Oh, the things our books say about us

There was a time in my life when I devoured books. Think two, even three in a week. Amazing, right?

How did I do it? Depression masking as uncontrolled respiratory disease made it easy. I could not go anywhere, except to the hospital, so you could say I had time.

Of course, I amassed a number of books, most of which I have lost by now, either because I misplaced it, forgot it during my move, or gave it away. There are still some here though, a mix of favorites and mehs, the mehs curiously outnumbering the memorable ones.

I went through this pile a couple of days ago, the remnants of a life before me, to find something to share with the sister of my sister’s boyfriend. What can I possibly give her? A young lady at the prime of her youth, bright, curious, and confused as we tend to be at this age. I run my hand through the spines of my old books and try to make decisions.

The Bell Jar? Too depressing.

The Descendants? Too close to home.

Sherlock Holmes? Hard to read.

Kafka on the Shore? Too meta.

Fifty Shades of Grey? No.

The Shack? Too Jesus-y.

The Notebook? Too sappy.

Atlas of the Human Anatomy? No.

Harrison’s Manual of Medicine? Why.

The Beautiful and the Damned? Interesting.

The Book Thief? Spectacular.

I could go down the rabbit hole but seeing that it was way past bedtime, I finally decided on The Fall of Giants, an epic historical fiction, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, that she specifically asked for. I also wanted to send her The Tiger’s Wife and The Night Circus but I will wait after she finishes the first two so I do not swamp her.

It was unexpected fun, rediscovering what was left of my mountain of books and imagining what kind of mind I had back then, holding these pages, picking them up in a city far away, this version of me a shadow of who I am today.

Then, I enjoyed reading fiction; plenty of classics and historical fiction in between books that I randomly picked up because the title seemed interesting or the cover was pretty.

On the rare occasion that I read now, I choose non-fiction titles and children’s books. You will find The Art of War, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, and A Promised Land among Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Big Wolf and Little Wolf, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O on my little shelf.

I am grateful for this opportunity that reminded me of books and the joys they bring me. Books are so much fun, and incredibly eloquent. Oh, the things they say about us.  

What are some of your favorite books and how has your taste evolve through the years?

78 thoughts on “Oh, the things our books say about us

  1. I love going back through my old books to rediscover some that I had completely forgotten and remember how they made me feel and how I was at the time of reading them. As I also love to re-read books, I sometimes also pick one up and dive back into it again, and discover the stories from a whole new perspective! It is tru ethat the books we read say a lot about us 😊

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      1. I think the whole Harry Potter series has to be one of them, as I really see that I have grown a lot since I read them the first time, then probably The Little Prince, which is truly a gem of a book (have you read it?), and also Kafka on the Shore because I discover and understand new things every time I re-read it!

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  2. Since I was a kid, I always loved crime books, no matter how obvious or boring the plot was, I would always read any crime book. Growing up, I started to see that “the clever kids” would read these “difficult books” like Russian literature, English poetry, French novel, and I kind of started to be “embarassed” about reading silly books, as if I couldn’t consider myself a true reader because my books were “simple”. it is unbelievable the kind of cages we create for ourselves, we always try to undermine whatever we do or enjoy!

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    1. Oh, fantastic point. I totally relate, but in music. I did not know what I liked so I just copied what my older cousins would like until I discovered what I really like many years later, which is classical piano. About difficult books, I wonder what makes them difficult or more serious than others? I like simple books, too, especially comics.

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        1. Maybe that is normal for children. We do not know what we like so we imitate and are insecure. Hopefully, when we grow up we discover who we are and get to enjoy what truly is meaningful for us. Markus plays the piano. I cannot play any instrument. Except spoon and fork. You?

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  3. I was a happy reader since I was a kid, and obviously the choice of books changed as I grew up. I started mostly in my teenage reading these serious self improvement books all by Dale Carnegie and then slowly moved towards suspense novels by Sidney Sheldon. Now I am completely into fictional happy books bcz lockdown demanded happy and positive vibes 😁.

