From Young Adult to Postcolonial? | My Reading Journey
"There is no reason why the same man should like the same books at eighteen and at forty-eight."
- Ezra Pound
In celebration of the last day of June (seriously, how quick did that go!), I've taken inspiration from the blog's quote of the month to think about how my reading tastes have changed over the years.
Primary school: 5-11 years old
Sadly, I can't remember what the first book I ever read or read independently was called. That would have been precious right? What I can remember is being read the Spot the Dog series every day before home-time by my favourite teacher, Tony. I was five then. I quickly began a 'healthy' appetite of reading as my literacy skills developed. I visited the local library every fortnight with my older sister and brother and together we would drag heavy bags of books back home.
As I read more, I fell in love with the writing, the world which the author created and the way the author used words to entice me into it. It was Jacqueline Wilson who first inspired me to become a writer at the age of ten. I know a lot of people say that she only writes about broken homes and relationships but coming from a background where I had a mother, a father, siblings, friends and knowing that I was loved, Jacqueline Wilson's stories made me appreciate what I had. It also prepared me for secondary school where I met people whose parents were separated or divorced. When Little Darlings (pictured above) came out in 2010, I went to a signing to finally meet and thank her.
I also became a fan of Daisy Meadows' Rainbow Magic stories. My favourite fairy was Ruby the Red Fairy and my gosh, I would squabble with my friends if they said they were 'her' too. You know that stage in a girl's life where she likes something pretty and becomes obsessed with anything related to it? Yeah, I went through that... Lastly I began the Harry Potter series and loved J.K. Rowling's brain. I'm still on Order of Phoenix however after my Bangladesh copy ripped in half but I've watched the movies except for the last. Please don't hate me; they're on my TBR pile. Honest.
Secondary School & College: 11-18 years old
My love for books was quickly apparent during English lessons and amongst my friends. I did go through a stupid phase in year 8 where I gave up reading for other things but in year 9, I frequented the school library so much that I became a library monitor, hooked my friends up and made the library our lunch-time crib. I remember when The Twilight Saga: New Moon movie came out that I became interested in young adult literature. I read Twilight and instantly became 'Team Edward'. In anticipation for the next movie, I began reading The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith which was also having a tv show in it's name. That was all I needed to officially become a YA fan. Thanks to Goodreads, I can actually keep track of all the YA books I've ever read. Some of my favourite books/series are The Morganville Vampires (Rachel Caine), Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater), The Host (Stephenie Meyer), Graceling (Kristin Cashore) and I Am Number Four (Pittacus Lore). Before leaving school, I donated most of my YA books to the library but Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush series (pictured above) was always pre-ordered on my dad's Amazon account and my sister said she would kill me if I even thought about giving them away.
I joined the book club in year 10 and read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Mr Darcy is still as lovely in my head as he was then. As well as the classics, I was introduced to books about serious issues or real life events such as Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche), Chains (Laurie Halse) and Kite Runner. The latter will always hold a special place in my heart because Khaled Hosseini's novel showed me how I could confidently write about my own culture and religion.
Once I hit 16 I think this is when my 'reading for pleasure' began deteriorating. I didn't have as much time besides studying the chunky textbooks and slightly boring literature which all humanitarian students can relate to. Only Frankenstein stood out for me as a beautiful piece of writing by Mary Shelley. The situation became dire because I started reading Hunger Games during my A-level exams. It was such a thrilling read that I almost began to resist the oppressive system that was education.
After finishing my first year of university, I have to say that I'm more impressed with all that I've learnt as an English undergraduate than by the books I've studied. I only have two favourites which are Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe) and The Hours (Michael Cunningham). However I made two discoveries: I didn't like all the classics that were out there such as Beowulf, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway and I definitely enjoyed postcolonial and cultural books.
I've tailored my second year module choices around these discoveries and will hopefully be studying postcolonial literature, women's writing, the legend that is King Arthur and Victorian fiction next year. Studying at university has made me realise that there are so many books that I still have not read. Sometimes I regret reading all those YA books because after a few, the story becomes formulaic so you already know the plot but you're just waiting for the next romantic scene. I wish I had spent more time reading the classics or the less known authors' works on culture and race or even finished the Jane Austen series! But then I remind myself that YA literature hooked me into reading again after a reckless year. They were relatable because I was a teenager but they also inspired me to do more for myself and for that I will cherish my love of YA books. To prove it to myself, soon as university was over, I dove straight into Divergent (Veronica Roth). I was clearly starved of YA because I finished it in two days and wrote a review about it on here.
So, in response to Ezra Pound, I do think reading tastes change over time but they are influenced by the context we live in so our previous tastes ultimately don't leave us. In year 9, I needed a place to escape to and supernatural YA fiction was the perfect option but now I need to raise my awareness of the world and it's long history in order to empower myself and others around me. So I do that and occasionally indulge in a bit of teenage recklessness.
Share me your reading journey! Have you read any of the books I've mentioned?
Have your reading tastes changed or are you loyal to one genre? Let me know in the comments below!