open the pages, read the words, savor the magic

Sunday Survey: Amazing Reading Experiences

Intro: What is the Sunday Survey?

I’ve explained all about Sunday Survey in my first ever Sunday Survey report. Click here to read the complete explanation. Basically it’s a book discussion I conduct on my Twitter account, @GeekInc18, that starts off with a basic book-related (or not so related) question such as “What’s your favorite book?” or “What do you think of book translations?” The result of our discussion goes up here to Bookerie.

Apologies for the absence of last week’s Sunday Survey. I was sick last week and couldn’t stay up long enough to conduct a survey under the influence of medicines. This week The Survey is back… and it’s as fun as ever!

SUNDAY SURVEY, 29 April 2012: Amazing Reading Experiences

  1. Curled up in your bed under the blanket when the rain fell outside the window.
  2. Ensconced for five hours in a coffee shop, getting free mocha refills from your favorite barista, while soft jazz music played on the background.
  3. Stretched on your stomach on top of  a blanket in a breezy summer afternoon in a sunken garden behind your campus library.
  4. Or stretched on your back on your coat in a piazza while your friend played a Spanish folk song on his guitar.
  5. Head laid on your significant other’s lap as they read the same book you were reading and their hand stroked your hair.
  6. At the airport or on the airplane while everyone else around you was asleep.
  7. Tucked in your desk during break time and your colleagues are out, your own lunch forgotten.
  8. In class with your teacher showing you corresponding scenes from a movie.
  9. Sat inside the biggest library you’ve ever set foot into, surrounded by books, books and more books.
  10. At the back of your non-moving car as the metropolitan traffic tried its best to suck the life out of you.

The 10 situations I listed above were the 10 instances where I read a book and felt really awesome about it.

To me, reading a book is not just a matter of reading the words and understanding the story. It’s also what happens around me at the time I’m reading that makes it a real experience. So maybe reading is still reading no matter where you are and no matter what other people are doing beside you, but in the right environment, with the perfect atmosphere, lighting, companion, lighting and even food or drink, your book might just become even more special.

Take No. 2, for example. When Michael Scott’s The Sorceress was out in 2009, I brought the book out to one of the Starbucks near my house because I just needed to get out of the house for a while. I thought about staying for only 30 minutes while I finish my coffee and then go back home to finish the book (in situation No. 1, because that’s how I usually experience my books). But when I got there, the place was completely empty and there was one window seat that had a perfect angle to watch the sunset. The seat and the table were even radiating brilliantly because the afternoon light from outside was spilling in the way light usually shone through windows in churches. Real bossa nova music was playing on the background and the barista made my coffee perfectly. So I sank into the sofa and opened the book and didn’t look up until the book was gone. When I finally noticed my surroundings, I’d realized that the barista had given me free donuts and a free refill of mocha to keep me entertained.

Needless to say, after that afternoon, I kept coming back to the Starbucks. And if you ask me which one was my favorite book in the Nicholas Flamel series by Scott, I’d say it was The Sorceress… simply because it was the book that I read with the best experience.

There was another experience that I hadn’t mentioned above. A couple of months before I resigned from the bookstore, I came to the Customer Service counter with every intention of helping out the staff there (that was a bad period where the department was horribly understaffed). But for some reason, that day was a very, very quiet business day and the store was painfully empty. We – the customer service and the cashier staffs – were all just standing and sitting around without nothing to do. I got bored but I couldn’t go home yet so I went to the nearest shelf, picked a short book and went back behind the counter to read it. I’d chosen The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes. I read the first page and forgot the world. When I looked up again because there was a customer asking for assistance, I’d already read the book halfway through.

As it was, that customer was the first in a long stream that kept coming up to inquire things from us so I didn’t continue the Man Booker Prize 2011 winning book until the next day. It was the same situation and the same people again. The copy of that book hadn’t been returned to the shelf so I picked it up again and started reading. Then I finished it in an hour. To this day, it was probably the only Booker Prize winner whose story still sticks like a glue in my head.

Of course, these are not suggestions of how you should read your books. I would never say that it is the best thing to do ever, reading a book while you’re on customer service duty, or that it would enhance the quality of the book. But sometimes, the unique instances you’re involved in could make a book more interesting or, at least, more memorable.

If you ask me, which one of my experiences that I would never ever forget and made not only my book better, but also made me a better person… it would be No. 4.

(Wait . Were you expecting No. 5? Because it seemed the most romantic? But it couldn’t be No. 5. I’ve broken up with that particular significant other, went through 3 years of massive hurt feelings, and the book was Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, probably the most gut-wrenching Harry Potter book ever.)

No. 4 was the ultimate for me because:

  • What was I reading? Italo Calvino’s Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities).
  • Where was I? Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy.
  • When was it? Winter 2002.
  • Who was with me? My friends from class, with whom I made my first short film, including a girl who brought along her Spanish friend who could play the guitar.
  • What was above me? A clear blue Italian sky in a February afternoon.

