“Why do you read books?” I was there till 11pm. He couldn’t still answer.
Whenever I pick up a book to read, I’m thinking three thoughts. That doesn’t include the excitement I feel whenever I purchase new books.
Once upon a time in July, I had just checked out a collection of memoirs (My Watch by Olusegun Obasanjo) at the Farafina evening when I felt sadness. The first ever! “Why did I purchase this box of My Watch?” “What does this man have to tell me after ruling Nigeria and the country not getting better?” I found out the dwelling place of my sadness (reference: second question in this paragraph) for the purchase of this book and got back to excitement mode.
Times I purchase other books: Paulo Coehlo’s Deluxe Edition Collection, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, The Book of Phoenix, Kabu Kabu, Lagoon, etc., I always feel excited like a small child in a toy store – most small children; I didn’t visit a toy store as a kid, I was never excited.
When I get excited about books, I ask these questions – I ask of my colleagues, friends and acquaintances if this is what reading books is about to them:
1: ARE YOU READING FOR THE PLOT?
The plot is the storyline, what happens in the story, etc.
Plots are cool. I like reading the progression – some books build from the start and others just start in the middle with a bang. The-middle-with-a-bang mostly does it for me.
I love to remember plots but I forget them a lot.
I can’t remember the plot of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist except that Oliver always asks for more; or that of Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun; or Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti (I white lied here; I can remember the plot of Binti); that of Chukwuemeka Ike’s The Bottled Leopard except that the front cover shows a picture of a leopard in a bottle – who else wonders how the leopard entered the bottle? Raise your hands where I can see them.
Perhaps it’s unintentional amnesia, I can’t say for certain but I almost always don’t remember the plot/storyline of a book or what happened therein.
2: ARE YOU READING FOR THE QUOTES?
In my second year at the university, some of my course mates had this conspiracy theory that I could cram numbers and I had about 100 phone numbers in my head – human phonebook. It wasn’t a conspiracy theory per se; I had those numbers in my head. One day we gathered around and I wrote numbers after numbers after numbers until they begged me to stop. Nowadays, I don’t easily remember numbers – it’s hard to move on if a number gets saved in my head.
This cramming was as a result of constant rote learning. It’s the same way I remembered quotes from some of my Economics textbooks.
It’s the same way I forget exactly whose face to attach to the names I’ve been told at different times and places, so when I see a familiar face, I’m always like, “I can remember your face but I can’t seem to place it with your name.”
It’s the same way some people quote lines and sentences and paragraphs from books they’ve read. I don’t stress my brain with that. I don’t think that’s why I read.
I have a black pen for underlining notable lines, sentences and paragraphs and afterwards, transferring them to my notepad – or vice versa.
3: ARE YOU READING FOR THE THEME (GENERAL MESSAGE)?
The Alchemist has a theme: pursuing your dreams/passions/talents.
So does Rules of Work: a progressive work culture.
So does Losing My Virginity: how to lose your virginity – all virgins, line up here – in business/entrepreneurship.
So does Binti: cultural appreciation/humanism.
So does Bank of Deposits: pursuing your dreams/passions/talents.
So does Eleven Minutes: true love.
I could go on and on with the theme of all the over 200 books I’ve read till date but I’ve reached my destination and have to alight here.
This is why I read books – to capture the general message (the theme).
Sometimes, I remember the plot. Sometimes, I remember some quotes and can say them offhand but every time, I remember the theme. Sometimes is indecisive; every time is decisive. I’ll go with every time always.
At 11pm last night, I was in my cousin’s house and I asked him why he reads books. It’s 2pm now: He’s still thinking about it. How long does it take [him and you] to answer this simple question: “So tell me, why do you read books?”