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Confessions of a book nerd

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Kathmandu, April 8, 2016

We read for different reasons. And we all have our favorite works and writers. While some might consider the Harry Potter series to be the best thing to happen to mankind, some might beg to differ. Some might like to read and own the entire series of Game of Thrones while quite a few would not spend their hard earned money on these doorstopper volumes. To each their own, especially in matter as personal and close to one’s heart as reading. But here, The Week asked a few book nerds to spill their book secrets.

Whenever there’s a conversation regarding books and authors, The Alchemist and it’s writer sneak their way in every single time. Most people are quick to say that The Alchemist is one of their favorite books and Paulo Coelho one of their all time favorite writers. I don’t understand what is so fascinating about it. It’s the message – if you want something badly enough, the universe conspires to bring it to you or something like that – that people desperately want to believe in. It’s a good thing to hold on to especially if you are the lazy kind, I believe.

I tend to judge these people and think they know nothing about books, literature, and writing. While I believe you can read anything as long as you are reading something, I think most of these people who put The Alchemist in their list of favorites read to appear hip and smart. They don’t read because they want to, or because they can’t imagine a life without books but because they want to fit in a certain crowd that they otherwise might not.

When people say they love a certain book, I ask them why. Those who tell me how the story made them feel or how they could relate to a certain character or circumstances, and occasionally talk about the writing style as well are the ones I take to be true readers. You can also see it in the way their eyes light up while talking about their favorite reads. Everybody else just reads because it’s cool to be smart.

I recently met a former beauty pageant contestant who couldn’t stop talking about how she just loved reading, and that she has been reading ever since she was a kid. Needless to say, she simply loved The Alchemist and believed it was a book that could change your life. I couldn’t help wondering how someone who grew up reading had such bad vocabulary and grammar.
Someone who judges people who like The Alchemist

People come to my house and say that they want to borrow a book when they see my floor to ceiling bookshelves. They take two or three. I’m usually too nice to tell them to take one, return it, and then take another. I know I should. I tell myself I will the next time someone wants to borrow a book. But I never do. And as a result I have lost many books.

I know a relative has at least five of my books – all favorites. But I never ask for them. It’s been so long since she borrowed them that they must feel like her own. I bought another copy of one of those books but I still want my previous copy that was signed by the author. Again, I’m too nice to ask. I wish she would wake up one day with a sudden urge to return all my books because I’m not getting them back any way else.

I wish people would return my books after reading. Or at least have the decency to tell me they have my books. Once I made a rough list of all the books I had lost and posted it on Facebook, telling my friends and family to inform me if they had a certain title. But only three people commented on it and I got four books back.

I also don’t like the way some people just pluck books from my shelf and declare they are taking such and such titles without even asking me first. I sometimes have to part with books I haven’t read or want to reread. I wish I had the guts to say no. A few times I’ve told someone that I would like to read a book first before letting them borrow it, I’ve been at the receiving end of such sarcasm and uncouth remarks that I’ve just given in and let them take it. Again, I wish I had said no.
The one who has lost almost 50 books

While I love discussions on books, I hate it when people ask me what I think of their favorite titles. This requires me to be nice. And I’m hardly ever nice. A cousin recently asked me what I think of Pride and Prejudice. I know she loves it. She’s reread it one too many times. But I just don’t see the point of this Jane Austen novel and find the idea of romance in it a little hard to digest. I told her that and she had her fangs out in less than a minute. She tried very hard to convince me that the book was perfect in every which way.

Different people like different books for different reasons and we should all be allowed to have our bookish opinions and ideas. What I love, you might not and vice versa. Let’s not get into a debate just for the sake of getting into one. If you have a valid point, then let’s discuss the idea. If I don’t like a book that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means I didn’t enjoy it. Respect that and let me be. I don’t understand why some people think there are certain books that need to be liked and loved. They fail to understand that it’s a matter of perspective. If I don’t like a book they like, then they think I’m dumb and need a crash course in literature. These people freak me out and I want to stay far, far away from such book snobs.
The one who wants to be left alone with her books

I’m guilty of gritting my teeth and completing a book even if it is boring and I really don’t want to read it. That’s because it means one more book in the ‘Books I’ve read’ list and also because I didn’t want to give up on the time I have already wasted reading the first few chapters. I might take a long time to complete it but finish it I will. It’s almost a compulsion for me to finish the books I start. I tell myself life is too short to read bad books but I can’t help it.

When I was younger, I also had this habit of going straight to the last page of a book, no matter the genre, to find out how it ends. This made me feel content while reading the book. But then I realized this was affecting my reading as there wasn’t the same thrill when I came to the end of the book and so I decided to quit doing it which wasn’t very easy. Actually, there are still some times when I can’t resist flipping to the last page to find out what happens. For example, I’ve just started reading Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey and I peeked at the last page because I desperately wanted to know whether she gets married and has a family of her own or not. No, I didn’t think of going to Google with my questions.
The one who wants to read 100 books this year.