THAT book

“You know… I don’t actually like reading…”

Kwasi told me… and upon seeing my eyes widen and eyebrows touch my hairline (probably), he was quick to expand the statement “unless it the books you give me.”

So we started to talk.

Why doesn’t Kwasi like to read books?

They don’t get him excited, he’s not interested, most of the reading he does, is reading for schoolwork. He’d rather sit down with his brother and play on the xbox or laptop. The usual things you’d expect to hear from a teenage boy who is justifying why he doesn’t make the time to read for pleasure.

The biggest reason though, Kwasi can’t find a book that he feels is for him.

He hadn’t had that book yet.

The book that made him excited to read.

I remember back in the early 2000s when my brother borrowed that very first copy of Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak from the school library. Omari wasn’t a reader like I was, so it was really weird for our parents to see the boy who’d rather be biking on the street or watching Dragon Ball Z curled up with a book in his hand all of the sudden.

It set off a chain reaction in him.

He didn’t want to borrow from the school anymore, he wanted a copy that was his alone (seriously, he would not share, when I wanted to read them, I had to buy my own copies when I wanted to read it). And then, every time he saw a new addition had been released, he’d head down to the local WH Smith with mum and a tenner to get his fix.

After encountering this book, my brother actively started looking for books to read, first, books by Darren Shan, after all, he devoured the Saga of Darren Shan, why wouldn’t he also enjoy the Demonata series or The Thin Executioner? After literally exhausting his complete Darren Shan collection, my brother went on to Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider, and Justin Somper’s Vampirates (absolute banger of a book series tbh).

(To tell you how much my brother and I appreciate Darren Shan’s horror writing; there is a small bookshelf in our upstairs hallway stocked with a near complete list of Darren Shan’s bibliography… and we both got hyped at our big university ages when we found out that Darren Shan had been releasing instalments of Zom-B.)

Omari had found his book.

It’s harder when the book recipient has particular tastes. Kwasi’s not big into magic, so fantasy is out of the question (which as a devotee to SFF, dissertation on High Fantasy writer, broke my heart). A lot of the books I read at Kwasi’s age had female protagonists, great for me, but I he’d wasn’t interested in Georgia Nicholson’s confessional diary and similar titles. It takes time, patience and experimentation to help a kid find that book.

But I found that book.

Malorie Blackman’s Boys Don’t Cry.

I actually got a text from Kwasi thanking me for finding that book for him, and if I could get him some more Malorie Blackman books. Since then I have been, mostly books that I’ve read and loved myself. I know his mum takes him and his siblings to the library as often as she can, and I give him names of books I remember reading, or authors I think he’d enjoy. For his fourteenth birthday, he got an entire book series (Gone by Michael Grant) and he’s currently working his way through those.

Seeing him carry around a copy of these books with the cracked spine and doggy eared pages doesn’t inspire anger in me it might some other book lovers- after all, the books are his now, I should just be glad he’s finally found joy in reading.

Bookkeeping

Cleaning out my bookshelf has been an emotional event.

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in the generation who love and adore Toy Story, or because humans pack-bond with just about anything, or even if it’s just because I was probably a busy, heavily scheduled child and spent a lot of time with my belongings as opposed to people- but what happened is… I became very much attached to all of my belongings.

Sometimes its sentimental, other times… I spent money and I didn’t want to confirm that this money has been wastefully spent or misused.

Books have been… very important my whole life, and I’m blessed now that I get to work in this industry. My home has two bookshelves, one upstairs, one downstairs, both of which were previously housed in my room, but are now out in the communal areas of my home. On these many shelves, often double-stacked. Lay 90% of the books in the house… of these books, again, 90% of them were mine. The other 10% comprised of my brother’s small collection of teen horror, fantasy and spy books, and my mum’s holiday reads that she never quite got around to.

