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    • Last month I wrote about starting a new project this year, which was to read at least one book a month. I'm happy to report that I've completed my first book! Took less than two weeks too, which makes me even happier.

      I've never reviewed a book before, and I'm not going to do so here either. Instead, I just want to share my thoughts and what I've learned from finishing a novel for the first time in my adult life.

      Remembering characters

      When it comes to watching a movie or a TV series, you have both a face and a name to remember a character by. In a book, you only have a name. I found myself backtracking and reading previous chapters on more than one occasion because I forgot who a character was. My friend told me this actually helps to develop a better memory. Without a face, we're forced to remember a character's name and who that character is. It makes sense, but I imagine it'll take some time for this skill to develop. Especially for people like me, who in real life, always remembers people's faces but never remembers their names 🤣

      Quick reads

      When I want to watch a movie or an episode of a TV show at home, I like to do so in one sitting. I don't really like being interrupted, so I usually need to set aside the time needed to finish watching whatever it is I want to watch. But when it comes to reading, I have no problem picking up my book, reading maybe a chapter or two, then putting it down and going to do something else. This also makes it a great way to take a break from sitting at my desk where I'm always on my computer. I can read my book for maybe 10-15 minutes, then I'm back on my computer again. This isn't to say I only read my book when I want to take a break. Sometimes I genuinely do want to read my book, but I like that it's also something I can do in short spurts as well.

      Choosing a book to read

      I didn't need to worry about which book to read when I started this project, since I already had "I, Alex Cross" from last year. But I've been to several bookstores to look for other books to read, and it was a bit of a challenge. I had no idea what books I wanted to read, nor which authors I would like. I had no idea if books were standalone or were part of a larger franchise. If I needed to read the books in sequence or if they could be read individually. I have a general idea of what genre I want to read, but even that isn't enough. With TV shows and movies, I can usually gauge by the trailers if I would enjoy it, but reading the excerpts on the back of books doesn't really help. Many people have suggested I look to Goodreads for suggestions, and that has helped, but I still feel like choosing a book to read is a bit of a challenge for me.

      I noticed a few other things while walking through the bookstores too. There's a big emphasis on authors. Many books showed the name of the author prominently on the cover, with the title of the book in a smaller, less noticeable font. Not the same with movies or TV shows, where the writers and directors usually take a back seat. Also, books seem to age better. I could find books that were several years old that look brand new. The book I just read was actually published 10 years ago! Reading a 10 year old book won't exactly feel like reading a 10 year old book, but if you were to watch a movie that was 10 years old, you'd notice it right away.

      Using my imagination

      Similar to faces, there's no scenery for me to, well, see, when I read a book. Everything is described with words, and it's up to me to visualise it the best I can. I found this to be a rather unique experience. I visualised a police shootout which came after a car chase, I visualised crime scenes, but perhaps most interesting was visualising facial expressions and emotions. It takes some good writing to be able to visualise facial expressions, and to be able to almost feel what the characters are feeling. I have sci-fi and fantasy books on my list, so it'll be interesting to visualise whatever comes from those authors' imagination.

      The writing is everything

      There are a lot of components that go into a movie or a TV show. The director, producers, writers, the cast is possibly the biggest part of any production, then you have music, costumes, set design, CGI in some movies, the editing and foley artists, and a whole lot more. In a book, all you have are the author's words. That's it. Everything that goes into a movie or a TV show, replaced with nothing but words. I know it seems kind of obvious, but that places an enormous amount of importance on the author's ability to write. There's nothing to hide behind. In a movie, a bad story could be hidden behind CGI or a stellar cast, but a book? It's all in the writing. The story shines, and the author's writing ability is front and centre.

      I'm quite confident I'll be able to meet my goal of reading one book a month this year, if not more. I'm already on my second book now, and I have my third on standby. I'm going to try and read different genres to make it interesting. Maybe I'll write another post once I've finished my challenge.

    • It's interesting that reading a book has become news, I read every night before sleeping since I was a child, in the last year's however it has changed to ebooks.

