open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
When I was a little girl, my mother used to offer me, “Toys or books?” Every time, I would answer, “Books.” I remember the first books she bought me: L.E. Blair’s Girl Talk series, Enid Blyton’s titles (everything) and Can You Solve The Mystery? starring Christopher “Hawkeye” Collins and Amy Amanda Adams (is it a coincidence that this character shares my name? I even got my nickname from her.) After them came a set of encyclopedias and a series of books on Greek mythology written/edited by Yannis and Menelaos Stephanides. Then there were The Adventures of Tintin (although they were, strictly speaking, comics and not books) and finally, as life would have it completely in reverse, the classics.
My teenage obsession was not anything that any other 13-year-old in my hometown would ever touch: the works of William Shakespeare. If my memory serves me well, it started when a Japanese manga that I like featured the bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the plot. After that, my curious brain couldn’t rest until I got my hands on a book containing the script of the play. A local bookstore carried it and, again, my mother agreed to buy it for me. Once I finished A Midsummer’s Night Dream, I moved on to Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Measure For Measure and all the rest, which I got in a single leather-bound volume gifted to me from a former mentor of my mother’s in England. I was told that he’d discovered my interest in Shakespeare so when my mother came home from a visit in London, he gave the book to her and said, “I hope this will serve your daughter well.”
The older I got, the more diverse my reading became. I discovered magazines so I was now exposed to not only fiction but also non-fiction. I read all about how to take care of yourself, inside and outside, from Australian teenage magazines. I found out about the state of the world from TIME and Newsweek. I even tried reading a car magazine once but I didn’t like it very much. The weird thing was that, of all the non-fiction readings I went through during my middle school and high school years, it was the dictionaries that caught my attention the most. There was one set of dictionaries in my school’s library that I read religiously for three years that I was in high school and it was called Merriam-Webster Seven Language Dictionary. To make a long story short, it is thanks to this dictionary that I speak fluent Italian, that I know French and Spanish, and that I spend my adult life being interested in people and cultures all around the world.
The rest is history. I graduated from high school, got sent abroad to study and ended up discovering a lot more things to read. I’ve never stopped reading until now and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. But my philosophy in reading is that “you are never what you read”.
You can be one thing and yet read so many other things that have nothing to do with you. The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you think. The more you think, the more you will be motivated to find answers to whatever question you have. There is no right way to read. There’s also no wrong way to read. As long as you’re reading something, then everything is all right. Read whatever you want; it doesn’t make you anything you’re not, if you don’t want it to. Reading is based on free will and I will forever be against those who say I cannot read certain things. Books have liberated me and I want to stay liberated.
That really is the point of reading.