On Reading

I am writing this week’s blog on something most of us enjoy and do on a regular basis: Reading. Yes, some of us do it more often than others, and most of us want to have more time for it. I, for one, have always loved reading. I have lost count how many books I’ve read in my life, but judging from the over 1000 books on my bookshelves in the UK (may I add that they are not for decoration and I actually read most of them, as well as giving a lot to charity shops after a regular sort-out), and the hundreds I’ve left behind in China, not to mention all the books I had read in various libraries and the newly acquired e-books on my Kindle, the number must be in the thousands. So I can safely claim that I am an avid reader and will remain so for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember exactly when I started reading, and there weren’t that many good books available when I was growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution. But I do remember being able to read before the normal school age, because we started learning to read and write at nursery school. With the complications of Chinese characters I guess we have to start a little earlier than the rest of the World! Then there was of course the compulsive reading of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Books, and many revolutionary story books about heros and heroines who sacrificed and died for us, for the New China.

On reflection, I began reading seriously and in ernest while at school in the 1970s. Even before the Cultural Revolution officially ended, there were banned books to lay my hands on, to read under the bedcovers at night with only a torch, from Chinese classical literature to more modern romantic fiction. The risk here was encountering the furious rage of my severe Communist Mother.

I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to go to University and my first degree was no other than the wonderful English Literature. From then onwards, I no longer had to depend on translations and my love for world literature thrived, growing year by year. I read whatever I could find and that passion for written words never stopped. Because I was starved as a child, of the spiritual food more than anything else, the fear of not feeding myself properly is so deeply embedded in my consciousness that the hunger stayed with me and compelled me constantly seek for more.

My first and foremost love is fiction, especially English and the World literature of note. It’s a never ending love affair which has been reinforced by time and experience. I am in love with many classical masters, including Dickens, Hardy, The Bronte sisters, the creators of the War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, just to mention a few in my long list.

I can go on and on about the great literary works I have come across over the years, and while some of them do slip through our somewhat faulty, sieve-like memories, others stay with us for as long as we remain sane and sober. I must admit that there are books that I began but never finished, and occasionally never went past the first page, others simply grabbed me so instantly and tightly that they wouldn’t let you go until you came to the very last page, and even then I pined for more. In my time, I have the fortune to devour quite a few of them.

I won’t be going into details on each of these unforgettable books right here and now, but I want to direct the last part of this blog to a book I have just finished, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Although I had it on my shelf for about a year, I started it due to a ‘casual’ conversation on my Facebook with fellow author Kate Bower. Since she finished it in one day a year ago, I thought I’d have a contest with her, to see if I could manage it in two days (Who can say that I am competitive?).

It proved one of these books that you just can’t put down. I raced through it and managed it in about eight hours,finishing at 2-30 am! What a feast and a fabulous trip into the past. I won’t be revealing any of the plot here in case I spoil it for other potential readers, suffice to say that it has made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I learnt something I did not know before, and I loved the writing style and its pace. I have been to Jersey but I surely now have Guernsey in my sights, all thanks to this wonderful book.

To be a proper critic, my only negative comment would be that I wish that it did not remind me so much of Pride and Prejudice in the end, but I guess for so many other ardent Jane Austen lovers, that would have been the genius touch.

I hope you enjoyed my blog and please leave a comment if you feel so inclined to. Thank you!

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About Junying Kirk

Originally from China and currently living and working in the UK, Junying has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher, professional interpreter, translator and cultural consultant. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and writing, and reflecting upon what's important in life. After six years of blogging at her own website, topics ranging from serious stuff such as art, books, cross-cultural communications, education and politics, as well as more leisure pursuits including cuisine, keeping-fit, music, photography and world travels, she is taking a break from regular blogging to concentrate on her career. From time to time, she may still publish occasional posts here to engage with her readers. Her "Journey To The West" Trilogy - The Same Moon, Trials of Life and Land of Hope, are available on Amazon stores Worldwide, iBook and Smashwords, both in electronic and printed forms. She is currently writing a new book, the first of her "Journey to the East" trilogy.
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2 Responses to On Reading

  1. Marni Mann says:

    Great blog post, Junying! Like you, I’m an avid reader and will often get so lost in a book, the day passes and my work goes unfinished.

    I just finished, The Room by Emma Donoghue. It wasn’t so much the story that captured my attention (although the story was dark and I know we’re both a fan of dark,) it was the author’s craft. Authors who have such a strong handle on the craft, where each of their sentences are so beautifully written is as good (to me) as a great plot. When both are combined, although it doesn’t happen often enough, it’s a life changing novel. The authors you listed above are the masters – for those reasons.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and I can’t wait to read your novel. 🙂

    • junyingkirk says:

      Hi Marni. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I know exactly what you mean by author’s craft. A good book, to me, must have some of the qualities, such as beautifully wriiten prose, great plot, believable characters and some kind of a message.

      I shall check out The Room shortly to see if I can get a copy. It’s wonderful that we can share and recommend good books we have come across. As you rightly said, some great literature can change one’s lives, even just for a little while when we are absorbed in another world.

      I do hope you’d enjoy reading my novel – I need to work on my craft and am about to enrol on another Creative Writing course this summer. I’m going to devote my best effort to make my 3rd novel the greatest of my all three – a big challenge but I’m ready :-).

      Good luck with your writing and editing, and I look forward to reading them when they hit Kindle or any store in the UK :-).

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