The first thing I noticed was that I had had some of these books for…. Years and had probably never touched them since the first time I read them cover to cover. There were books I have had since primary school…. Chronicles of Narnia, Rhol Dahl box collection, a whole lot of Enid Blyton… Stories I remembered fondly, but didn’t really want to revisit. I had and will continue to carry the memories and feelings but I don’t need the item myself. I can pass it on and give this experience to someone else.

The second thing I noticed, was how many multiples I had collected. Mostly given as gifts, or maybe I forgot that I had the same book at home and bought it again. No, they were not signed, no they were not different, no they were no more special than the other copies. They were exactly the same. It’s a bit mad to see all of my books spread out in front of me. Like… I truly didn’t realise the extent of books that I was holding onto because as a self-labelled “book worm” I felt that to give them away or throw them out would damage my imaginary cred.

Sorting through the books there were originally three categories:

1 Books I’m going to keep.

2 Books that are going to my cousin’s school (primary school) in Trinidad.

3 Books that are going to charity.

When I was finished sorting the books, I then damp dusted all of the shelves and some of the books. Before putting the Keepers back on the shelves. That left me with seven boxes full of things that I was letting go. One huge book (more like a mini-crate) for my cousin’s school and six books that were going to get donated. My local Cancer Research charity shop had asked for donations… boy I had a lot of them.

Only my mum asked me to put some thought into it. Six boxes of books are a lot to donate to one place. What else could I do with these books to spread out the joy?

The first thing- one of my Work Aunties TM from Sierra Leonne was fundraising for her former secondary school to get a library. Yes, I had to look through all of these boxes again, but I found that there were enough books for tweens and teens to fill two boxes.

Next, what about my cousins back home? About all the family who visit the house and would maybe like a way to pass the time? Again, another huge box full of things that I thought they would enjoy, that I wouldn’t mind revisiting on the holidays I take but wouldn’t want to keep for myself.

Which left three boxes for my local. Something a bit more understanding that as the new year starts people start throwing out and donating things or dumping them on these charity shops. We dropped them off today. Tomorrow my Work Auntie TM is going to collect the books for her school. The books that are going to the house in Trinidad and my cousin’s school will be sent along with the next set of barrels.

The way I felt at the end of that three-day deep cleaning of my books made me feel so good.

I always thought that I’d feel pained to remove books from myself, which was one of the reasons that I was so hesitant to finally tackle my bookshelves. Also thought I’d be one of those minimalists who had one thing that they would continue to splurge on, this thing being books and stories.

I always love collecting a good series, and I imagine I will continue to do so… most likely in an e-book format (though to be honest I am particularly weak when presented with a beautiful hardback or paperback).

Becoming an “adventurous reader”

Those of you who know me know that my reading behaviour is obscenely predictable.

Fayola… is a huge SFF nerd and YA fan with high standards. Sometimes, she is a cover snob, and if the blurb doesn’t pull her in right away- it’ll take a lot of pestering and recommendations for her to even consider adding the book of your choice to her ever-growing TBR list.

That used to be the case.

I have now been an active member of my local library for over a year! (Unbelievable! Great! Amazing! Beautiful!) I know this because the blog post I wrote about joining up “I only wanted to see the study zone” was posted exactly thirteen months ago.

And I’ve noticed a huge shift in both my behaviour as a book reader, and a book buyer.

A big part of that is due to having joined the library.

My local library quickly became my favourite place to pick up books. I’m always looking at the recently returned shelves to see what caught other people’s eyes and to see if anything there catches my eyes as well. The librarian recommendation displays are so nice.

Since joining I have saved so much money, books and clothes were my biggest expenses. As I’m trying to embrace minimalism in my life I’m buying less books- physically, and primarily use my Kindle. But when I want to hold a book, feel the pages beneath my finger tips and sometimes (if i’m extremely early and lucky) want to smell that “new book smell” I can find myself in the library doing exactly that.

Not only has my bank account been glad of this library membership, my bookshelves have too. I’ve never experimented with the literature I read as much as this in so long. When you’re about to buy an item like a book, you think you’re going to keep it for life, you want to revisit it and treasure it and display it so that everyone can see that you and it have a good connection. I’ve always been so scared to try out books that don’t catch me right away.

