Reading is a chore

(Written on 17th September 2020 – yes I know, it’s been 2 months)

It was clear that my hobby of ‘reading’ became somewhat of an ideal. Another thing that I loved the idea of, but did not want to do. And facing that brought a strange sense of guilt and I guess…shame(?), which piled as I bought more books that I ended up not reading.

‘Ah, it’s on the to-read list,’ I’d say, when a friend asked about my progress for a title I mentioned having purchased.

And then, this article appeared on my social media feed.

Reading that was a major relate moment.

And so, I booked a timeslot at my nearest library (hahaha, booked) with the intention of only borrowing books that I want to read and not because I should read them or would look good reading them. Fantasy, sci-fi, heck – young adult titles. Books that made me forget time, that made me forget about the internet as a form of distraction. I missed looking up from the page only to gasp after a glimpse at the clock.

‘Oh sh*t, it’s already evening??’

With that intention as clear as day, I went through a note I have on my phone: a list of titles that I’ve always wanted to read but never had the time to.

After Phase 2 happened, the library recently opened to the public with measures, amongst those are:

  • Visitors are required to reserve a spot to visit the library (they do walk-ins but if they’re full for that timeslot, you gotta wait)
  • Each slot is only 30 minutes long
  • All study areas, chairs, sitting apparatus are off limits

Essentially, everyone has to chop-chop go in and come out.

I settled on 4 titles and aimed to finish them within 6 weeks and off I went: 30 minutes in the library and then grocery shopping.

While it was a given to expect almost no one in the library, I excitedly arrived, got my temperature taken and stuck the timeslot sticker onto my shirt, only to have that excitement sucked out of me.

The library was dead. A vacuum of activity.

The cheery décor did little to alleviate how still the place was. With the occasional human and one parent-kid pair, it was a liiiiiitle bit unnerving.

Usually, students would hog the study area, earpiece plugged in, paper and books covered the surface of the huge table. Their hands were either scrawling notes, flipping their textbooks or scrolling on their phones. Uncles and aunties would be lounging on settees and cushioned arm chairs, some with their lao hua glasses balancing halfway down their noses. Scanning newspapers and some reading books. Kids negotiating with their parents on which book to borrow and which one to leave for the next time. Mini exhibitions entertaining the bored or the curious.

There wasn’t a single cough or sniffle – a good thing in this current climate – but whew, pin-drop silence made me hyper conscious of my footsteps and the usual spirit that was missing in the library on a Sunday afternoon made me nervous.

I got on a dormant escalator, which whirred into action. It was so loud.

I grabbed the books I wanted and then some, feeling a little sad because I couldn’t sink down into a soft chair and read the first chapter of each one.

10 minutes before my time was up, a chime rang through the library – ‘oh my god, why am I so happy to hear her voice’ – the announcer was chasing those who held a orange sticker out. 

I half-pouted because no one was looking and headed to borrow the items.

As I made my way out of the exit, a board asking what was the one thing we missed during Circuit Breaker stood out, no thanks to all the neon colours splashed all over it.

I took my neon orange sticker and stuck it under ‘Library’ while my eyes were set on ‘Eating outside with friends’.

In less than 48 hours, I would have finished two books: JY Yang’s The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune was enchanting.

A Singaporean author who created a whole new world in their book series, exploring they/them pronouns (though I got a little confused along the way because of the plural nature of the word ‘they’ and ‘them’). Fun fact: ‘They’ is now recognised as a singular pronoun in both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries back in 2015. More information can be found in this article if you’re interested to learn more about non-binary pronouns.

The story is about a pair of twins, growing up and eventually embarking on their own individual lives, but are always connected with one another. The world they created was also a really cool mix of so many different cultures in real life, it was a perfect rojak. It was fun trying to see where or what this name or that place was inspired by. It was as if the entirety of the Asian continent was one world. It kinda reminded me of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, where he sang ‘imagine there’s no countries’. There’s also magic and mystical creatures, loss and rebellion, love and family.

In fact, it was through encountering The Black Tides of Heaven on the NLB (Or was it Libby?)  app that made me want to rediscover my love for reading. Do you ever get so sick of scrolling your socials during your commute that you begin tip into a mini existential crisis right there at the bus stop? Well, when that happens, I’d think, ‘I need to spend my time better, be more productive. Do anything else but scrolling.’

If there were absolutely nothing on my to-do list, the library/Libby app comes on. Said app (I can’t remember which) was promoting a few SingLit titles.

‘It’s been a while since I read a fantasy one. And this is SingLit? Haven’t come across a lot from the fantasy genre…’

I borrowed it and almost missed my bus stop.

After alighting at my destination, it went on my To-Read list.

Going through two books in 48 hours was crazy. I came out of it feeling as if I had just binge-watched an entire K-drama series. The first time in a long time where I forgot about time. My dry and tired eyes were the only indicator of my exertion. And age.

The style used was easy…I don’t know if that’s the right word. It sounds strange but the words flowed and it got me hooked right from the get-go. And then I was brought back to where I wanted to be, and I found what I had lost. Thus, I am happy to say, with pride, I love to read. And I can’t wait to get my hands on books that make me forget about time. For 6 weeks and then maybe a copy to stay on my shelf.

Needless to say, I’m itching to finish my current stack of books just so I can get hold of book #3.

As for the other books that came home with me, I ditched a couple of them simply because it didn’t catch my full attention. My eyes would either begin to droop or I would feel compelled to do something else. Even though I felt guilty about putting an unread book aside (like what if the story gets better halfway through??), I figured that I have tons many more that I wanna read and let’s face it, life’s too short to go through everything.

I say it like it’s easy.

But I had to put those books in a place where I don’t usually pay attention to in order to stop feeling that twang of guilt. Into the bottom shelf of my desk it goes.

It seems like I’m always recommending stuff at the end of my posts. So apart from the books from JY Yang, here’s another one: Spectre by Verena Tay. Although this isn’t sci-fi or fantasy, the short stories in here were chilling. If you are up for a long read, ‘The Black Isle’ by Sandi Tan is a slow burn. Or a slow chill, depending on how you define ‘horror’. But my skin crawled for these two. Dang.

Or check out my goodreads widget 😉 Located somewhere on this page.

Kbyetake care,

Read what you want. *finger guns*

Update: I just went through Book #3 of the Protectorate Series and whattheasdsdkfjkdgh where’s Book #4???

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