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  4. Love this post! I recently read The Everlost trilogy, kids books by Neal Shustermann. They were stunning and my daughter loves them too. This brought back my love of reading.

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  5. I used to read all the time, anything I could get my hands on, and because I read such a high volume, the variety of what I read was large, too!
    When I got older and busier (and let’s face it, more dependent on a smart phone) I read less and started reading only fantasy. Now, I’m trying to be more concious of reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction (usually one of each at any given time, although it takes me longer to read non-fiction.) Currently, I’m reading “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and “Kalpa Imperial”, and I recently finished “Things Fall Apart”.

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      1. You are welcome. I am always reading something. I am almost done with Annie Lamott’s, Bird by Bird, and I am also reading The Sweetness of a Simple Life by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. I will read something fictional after I finish these. 🥰

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  6. With growing up – I’ve moved to reading only fiction. I need fiction to help me escape to a new world, a different world and a world far far away from my own. I used to read a lot of non-fiction especially motivational non-fiction but now I only read fiction.

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      1. Some favourites out of the newer books I’ve read –
        Madeline Miller’s books – Circe & The Song of Achilles;
        Volgas – The Liberation of Sita,
        Benjamin Alire Sáenz – Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe
        and so many more!!

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  7. Books are so much fun, and incredibly eloquent. Oh, the things they say about us.  >> this is so so true! Sometimes when i share books that I love I’m a bit scared that I will also reveal a little too much of myself.

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      1. Yes. And how to even begin choosing which favorite books to share. Haha! But seriously, my first favorites were all genre fiction–so mostly horror, crime thrillers and male authors like Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Grisham, Dan Brown. Then I discovered literary fiction like Haruki Murakami. I think only recently (like 3-5 yrs ago) did I discover my current favorite female authors Jhumpa Lahiri, Donna Tartt, Olga Tokarczuk, Yoko Ogawa, etc. Sorry I can’t pick titles. My favorites are always by author, I tend to read everything by a favorite author 😄

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  8. So many books, so little time!

    I’m a voracious reader and always have been. Since reading cereal boxes while eating breakfast as a kid, now I can hardly eat without also reading! Books, magazines, online news, blog posts…I inhale them all. And because I inhale them, I quickly forget them, which means I can reread books in a few years and they’re still enjoyable, all over again!

    My tastes in books have changed over the decades, but one genre I discovered in college and still enjoy, often rereading, are English novels from the Victorian age, e.g. anything by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, and to a lesser extent Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and a bit later, P.G. Wodehouse (for silly fun with excellent word play). I have kept these books over the years, through several moves.

    I also went through a Russian phase while in college because of an exceptional professor: Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina; Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov and Crime and Punishment; and my favorite, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. These books I didn’t keep, although I wish I still had The Master and Margarita.

    I’ve always enjoyed sweeping historic novels: from any written by James Michener (Hawaii, Caravans, The Source), to Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth series and Hilary Mandel’s Wolf Hall series (working on the third one currently).

    Corelli’s Mandolin was wonderful. (The movie, not so much; don’t bother.)

    I used to devour crime novels, but now, like you, I can’t deal with the violence and pain. That genre has been replaced by mindless romance novels, purchased cheaply on my Kindle and lulling me to sleep those nights I’m not up for something more cerebral :-).

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    1. You read while eating? Wow. But like you I also read the print on stuff out of curiosity. I like how you can reread books quick – makes the hobby cheaper. Haha! I also enjoyed the Ken Follet series but my favorite remains the first. What is yours? Crazy how you read all the Russians, very big reads! And I get it with the easy reads. I know many who are too exhausted for anything more demanding.

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  9. I hope she enjoys her reading. Ken Follett is an awesome choice by the way.

    My reading habit is very up and down these days. I was a voracious reader as a kid. Then, as an adult for many years, I read three books a week. I still read from time to time, in blocks. So, I won’t read anything for a while and then I will read a stack of books.