It was epic, I tell you. That was the moment I realized that I’d made it. That I was in Italy, with interesting people, and I was in one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country, and I was reading a book in ITALIAN. For the first time in my life, I felt that the words “cultured” and “sophisticated” could be applied to me. And that is how I strive to be in life – to always be that way in life. The feeling was amazing, inspiring and life-changing. Enough said.

So, yes, it’s enough to sit in the sofa with your favorite tea in any afternoon to read that book you’re currently into. The book will be special no matter what. But if you’ve ever been in that instance – that one special situation – where everything clicks for you and your book… the experience will be, as they say, extraordinary. Out of this world. Positively orgasmic.

Survey Results

My friends chipped in on their memorable, amazing and quirky reading experiences!


I once read a whole book at the bookstore (not Kino!) without every buying it. Took about 3-4x coming around, lol.

Whoops. ‘…without EVER buying it.’ In my defense, I was a student still, penniless :D

Jon Katz’s A Dog Year. Liked it but not necessarily the kind of book I wanted to shell out for while still in college :P

About 250 pg? They probably noticed but it was QB and you did read there. I couldn’t stand the AC though; that’s why 3-4x ;)

Ah, QB… Too bad it’s now defunct and no more! But I do remember how it used to be a great place for you to come and read. (Unfortunately, most people preferred to read there, instead of buying the books, and this was probably one of the factors why they had to close down. Too bad.) And raise your hands if you’ve ever done this. Don’t be embarrassed now – I think we’ve all done the same thing. And the experiences CAN be amazing!


Reading The First Time by Joy Fielding in a plane to Denpasar, while I was in study trip and my school mates mock me.

Coz I’m just reading while they chatting. :D It isn’t bullying, and I’m just okay. We have different interest. :)

It would’ve been sad if anyone got mocked for reading. So glad it didn’t happen!

(But if it did, just remember: WHAT DOESN’T KILL US, MAKES US STRONGER. If you ever got bullied for reading a book, this can only mean one thing: you’re smart, the rest of them are fools.)

You know you’re a serious reader if you can read amongst people talking.


I finished reading Lily’s Pesky Plant during my 4hours-trip.

I was on my way home by bus.

I love reading a book at the lobby of a cinema while waiting for the studio opened.

It may sound silly. But in my room I sumtimes enjoy reading in the darkness. I turn d’lamp off,use d’light from my phone to read.

This is hardcore. Never mind reading in a bus – she reads books in the darkness! I do this, too, sometimes. Our trick is: turn off the lights, use light from cell phone to read. (By the way, this is a very bad thing to do for your eyes. Don’t do it.) But I admit to have done it once or twice. I do it for the ambience – some books just beg to be read in the dark – but Inara does it just because. Hardcore.


it happens to me when I read Dee’s Perahu Kertas. Fast-paced book, I read it like less than 18 hours, exclude my sleeping time

1)The bookstore 2)Restaurant 3)Coffeeshop 4) a store at Blok M Square 5)My car 6) My house. A lot of places,less than 18 hours :D

yes!I was with all of my family at that time.I don’t wanna put down the book,cause I was in the middle of trance with the story:)

If you’re anything like us, you would know that feeling – the inability to put a good book down. And when you succumb to that inability, you feel very satisfied. And this is the most common, most amazing experience of reading a book, in my opinion.


I once finished a 300-ish-page biography of a war journalist on his experience reporting from Iraq War from in 12 hours.

I don’t usually read that kind of stuff (and I’m still perplexed now why I was so engrossed), but I did finish it! :))

The book’s title was “War’s Journal : My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel, and I found it on my aunt’s shelf.

Inside my bedroom, most of the time. Hard to explain, but I just felt that I needed to finish that book ASAP. Great read, it was.

And that’s nother thing – when you find an unexpected book, one that you don’t usually read, but it just pulls you in. This sensation is the best. And add to that the inability to put down the book and the sense of accomplishment you feel for being able to finish it in less than a certain number of hours? BLISS!

Nico shared another one:

Ah, I read Chris Cleave’s “Little Bee” by alternating between the paperback and the e-book versions.

Took a bus one night, and amidst dim light, I read its e-book on my freakin’ phone. Not healthy, I know. :P

I guess that’d be the last time I read a book on such a tiny screen.

And you know a serious reader when you bear with tiny screens and low lighting to finish a book. Ever experienced this? If yes, welcome to the club.


What a list! number 1, 6, and 10: all checked! :)

When I was 6, I used to read 365 days-bed time stories and anecdotes with my mum before sleeping, she let me highlited the vocabs

Hey, look! See, I’m not alone in experiencing No. 1, 6 and 10 on my list. But I think Brenda said the sweetest thing: reading with the parent has got to be the most amazing experience EVER!


