How much of yourself do you bring?

June 3, 2013
How much of yourself do you bring with you when you read a book?
How does who you are, your values and experience, affect the way you experience a book?
How can you be “totally objective” when reading a book?
These were some of the thoughts that raced through my mind as I read Chimamanda’s latest book and the reviews. This post isn’t about what a great book (or not) “Americanah” is, but I do want to say I really enjoyed it and even before I read it I knew I would.Hair, Race, Love via social commentary- it was like an early Christmas present for me but I couldn’t help but wonder though how a person who hadn’t had the same experiences would view it.
A lot of the experiences and blog posts on being Black in America were things I had experienced firsthand and there’s nothing quite like seeing “you” in a book. That being said though I did enjoy the book even in parts I couldn’t relate with.I think who you are definitely shapes your understanding of a book and the closer the subject matter is to you the harder it is to remain objective about the ideas presented.One of the reasons I prefer books to film, is that books allow you to bring much more of yourself to the experience. They allow you to create images, expressions, extension of characters and even projections ( A lot of people say Americanah was rushed at the end or ended badly- whether or not this is the case, I do like being allowed to wonder or decide what happened finally). It’s not to say films are bland, I just think they leave only a little to imagine.

Have you ever revisited a book you read before? I had a professor who would say “Just like you can’t stand in the same river twice (water is always flowing), you can’t read the same book twice)” I love and held on to that quote because it rang so true for me. We are constantly learning and changing and that affects the way we see the world in general and that surely affects our reading. I read “Things fall apart” 3 separate times within 5 years and always found something new or understood something better or differently, it’s amazing. I do it for especially hard books or books I didn’t enjoy on my first read, you should try it.

So what do you think? Answers to the first questions?
Contributions are welcome.

PS- I’ve missed this space, which includes you reading, glad to be blogging again.

Love Always,

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  • Reply NIKKI June 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

    ‘I read “Things fall apart” 3 separate times within 5 years and always found something new or understood something better or differently, it’s amazing.’ I felt the same way with purple hibiscus,I read it 3 times too.

    • Reply Sabirah June 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      I definitely need to revisit that book, you’ve just reminded me!

  • Reply P June 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Funny I was reading Virginia Woolf on How to Read a Book last night. Here’s a quote: “To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist — the great artist — gives you.”

    She might be a going a tad deeper than your questions warrant but yes, that’s exactly why I prefer books to movies too. No reigning in of the imagination. I’m in the middle of Americanah too; and yes at some points, I have to remind myself to take a step back and read the book for what it is and not what I think it is.

    • Reply Sabirah June 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Ooooooh I absolutely love this! adding to my repertoire of quotes about books.
      Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply cuo June 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I haven’t got round to this book for a number of reasons. In the meantime, I’m letting the anticipation build.

    On to your questions. How much of myself do I bring to the reading experience? Every ounce of my being. It’s hard to have expectations of books in the way one has expectations of a film (trailers be damned! Haha.) So I dive in head first and get lost in the story. I also find that some books act as a lens through which one can figure out real world problems (just my opinion).

    On re-reading books, I find that I don’t do this as much as I used to, mostly because my to-read pile causes me some degree of shame. I have certain books that have been read upwards of 10 times *ahem*. Some I never go back to. Others I read again after quite a few years and wonder why I never went back to them sooner.

    Books will always trump films for me. I never remember films the way I do books. As I do not have someone else’s interpretation of events cluttering my mind, I find it easier to savour the memory of books especially when I cannot indulge myself by reading them again.

  • Reply Jibola June 7, 2013 at 4:51 am

    You make a strong point on all counts, in my opinion.

    First off, I was brought up on books. Visuals didn’t come until much later. Even now I am still not properly immersed in the medium.

    I haven’t read Americanah yet and I worry that I won’t fully appreciate her thoughts on those topics because even though my feet are weary from always travelling I hardly have that fully immersive immigrant experience.

    That said, we see the world as we are. And we are never truly in the same place twice when it comes to our worldview. It is why books will always be a new experience every single time.

    I don’t re-read books until I’ve lived so hard that I forget. I don’t know if this makes any sense. But I can’t reread a book while I have fresh memories of it.

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