    • I have to confess that I find reading on my mobile phone much easier than on paper, you don't depend on available light, buying, that is downloading them is easy and fast and cheaper, you can get a free sample and decide later, plus you can start reading anywhere and anytime, in the bus, train, aeroplane..

    • What's on your list of books?

      As someone who has been reading fiction since childhood (my first books were read to me) your experience as a new reader is both fascinating and a little disorienting!

    • For those who haven’t been to Malaysia before, I will share my experience with a mall book store from roughly 15 years ago to provide some perspective.

      I was on a three week project in Malaysia and had brought along several 500+ page paperbacks like this one ⬇️ but by the third week I was running low and needed more reads.

      When I found the bookstore on the umpteenth floor of the high rise mall, I was shocked by two things. One, the books were displayed on those magazine rack displays you find in libraries. So there wasn’t many books to choose from. Two, all of the books were shrink wrapped, so you couldn’t page through it to get a feel for the writing style and quality. So all you had to go on was the description on the back cover before you bought it.

      I don’t know if that was a typical bookstore back then or just a weird outlier.

      Curious to learn why reading novels is a new experience for you but happy to just celebrate your joining the bibliophile community! @JazliAziz

    • I switched from paper to a Kindle many years ago. I love the availability of books (for Kindle) whenever I need something new to read. And I love that while I most often pay for the books that there are books available for free as well.

      I always have a book on my phone too. That keeps me calm when I need to wait for appointments or meet-ups to happen; I always have something to read.

    • It's interesting that reading a book has become news

      It's funny how after your post @Chris shares a news report about the print industry recovering after the apparent short popularity of e-books. I guess reading a book really is news 😂.

      As for Chris' link, I think it's just the way the world works, in cycles. In the older days people relied on food, herbs, and natural remedies for health. Then the pharmaceutical age came, and people relied on drugs and supplements for health. Now, people are reverting back to healthy foods and natural remedies instead of pharmaceuticals. The same happened with the book industry I guess. People got excited about the potential of e-books, and digital versions of books they could read on their phone, but as we realised that we're spending too much time looking at screens, people wanted to go back to good old paper and read books instead.

      So much so that in Malaysia, we have our first ever 24-hour bookstore that opened last year.

    • I have the same problem you do with tracking characters. I’ve started keeping a “cheat sheet” I tuck into the book and use as my bookmark. When a character is mentioned the *second time* I go back to the first mention and jot down notes that the author thought were important when the character was first introduced—sometimes it is the character’s appearance, sometimes it is the character’s relationship to another character, sometimes it is the character’s profession... My cheat sheet helps me remember characters until they are stuck in my mind and I don’t need the cheat sheet anymore. :)

    • I do all of my reading on my Kindle. But my reasons for preferring e-books over printed books has a lot to do with location. Living in Taiwan means English books are hard to find. And then when I do find them, they're quite expensive and there isn't much of a selection. Choices are usually YA fiction or best-sellers, neither of which I read. (I predominantly read fantasy.) Being able to choose, purchase, and download from an on-line bookstore is much easier.

    • It would depend a lot on what you are interested in, but among my favourites — and possibly not as well known because the authors are Canadian — are the Malazan Book of the Fallen series and anything by Guy Gavriel Kay. If you're reading the Malazan books, though, be patient. Whereas most fantasy books and series gradually introduce you to the world, the culture, the magic, and the gods, the Malazan books don't. The first book (Gardens of the Moon) starts at what seems to be the halfway point of the story. It might take until about halfway through the book before you really understand the world.

      Another recommendation — although it's very old, relatively speaking — is Roger Zelazny's Amber series.

      I can't really recommend any recent stuff because I tend not to read books shortly after they come out because there's so many other good books that have already been published that I'm still catching up on. I'll get around to the stuff published in 2018 and 2019 sometime, but for now I'm still reading the books in my library that were published many years ago. Once again, there are too many good books to read and it takes time to read them all.