What if I hate them and am stuck with them forever (or long enough until someone’s birthday’s arrived and I might be able to gift it to them?)

It always limited me. Now, I don’t feel that limitation.

Yes, books have gotten prettier, reading on my kindle is sometimes cheaper than buying a hard/paperback, but I’m less scared to read something and not love it. Because, at the end of the day, if the plot is dragging, or I hate the characters, or I just can’t wrap my head around it.

At the end of the day… It’s not mine.

It’s a freeing feeling to not have to hold onto this book and admit that, “hey, this one didn’t bang- we’ll just be on the look out next time for something better” to myself. And I have been. I’ve been broadening my reach. I’m researching authors and series more and saving up for the books that I desperately wanted a physical copy of. All the while, enjoying the casual pick-and-choose moment in the library every three weeks or so.

Yes, I’m still into primarily SFF and YA, but I’m stepping into speculative fiction in ways that I haven’t before. (And shameless plug, documenting this journey on Instagram “bookstagram” @fayolazahra) I’m no longer boxed in by the genre that has held my interest for as long as I remember, and I’m becoming one of those “adventurous” readers.

Something, something, something- Support your local library!

I only wanted to see the study zone

 

Why am I like this?

What is self control (in relation to books)?

Clearly I don’t have any…

It all started last week, when I realised I had only one week left to have any reason to travel to Kingston from my house in SE London… I have a dissertation to write, and I can’t justify travelling for an hour to get to the lovely post-grad library section on campus… I can’t work at home because procrastination is the devil incarnate, (suddenly, all my chores seem more important than my education somehow…)

So I was out buying last minute cheap additions to my costume (don’t ask) and I decide to stop by the local library.

Let me tell you, I haven’t used a council library since I was 8 and my Greenwich Library card was terminated because I was a child who used to keep books forever and/or damage them so badly that my parents had to buy them from the library. Greenwich council, I am sorry, please forgive me.

I used my secondary school library a lot, I became the best of friends with the librarian. Our friendship meant that I could spend my lunches hunched over a book or watching the star wars rap flash animation instead of standing around in the cold (or pollen or heat, depending on the season). I got first pick of the new arrivals, my opinion was valued, how many other 14 year olds answered questions like :”Is this book (with a sex scene) too mature for your age?” on weekly basis? (The answer was always no, because the smut available online was way more graphic than the brief paragraphs in question)

I looked at my local library as I walk down the highstreet… it just looked sad and small, but apparently one of my university alumni recommended it as the  place to write a dissertation when summer comes around. But… it still looked sad and small, so I went to the library 5 more minutes away.

And I fell in love again.

I only went in to see their study zone, on a whim. Instead, I have signed up for a Bexley Library Card. The librarians were so nice to me, they gave me all the information I needed to know  about the Bexley Libraries and I got their sympathy and well wishes as my broken hand is always a conversation starter- even though it’s a boring story.

So now I can take out 12 books at a time for at least three weeks. For my purse and overburdened bookshelves, this is a bit of a godsend. I was even shown to the YA department… where I browsed diligently for 15 minutes before picking the top 4 books that I needed to read ASAP and take off of my TBR list:

  • The Art of Being Normal | Lisa Williamson
  • Vanishing Girls | Lauren Oliver
  • I’ll Give You The Sun | Jandy Nelson
  • Stars Never Rise | Rachel Vincent

I’ve already read them all.

I know I was trying to read a book a week this year (and I’ve been failing), but it seems like I’m catching up on lost time. It’s turned into a book every other day right now. On my return to the Library I’m going to observe the Sci-fi Fantasy section… I’ll need you to pray for me and my bag next week, I’ll probably take home the full 12 books of my allowance.

For real though, I’m so glad I stepped foot into a non-school library for the first time in however many years again. Looking forward to my TBR list shrinking further and making friends with the librarians (maybe they do placements? who knows?). Anyway, now I have a beautiful addition to my keychain.

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