    Our personal library was extensive. We have given away hundreds of books, including whole collections to libraries. We still have many that are boxed up, though. My ebook collection is not too shabby either.

    My taste hasn’t changed over time. I will read any genre, providing it is well written. Some of my favourite authors are Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Andre Norton, Georgette Heyer, Henry Morton Robinson, George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Kerry Greenwood, Bernard Cornwell, Jeffery Archer, Ken Follett, Jennifer Fallon, Raymond E Feist, Jack Carr and a whole stack of self published authors. Then there are the poets, of course, comics and non-fiction writers.

    My favourite book: The Cardinal. My favourite series: Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Foundation Series (Including I Robot etc). The book(s) I least enjoyed: The Fixer (Even though it won the Pulitzer) and Red Dragon.

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    1. Oh, very interesting, Sean. My favorite part of this comment is that you included your least favorite read. And I am with you with the ebb and flow of reading. I suppose this is okay. Reading will stay with us, as well as the books we love. I will keepcan eye out for The Cardinal! Somehow it feels like I have seen it somewhere already.

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  10. LOL. Love your post. It is not easy to find a book one loves. It is so true. I usually have to go through ten books before focusing on one. Exactly like what you said here. Not that there’s anything wrong with the books themselves, but rather my own mood, desire, interest at the moment. It’s hard to find a good fit. LOL.

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  11. I used to read the classics of European literature and a lot of books of Western philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Quine….).
    Since I got married I basically read books about the Philippines and on relationships and psychology in general, for the most part.

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  12. I used to be a voracious reader, but barely read a book a month now. I’ve been blaming it on the pandemic, but I think the truth is I’ve gotten lazy. And like you, more discerning about what I’ll read. I rarely read anything currently popular when it’s popular. I go for what appeals to me, not what is supposed to appeal to me.

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      1. If you like historical fiction I liked The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. I also liked a British mystery called The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. Those are two novels I’ve read in the last year or so.

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  13. I loved reading when I was younger but it seems I have very little time to read these days. I enjoy a good mystery. Mary Higgins Clark was one of my favourites. When I’m in the mood to laugh, I’ll read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Her books are a combination of mystery and comedy.
    As for my favourite book ever, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini is a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking read. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend it.

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    1. I think I had a copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns by my sister said it was heart-wrenching as you said and so I did not read it. There was another one from him that I did not continue reading. The one where this small boy, friend of protagonist, was raped by other kids. I could not continue after that. I do not like reading about crime. I am sure you have read Agatha Christie? I enjoyed her mysteries a lot. But like you, I also rarely find time to read now. I am trying to get back into it though.

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  14. I’m in my 70s and have been reading and collecting books since my teens! So this is difficult! I can pick out a few that definitely changed my way of seeing the world: Thor Heyerdahl’s “The Kon-Tiki Expedition” (read when I was 10-11 years old); Jacquetta Hawkes “A Land” (read at college); Laurens Van Der Post’s “Venture to the Interior”, Bruce Chatwin’s “Songlines”. A couple of years ago I gave away about 500 books to a national charity, it was a painful experience as I see many of them as friends, but I can’t stop reading and collecting. I’m currently reading: “The Last Bear” by Mandy Haggith (just finished), “My First Summer in The Sierra” by John Muir and “The Biology of Belief” by Bruce Lipton.

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    1. Wow, your library must be massive! And I get it with seeing these books as friends and wanting to keep all of them. I have not read any of these titles but will keep an eye out for them. I love your comment – a lifetime of reading. What is the first book you remember having?

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      1. “The Kon-Tiki Expedition”. Maybe I will do a post about it. (I read it at 10-11 years of age and have read it many times since then. It enters my nighttime dreams. It is something that I regret not following up on).

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      1. Hi, some of my favourite reads are the hard way by Lee child, little women (classic ) by Louisa May Alcott , tell me your dreams by Sydney Sheldon and all of Harry Potter’s. Thank you so much for the warm welcome.

