I always veered towards Latin American literature when I would look for a book either from the library or a bookstore years ago. I chalked it up to being a creature of habit aside from the fact that Gabriel Garcia Marquez and ilk are brilliant writers. I have re-read 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the time of Cholera, and his other works. Maria Vargas Llosa still never fails to leave my jaw hanging. The habit of reading has not disappeared, but concentrating on a particular type of literature has changed. My reading list has become a little more eclectic than usual, which I can only attribute it to me trying to be a little more flexible. These years I’ve shuttled between young adult literature and non-young adult literature, giving me a sweeping look at both worlds.
Indonesia, Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani was a birthday present some years back from my gal-pal from Singapore. Pisani wiped away the filters I was viewing Indonesia with and gave me a better understanding of the country through her narrative of her various dealings with people from all walks of life. The thought going through my mind as I turned page after page was “If Pisani can do this, so can I”. This is an author who came to an understanding of a country that was completely different from hers and came out not judgmental or preaching tolerance. She indirectly taught me to look at the bigger picture with acceptance, understanding, and patience.
Anthologies are a favorite too, but they were mostly compilations of detective stories by either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Dashiell Hammett. Then I was handed the catalog of Oxford University Press and came across the Oxford Bookworms Collection. There are six anthologies to the collection: Crime Never Pays, A Window on the Universe, And All for Love, A Tangled Web, From the Cradle to the Grace, and The Eye of Childhood. The latest addition to my collection are the latter titles. Until A Window on the Universe, the only sci-fi stories I read before were the Star Wars novels (pre-Ken Rylo era). The collection introduced me to sci-fi giants such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, et al. Crime Never Pays reminded me of the TV show “Twilight Zone” because of the twists in the stories while And All for Love offered interesting perspectives on romantic relationships. A Tangled Web focused on stories dealing with “secrets and lies” and the idea that “deception can sometimes lead to quite unexpected complications. I discovered a new author, Maeve Binchy, and got reacquainted with Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, V.S Naipaul, Paul Theroux, Somerset Maugham, and Oscar Wilde. I am excited to plunge into the new anthologies because of the topics covered – the trials of life from youth to old age in From the Cradle to the Grave, and seeing the world through the eyes of a child in The Eye of Childhood.
Book series also became a perennial staple of my reading diet. I read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series twice and was hooked on Derek Lundy’s Skulduggery Pleasant books for some time. Then there was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series (I have read four of the 13 books) – tracking down all the books is proving to be challenging. The latest I’ve read are Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance series and Ransom Riggs’ Tales of the Peculiar.
I don’t normally watch the film adaptation first but I saw the movie Eragon first and read the books a few years later when one of my students lent them to me. Reading the series really entails having the determination to see the narrative through the very end because the four books are lengthy. Strained eyes aside, it wasn’t difficult staying married to the books because the storyline of Dragon Rider Eragon and his dragon Saphira was very engaging. The different worlds – i.e. elves, humans, dwarves – were described in detail that you could really picture the distinct settings. Character-wise, Saphira has spunk and a sense of humor; Arya, Eragon’s love-interest, is intriguing; and Brom, an annoyingly lovable Dragon Rider-in-hiding.
I got wind of Riggs’ Tales of the Peculiar series from one of my former students who presented it for Show & Tell. She was intrigued by the books because there were vintage photos that played a huge part in the narrative structure which Riggs confessed to scavenging for in various places. These photos, dovetailed with the attention-grabbing characters and their special powers, reeled me in to finish the entire three books. However, I was, admittedly, disappointed with the film version because certain character identities and the plot of the story were changed.
The eclecticism continues judging by the mini tsundoku in my room: an anthology of mystery stories, vol. 2 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a book by Camille Paglia, Arthurian Legends, Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking, J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (Tom Hiddleston graces the cover of the edition I have), etc.