I went to an underpriviledge junior high public school, reading was considered “snob”. But there I found all tomes of Dumas!

Finding reading treasures in an unexpected place? GOLDEN.


mine’s pretty simple, I love reading on the bus. I can relate to ur high school experience (spending time alone in a library) :-)

one more,reading Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry on a fishing trip, with my boyfriend fishing on a chair next to me, sharing an iPod

while reading your post,it flashed me back to the day I discovered the school’s expansive but empty library.Brought back memories

Again, I am happy I’m not alone in the reading experiences department. I think her ‘reading book with boyfriend’ is much lovelier than my own experience, though. (Especially because her boyfriend probably didn’t almost spoil the ending of the book to her like my ex did.)

Also, while we’re on the subject of libraries, I have said this before and I will say it again: Indonesia needs more libraries. Indonesian libraries also need more people (and books) in it. Support libraries.


It was Musashi. I had a bet with my mum that if I win this science competition she’d buy me the book. I won and—

—I devoured the thing in about a week or so. I was so proud, lol. I think I was in Junior High.

Roll out the red carpet. I need to give props to someone who can read Musashi in a week. But yes, winning is awesome. More awesome when we get books out of it.

This next one needed a little persuasion, because:

@milazuliana I can’t participate this time because I have a VERY bad memory. Don’t think I can remember special moments but for the bad ones.

@milazuliana Let me correct that. Not that I can’t remember anything, maybe it’s just that I don’t have any amazing reading experience.

But I pushed Mila. And pushed and pushed. (Subtly, of course.) And finally:


Well, I think I’ll share this one. It’s not a bad experience, and it’s not amazing, either. Just memorable, perhaps.

I read HP5 in 2 days on my holiday on the beach, non-stop except for food, shower, and sleep. And if you know me well…’ll know that for me beaches are SRS BZNZ (since my life goal is probably living by the ocean) so yeah.

I spent my time on the beach reading other than, you know, enjoying the beach…

Other than that my reading experiences were so-so, on my bed in my bedroom. It’s because I can’t really read in public. ^^

Oddly enough, I don’t feel comfortable in a library. It’s too public for me. I want a private moment for me and my books. ^^

I end up participating anyway, huh? Your #SundaySurvey is irresistible. ☺

Whether it’s amazing or bad, when a book can make you forget your favorite thing/place in the world, that’s just plain incredible. You see the power of books? The power of Harry Potter? And discovering her story has given me this realization of how powerful a book can be. That’s awesome.

…now I’ve gone all thinky thought about books, thanks to her!

(And thank you for finally participating. I’m glad she thought the Survey was irresistible. It gives me reason to continue these fun discussions!)


best reading experience? When I was reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in a cafe, and a hot guy was reading the same book..

it’s still one of the biggest regrets in my life to not come up to him and, you know, started a little chat about the book.

He was very cute. Had I known earlier, I would came up to his table! I barely caught a glimpse of his book before he went out.

Does this sound like it came out of a movie? But it’s real. So real. This story made me smile for its sheer adorability.

More from Ndari:

oh, I have another memorable reading experience! I’m used to swapping used English books in this cafe in Kuta, and one day–

I found a book I was looking for that day, K.Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. When I got home,I found a really sweet letter inside–

probably the previous owner wrote it to her husband. What made me teary-eyed was how it ended up being in some random cafe–

and being picked up by a random stranger. Maybe something happened between them, but it’s sad though.

Gee, my memorable reading experiences sound like they come out from sappy chick-flick movies, don’t they?

To that last question, my response is: yes, but it’s okay. It’s the kind of thing my blog and me live for.

But indeed, this was a poignant experience. And isn’t it amazing that this kind of experience is related to books? See why I’m fascinated with them? Imagine the What Ifs. The story of the experience itself could inspire a book. (I’m even now thinking about writing it. Maybe one of these days, I’ll get round to it.)

By the way, @SmurfGG had something to add:

Speaking of which, I once was so engrossed in a book at QB that I was totally oblivious a guy was trying to talk to me.

All my friends chastised me, apparently he was hot :P It was Five People You Met in Heaven though, so worth it, I guess.

Hers and Ndari’s “almost meet-cute” story reminds me of another experience I had.

I was on my flight home from Rome to Jakarta in December 2001, during winter break so I can renew my visa for the next semester. During that period, I’d just watched and read Lord Of The Rings (Fellowship of the Ring) for the first time and was in love with them. I brought a copy of the books with me, but put them on my luggage so I couldn’t read them. I was grumbling when I realized this and didn’t stop berating myself all the way to Hong Kong (I flew Cathay Pacific).

