19/30: On Literature

Every book is a gateway to a new world.

This is the nineteenth of thirty days of stories.

Considering that I have only read one book this year, I am not a good reader. Somewhat ironically, I absolutely adore bookstores. They are spaces of unlimited potential, with so much to do and see — you never know what is going to catch your eye.

For some of last year, I had an apartment that was about a twenty-minute walk from the nearest bookstore, and I’d regularly go there once or even twice a week. Given that my internet service at the time was terrible (though not much has changed in that regard) and I couldn’t play any console games, there was little for me to do except exercise and read.

Sometimes, I would stalk the isles with purpose, looking for a specific title or author, but there are few things that I have come to enjoy more than going to the Starbucks, getting a beverage, and enjoying the experience of being around more words than I could ever consume. As you can probably imagine, I bought a lot of books during that time, and I have yet to read many of them.

I’m sure that this is a habit that will continue when (or, at this point I guess if) I am able to move back to the city. The Japanese have a word specifically for buying a bunch of books that are thus far unread — tsundoku.

In early 2015, I read a novel about the power of words and language, and how they could convey subtle messages to people. That novel was Gyakusatsu Kikan — Genocidal Organ, by the Japanese author Project Itoh. Just now I realized how much that novel resonated with me, and while I certainly wouldn’t call it my favourite novel, it certainly inspired me to try to do something with words (and that something just so happened to be marketing).

Much as they are sources of inspiration, great books resonate throughout the ages. The sole book I have finished this year was Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, which remains just as powerful and relevant as it was when it was published over twenty years ago. While I have read some of Palahniuk’s other titles, Fight Club has a truly timeless quality to it.

Ironically, Fight Club is a novel about anarchy and overthrowing the establishment — including advertising. Like nothing else, books can challenge the reader on a topic, making a strong case but ultimately allowing them to draw their own conclusions.

Last year, every book that I read was recommended to me by someone else, as part of an experiment to expand my literary horizons. While I ultimately only ended up finishing ten titles, each was a unique look into the tastes of someone I know.

For example, a friend suggested I read William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which I did ultimately enjoy but had a significant amount of difficulty actually getting through. Someone else told me to read The Old Man and the Sea, one of Ernest Hemmingway’s classics, and while I binge-read the entire novel in a single evening it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression on me.

Despite reading great titles from authors I really like, the best novel I read last year would have to be The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, AKA J.K. Rowling. I was never a Harry Potter fan growing up, but I was incredibly impressed by Rowling’s take on detective fiction. I’ve subsequently purchased all of the titles in the series, and look forward to the release of the upcoming entry.

Actively seeking out recommendations from others is something I would wholeheartedly suggest, because even if not everything is a hit with you, you get the opportunity to stumble across great works you would never have found otherwise.

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