Sunday 10 March 2013

What Should I Read Next?

By Jenny Mak

I’ve always been a voracious reader. From as young as I can remember until I was 12, I never had a problem finding books to read. It helped that my school would award us a small gold badge every time you finished reading 35 books. If you hit 200 books, you would get a large gold badge that you could pin to your uniform (or keep it in your secret memento box and look at from time to time). So I read loads—Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Diana Wynne Jones, even Chicken Soup for the Soul! Mystery and adventure fiction were my favourite genres. I would devour books I’d borrow from the library and then, like a magpie, collect all those shiny little badges that looked so proper and adult.

But when I turned 13, my book reading came to a halt. Suddenly I was lost; what was I going to read next? It was my first year at secondary school and I felt grown up. As much as I loved my favourite authors, I felt I was too old for Witches or The Famous Five (plus I’d already read them a thousand times over). What section of the library should I head to next?

Now, I’ve talked to some of my wonderful friends collaborating with me on this anthology, and I know that not everyone will face this dilemma. If you’re one of those lucky people who have no problem moving onto new books at this age, good for you! Keep reading and keep imagining new worlds. But if you’re like me, feeling a little stuck even after chatting with other friends about what they are reading, here are some tips to help you jump start your reading pulse.

1. Stick with genres you love
Think about the genres you already enjoy and try to find authors who write in the same genre but for adults. Don’t worry if you’re afraid that the language might be too difficult or you’d get bored—it’s all about experimenting and having fun! I loved mystery and adventure fiction so I thought I could try detective fiction, which seemed like an adult extension of those genres. I grabbed some Agatha Christie books (that are actually pretty easy to get through) and loved them so much that I ended up reading all her books and even watching screen adaptations of them!

2. Stick with authors you love
Here’s your chance to do some research on your favourite authors. You might find that he/she doesn’t just write children’s books but also adult fiction! Roald Dahl is a great example—if Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rocks your boat, go read Tales of the Unexpected. You will see Roald Dahl in a whole new light. But that’s the beauty of this tip: let the authors you know so well surprise and delight you in unpredictable, exciting ways. There is no fixed destination when you read books, just the journey with all its twist and turns.

3. Go back to the classics
We’ve all been fed classics like The Swiss Family Robinson, Great Expectations, Treasure Island and others. Boring, you say? Yes, they might well be, especially when you’re younger and groaning over the abridged versions of these books. Now you’re older and more confident of your reading skills, why not take a shot at the unabridged versions of these classics this time? Mr. Charles Dickens himself has so many rollicking, comical tales to tell you, you’d be begging for more.

4. Put pen to paper
Many authors first started writing because they couldn’t find the book they wanted to read. If this is the case for you, why not try writing your own book? It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece or get on the bestseller lists immediately; just starting to write is a step forward in itself. Let your imagination run wild, create your own fantasy worlds and characters, and write the story you most want to read. After all, you’ve read books by your favourite authors and learnt from the best. So go forth and write!

Ultimately, don’t worry if you’re at this crossroads in your reading journey. The library is your oyster, and at the risk of going against all I’ve suggested above, you can literally close your eyes, run your finger along the spines on a shelf of books, stop randomly and read the book your finger lands on! There are no rules in reading, just that you never stop doing it. Enjoy the adventure and good luck!

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