When we departed for Jakarta after the transit, a cute guy who looked to be my age came to sit beside me at my front row seat. He put his bag down and smiled at me. I smiled back (not because I was interested (to be honest, he wasn’t my type, although he did wear a very geeky and adorable pair of glasses), but because it was polite. He was, after all, going to be my seat companion for the next 2 hours or so.

Lunch was served and after lunch, I settled in to sleep. But as I was fluffing my pillow, I saw the guy next to me taking out a book. It was a small paperback and it looked well thumbed. Can you guess what the title was? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was Fellowship Of The Ring.

I gaped at him for a while and stared at his book. I must have stared at it too long because, awkwardly, he turned to me and asked, “Excuse me? Is there something wrong?” And before I could think about what I was saying, I blurted out, “Oh my god, Fellowship! If you would let me read one chapter, I’d love you forever.”

He went SO CRIMSON in the face as I said that and I also went beet red with embarrassment. How could I not? It sounded like a come-on! And then we both looked away, me humiliated and him awkward, for the next few minutes. I was already planning to run away and escape to the lavatory to avoid him for the rest of the flight (at that point I didn’t mind if I had to hide in a small, claustrophobic cubicle for one whole hour). But just as reached for my seat belt, he turned to me and offered me the book. He said, “Well, it’s okay, I guess. I’ve read it so many times, I know the story anyway.”

So I read the one chapter, returned it to him after 15 minutes, and thanked him. I told him it was my first time reading it. And he said he recommended the entire series for me. I promised to finish reading the whole series by the end of 2002. Then he went back to his reading and I went back to fantasizing about living in Hobbiton for the rest of the flight. When we landed in Jakarta, he nodded to me, said goodbye and left the plane. I said goodbye and thank you again.

To this day, I never knew his name. Never got his number. But he’s probably responsible for my utter and absolute worship of J. R. R. Tolkien and his works.

Ah, there I go all nostalgic. These things are so easy to choke me up with memories! But that’s the reason why I keep doing it week after week. It’s so much fun to share these stories with fellow book lovers.


Apparently, this Survey was irresistible to a few people and they contacted me to add a few more tales of amazing reading experiences this Monday! Before I post their stories, allow me to say how happy I am that people are interested in the Survey. It’s always nice when people are willing to share their stories with you and you can learn so much from – and be highly entertained by – it.

The first addition comes from @rumfrost, who’s already given us a single tweet last night about her experience of unexpected discovery in the library. Today, she elaborated:

#latereply yup, my school library was dusty and sad (no one there, not even the librarian), I felt like owning that place

#latereply but it was in that library I found old edition of classics by pustaka jaya, balai pustaka, dian rakyat

#latereply heck, not just #dumas pere, i found #dumas fils’s “la dame au camelia” too! One of my fondest memories of junior high

“old edition classics from Pustaka Jaya, Balai Pustaka, Dian Rakyat”? AWESOME. They’re vintage Indonesian literature publishers and they had some great titles… I wonder where my collection is! But again, finding rare titles in the library is an experience I can relate to. I wish libraries were easier to visit in this city where I live so I can repeat that experience. But alas…


well, my memorable exp with books, mostly bcos d book itself,ie:at 2nd grade,I thought whether I’ll lend Enid Blyton’s books-

-title is ‘Anak2 Kereta api’ bcos at 2nd grade,I’m not sure I can read it in a week bcos it’s quite a thick book,but I did! :)

next is almost the same exp, I read Sybill (about multiple personality) when I’m 13-14yro n it’s quite traumatic..

however,my most memorable one is when I read HP 6th,I’ve waited so long n at 1st I want to wait til the Ind edition came out,but-

-but I can’t wait longer that I ended lend my sis’ books (in eng)&very excited that after got the book n arrived home, I sat at-

-sofa n immediately read the book, and I remember clearly laugh at around the first chapter (later,I do feel that it might not-

very funny,but every time I read that book,I’ll remember that I laughed while read that(looks it’s bcos I’m too happy back then)

Gina and I share the same experience of reading Sybil at 14 years of age. I don’t think we were meant to read the book at that age but, back when I was 14, it was so popular. Guess where I found out about the book that first time? LIBRARY.

It was quite an unexpected discovery by my friend. She started reading it and then passed the book on to others. A lot of the other kids started reading it as well and I caught the hype. I read it and then got severely freaked out by it. But that was the first time I learned that there was such a thing as “multiple personality disorder”. During my ‘angst’ years, I’d wondered if I had one too. But as it turned out, I didn’t have multiple personalities. I was just being a flippant teenager with slight bipolar tendencies.

Again, great stories. I’m thrilled. But while I hope there would be more, I think this entry is long enough as it is and we need to move on!

This week’s Sunday Survey will be something less ‘bookish’ and more ‘pop-culturish’ as we will discuss (and flail over) Marvel’s The Avengers movie that will finally start playing in cinemas in Indonesia on 4 May 2012.


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