are some of your favourite books as a child?

One that totally blew me away as a youngster was a single volume of ‘Lord of the Rings’ I was TOTALLY transfixed by it – much to the amusement of my family.

Did you like non-fiction when you were a kid?

Not really, no. What non-fiction I did read was probably for school projects.

What’s your favourite childhood reading memory?

Honestly, and rather strangely, I don’t really have any!

Where you ever not a reader/had a major reading slump? How did you get out of it?

Well, as previously stated I didn’t read very much at all before age 14, the other big gap (rather ironically) was during my student years @ University. Again reading was for studying, not for fun. I have had the odd flat period where I felt uninterested in books but that either passed naturally or I helped it along with a book (or two) that I knew from experience I’d enjoy.

How did you get into non-fiction reading?

After my initial introduction to SF I began reading the genre pretty exclusively. With all the mention of space flight, various exotic machines and much else besides I started accumulating many (fictionalised) ideas about the much larger universe. Being the curious person I am naturally I wanted to know more. As my science knowledge baseline was rather low back then I started reading general introductions to various science subjects and built up from there. A lot of my very early science reading was based around non-fiction by Isaac Asimov. A little later I started reading a lot of military history books and it started expanding from there. Must like the universe itself my non-fiction reading scope is still expanding in all directions.

What was the first non-fiction book you remember that cemented your love for the genre?

I can’t remember any specific book but if it exists it was probably written by Asimov!

How has your reading evolved as you’ve gotten older?

Very much so. When I started out I was reading fiction exclusively and science fiction almost exclusively – mostly the classic texts which is why very few of them have appeared on this Blog as I read most of them decades ago. After a while I started reading crime novels, classics, historical novels and so on. Then I added more and more non-fiction in more and more subject areas. Today I probably read around 75% non-fiction. When I started I read around 95% fiction.

How do you think reading has shaped you as an individual?

Immeasurably. Without reading the thousands of books I’ve ‘consumed’, ‘met’ the people who inhabited my mind (however briefly), or ‘been’ the places and times I’ve visited (however briefly) I think that I would be a very different and much diminished person.

What does reading mean to you in your life?

Probably not everything – but pretty close!

What’s one of your life long reading goals?

To read every book I own before I die – which means I’m going to have to discover a way to become immortal….. To the BOOKS!


mudpuddle said...

fascinating and somewhat familiar... i had a love affair with "Doc" Smith at an early age also...

Stephen said...

Had to google Triplanetary -- I don't think I've run across it before! Have you ever revisited it and the Lensman series to see how it's aged?

CyberKitten said...

@ Mudpuddle: I've mentioned some of this before in other early reading/influences posts. I can imagine Smith having an influence on MANY young minds! [grin]

@ Stephen: The Lensman series was very pulpy when I read it in the mid-70's so I have no idea how extra pulpy it'd be today. I think it'd definitely be a different experience. I'm not 100% sure if I'd like to go back to those classics. I guess I'm afraid that it would shatter some childhood memories [grin]

Marian H said...

That is quite an amazing reading journey! From 1984 to sci-fi, Lord of the Rings, and beyond...

I know what you mean about the people you've "met" and the places you've "been." I relate to that so much. Although I was always a reader, I was not always ambivert enough to meet people in the "real world," and reading helped bridge that gap for a while, at least enough that I could learn some things and feel some connection to others.

CyberKitten said...

@ Marian: Welcome back! I guess I started (and read heavily in) SF because that was really my 'introduction' to books. But after a while certain books piqued my interest in other fictional directions - Cyberpunk got me into Noir fiction (I was already a HUGE Noir movie fan), I read Sherlock Holmes books early on as well as James Bond classics. Alt-historical SF got me into reading historical fiction as well as History books. I read science to help me understand SF more and so on.

I do actually feel quite sorry for non-readers. They only live one life - their own. Readers can live hundreds of other lives in a lifetime - as different ages, races, genders or even species! That way (I think) readers are more empathetic towards the lives and tribulations of others. How could we not be after being in other people's heads our whole reading life? Great fiction expands you and, arguably, makes you a better person. What's not to love and look forward to every time you pick up another book. With me, once I got the bug, I always felt that I was about to go on another adventure to far off places. That feeling has never really left me.

BTW - Thanks for teaching me a new word. I'd never come across ambivert before! But then again I am a *serious* critic of the whole Extrovert/Introvert concept... [grin] and don't even get me started on Myers-Briggs!!!

Marian H said...

@Cyberkitten - You're right! I remember learning empathy through literature. I think the first time I felt actual grief was reading Sherlock Holmes "The Final Problem." In some ways, books are a safe place to get to know other people and ourselves before venturing out into the real world... Although sometimes that can backfire when the world turns out to be even more frightful than fiction. :/

And Myers-Briggs... :D It's fun to fill out but I'm quite sure there's more than 16 personalities in the world, and more than one per person!