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  15. I love chicklits 😀 I think it’s kind of obvious 😀 but the books I devour are mystery, crime, and fantasy.
    I am currently reading the book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns)” by Mindy Kaling. I guess my Goodreads would say how unstable I am 😀
    My taste hasn’t evolved much except for the fact that I no longer read sci-fi novels that’s for sure.
    By the way… You’ve chosen well…
    Are you the type of reader who would immediately lend the book to your bestfriend or sister, asking them to read it too so you can discuss? Haha.

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    1. I wish I can book swap with you. It is fun, isn’t it? Tell me what are some of your favorite chick-lits then! Have you read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman? It is fantasy, I think, and really enjoyed it. I will suggest a book and give it to whoever is interested but not be persistent. As you know, from my old blog, I am content with reading and writing a review about it and done.

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      1. I have read it when I joined my current company in mid 2017 — I remember it clearly because @ that time, I didn’t have a lot of work assignments so I binged on some recommendations from friends…
        My ultimate favorite chicklit is Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot. I have purchased 3 hard copies and one digital because I lent the first one to my bestfriend and she did not return it (deliberately), I bought one for me but I couldn’t find it anymore, perhaps boxed somewhere as we’ve shipped our stuff to the Philippines, and the last one is the one I have with all my books. I had a digital so I can easily go back to my favorite quotes 😀 It’s not just funny, it’s super relatable — specific to my age at that time.
        Hahaha. I am persistent, because I always want to discuss characters, mistakes, etc… with someone I can have facetime with. Re: my current read, (Mindy Kaling’s) — it’s something my sister demanded me to read because she insists that Mindy and I are the same person 😀
        Before the pandemic, I joined a book exchange program, like a chain letter but of books instead. I was able to send two but I didn’t receive any — people do break the chain. LOL.
        I also love gifting books in lieu of other things… but I check if the book would fit a person too, not because I super liked it…

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        1. I might have heard of Boy Meets Girl. Actually, how do you define chick lit? What makes a book chick-lit? Sorry to hear about the book exchange. It would have been cool to get books from other people, to share this interest, and just talk about the books after. Yes, I remember you commenting that about Mindy Kaling. Haha.

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          1. Right. It would have been so exciting.
            I’ve had some success on this type of exchanges early college for Backstreetboys memorabilia 😀 😀 😀 People from Japan are most generous!

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  16. I had a year when I was just reading self-help books, it was a phase which I learned a lot. Now I’m back to Novels and… children’s book! Reading The Little Prince as a grown up made me realize how timeless the life lessons of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry are.

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      1. I love Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and Rick Warren’s What On Earth Am I Here For – both are helpful! And I just checked he Missing Piece Meets the Big O out on google and it got good reviews! Thanks, I will add it to my reading list.

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        1. Oh, I also have The 48 Laws of Power but I enjoyed The 33 Strategies of War more. Have you also read this one? I hope you manage to read it, a poignant story and a real classic to the level of The Little Prince.

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  17. I’m very much a fiction lover and read to escape. My favourites last year were the complete series of Fitz and the Fool by Robin Hobbs, kind of fantasy. A contemporary fiction We Begin at the End by Chris Whittaker didn’t want it to end. And of course Game Of Thrones, when will he publish the next book, it’s been far too long!

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    1. Oh Markus is also a fan of Game of Thrones, Alison! You would think the guy can write fast enough with all the stay-at-home time. Haha! Will check out We begin at the end. Intriguing title. What did you love most about it?

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  18. I love books and have always loved reading. I have a huge amount of books in my house, at least 3,000. I also have 900 on my kindle and a bunch on Audible. I read between 8 and 10 books a month. My favourites for this year to date have been All Quiet on the Western Front, A Farewell to Arms, and A Gentleman in Moscow. I also read poetry, children’s books and just about everything else going.

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          1. Some are quite expensive, Micah. I am a book collector. I don’t spend much money on clothes, beauty products (I’m allergic to everything so no spa treatments for me), or other things that ladies seem to love. For me, it’s all about books and antique dolls.

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