If the internet was to be believed, then Indonesia is in the sad state. Indonesians read on average, one book every year. For comparison, the median of book read by Americans per year is 6. Already, they’ve won by 600% margin.
Also, if a poster in my elementary school’s once a library room was to be believed, then books are the window to the world. That was one thing that leave a mark in my mind, until now. If I recall that correctly, I was 9 year old back then, 4th grader, when I first read that poster.
As a child, I was not unfamiliar with books, especially fantasy books. Ever since I could remember, I’ve heard a lot of fantasy stories. The first form of it was in verbal form. Before sleep each night, my father, who also an avid reader, would tell me a story. It was like a drama serial, where you’ll eagerly anticipate the new episode every night. Two stories that he used to tell me were about a space fantasy, the adventure of Delta Squad, fighting Hydra monster and such. The other one would be a gentler fantasy, about two twin sisters and their stepmother, this story was my sister’s favorite. You can’t find these stories anywhere as they came from my father’s imagination. Although some Star Wars influences could be seen here and there.
At elementary school, my appetite for stories shifted to a reading materials. My family used to subscribe a children magazine back then, and I would ask my mother to read the story for me everyday after school. I was also a library dweller back then. But being a helpless first grader, who still couldn’t read smoothly, I would just borrow it, and brought the book home, and asked my mother to read it.
The first turning point of my reading life was, still at first grade, when my mother one day picked me up from school. She had a conversation with my teacher about how I really like to borrow books from library, only to ask her to read it for me. Oh, how embarrassed a first grader could be! That moment onward, I read those books myself. My first grader pride was at stake back then.
My family was a bookworm family, although in this regard, my sister would be a black sheep among us. Every month, one place we were sure to visit was bookshop. Being a lower middle class family, I could only pick 2 books every month, subject to their price. This culture had been started ever since I could remember, and ended when I was at high school. However, I could still feel the goosebumps every time I go to bookshop. Bookshop was my favorite place growing up.
The second turning point was, when I was a fourth grader, my friend got this shinny new book, titled as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, Indonesian version. I don’t think we could afford that kind of book back then, so I insistently borrowed that book from my friend. I was blown away by the story. I thought what I’ve read before was amazing, but that one was on whole another level. That day, I realized that the world of stories was vast, and I only knew a little about it. That was my first encounter with a book from outside of my world.
On middle school, my family’s financial condition was improving. Now, every month, my parents could afford a single book like Harry Potter. I didn’t waste that opportunity. I read a lot of translated books. Until one day, this time as a seventh grader in middle school, I stumbled upon an intriguing book: Eragon. That book was my favorite. At middle school alone, I’ve read it more than three times. Not a small feat for a seventh grader reading 500pp book. That time, I was officially in love with fantasy novel, deeply.
Like those great civilization on earth, there were high and low points. I reached my low point when I was at high school. While my earlier life was a massive growth in term of reading habit, it plateaued at high school. It was my Dark Age.
It’s really frustrating to think about it now. My bookshop culture abruptly ended at that time, and with that, my reading habit. Over the course of around three years, I only managed to read a handful of books.
Now that I think about it, the problem was that I tried too hard to fit in with the society. Like, I wanted to be one of those cool guys, or else I feared to be at the pecking order, along with those uncool nerds. Reading books was uncool. I was full of insecurities.
Right before I graduated from high school, my good friend lent a book to me. It was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. That book was amazing. It taught me a lot of life lessons, the first book to do so, it made a Coelho’s fan, and more importantly, it rekindled my reading appetite.
I read a lot of Coelho’s books at the early years of college.
My latest and greatest turning point happened in December, 2011. I bought an Amazon Kindle. My family was still ravaged by the death of my father, but I managed to scrape every little bit of money to buy that Kindle, which cost me a lot, about $140 in total. I’ve never once thought of that buy as a waste of money. It was the best buy I’ve ever done. That device played a pivotal role on my reading renaissance.
Now with a Kindle, I suddenly could read any book, any book at all, that’s available on the internet. That was when I started to read English language books. Although I’ve completed an English book, on pdf, a month prior to that Kindle purchase, if I didn’t buy that Kindle, I don’t think I could continue reading English books. Reading books on your computer screen just sucks.
The first English language book I’ve ever read was Bartimaeus and the Amulet of Samarkand. Oh boy, was it a great read. Reading in English really give me those authenticity feel. Suddenly I understand more what the writer were saying. It had nothing to do with my English skill. In fact, my reading comprehension in English back then was just plain awful. It was really hard to comprehend what the book said, especially at the start of the book, up until some early chapters.
It’s more about the authenticity of the story. There are some information loss when you translate a book, especially when you translate it to Indonesian. It’s just different… it’s just better to read a book on its original language, or at least in its first translation, which happen to be English.
But like everyone says, “It doesn’t matter where you start but how you finish that matters!”. By the end of the book, I felt really great. It was my life achievement.
Like our civilization, I’m now at my modern age. I’ve through a lot, and now my reading habit is stabilizing. Just like our world, after all those wars, now the majority of the world is at peace. Stable.
Early last year, I stumbled upon on Goodreads’ reading challenge. Basically, you need to pledge how many book you want to read that year. I inputted 20. Big task. But I managed to end 2014, 20 books more experienced.
Earlier this year, I pledged 25. I got a stuttering start at the start of this year. Now, I’m 5 books behind my schedule. It’s going better though. From July to this date, I’ve read about 4-5 books. I’m optimistic about this.
Reading is an activity I’ve always enjoyed. I would be a very different person today if I didn’t read.
It’s what shaped my perspective, my mind, and how I view the world. So, that poster I’ve read when I was a fourth grader is true after all. Book is the window to the world.
Don’t believe other people who say that you’re wasting your time if you like to read novels. Good novels and fantasies have their own way to convey the knowledge, ideas, and perspective. Sure, by reading novels you won’t generate any money. By reading novels your business won’t thrive further. But, one thing is sure. By reading novels you’ll get yourself a new perspective, new ideas, and life lessons. And those value are infinitely greater than any materialistic gain combined.
So, read, people, read!