Not a tree, a bud and a flower. Just some thoughts

Odd Bookers By Radiyah Manjoo


Fellow reader,

Warning: I have not reviewed any books this month.

My sister made a statement that people could be reduced to two main traits that sum up their character. I will not mention what she said are mine, as they were pretty mean (jokingly – I hope?). I gave it some thought, though. 

These are the two things about me that I love: books and plants. I’d even go so far as to say that unless the conversation is about these things, I’m only pretending to be interested (jokingly – you hope?).

As you may have noticed, my love for books and plants has revealed itself through the title of my monthly book reviews. But I will not be talking about plants, nor will I be talking about books, so please forgive my slow journey to get to my point.

I am incredibly grateful to be given a chance to voice my opinion on books and be a part of a movement to encourage others to read more. I can only hope that my little notes sway you and that someone will pick up a book they would otherwise have not. I also hope that African literature will get more recognition – as it rightfully deserves. Most of all, I am grateful to you, the readers out there, and I am honoured that you take the time to read my reviews. So, thank you.

So, where am I going with this?

There is another aspect that I get out of this exchange that I want to acknowledge, and that is the learning. I have always loved books, but I now have to push myself a bit more to find books that I actually want to read rather than any book that I happen to get my hands on. In this process, I’ve learnt a lot about books, a lot about people, and a lot about myself.

I did plan to review books from an African country for this month but, God is the best of planners – I didn’t finish my readings. So, I do apologize. Usually, I would just read the books I intended in all my free time and finish them, but I had no chance. Currently, Muslims all over the world are observing the month of “Ramadan”, a month in which we fast from dawn to dusk. It is a month where we try to be our best selves. We sometimes give up things that are of an indulgent nature to us, to turn inward and focus on our intimate relationship with God. 

So, here we are. A completely personal choice ( and I don’t know anyone else who does this) , but I do not read for pleasure in Ramadan. The reasoning makes sense to me and has to do with the fact that reading is very consuming to me – I literally could do it all day and forget all else. I enjoy it that much.

The actual point: why do you read? When last did you think about it? Why think about it at all? 

I have deduced three things since undertaking this column. The first is that people are still interested in reading but don’t have time (I can relate). Secondly, people want to read more African literature, but don’t have access to it. Thirdly, and the most shocking of all, many people do not read for pleasure anymore. 

When asked about how I manage to finish as many books as I do, I always say that the secret is simply reading what you really want to.  I may ask someone what they’re reading, and they speak of the book they’re involved in with no light in their eyes. We’ve all been there, reading a book we can’t wait to finish but also, we can’t seem to want to finish it at the same time. We pick up the book with a sigh, and after a few lines, we’re tired. And then, again, we repeat this, trying to get into it but somehow, not managing. And then we end up stuck on that book. But, sure – we’re “reading”.

We all enjoy different things. I know people who love reading historical texts, while others love essay collections. I’m unapologetically a fiction person. Whatever it is you love, you need to own it!  I manage to read now because I am genuinely interested in what I’m reading. 

I had been that person once who read because it was “supposed to help me” or because everyone was talking about it. Don’t even get me started on the books I’ve read because I wanted to see if the book really is better than the movie. And when I just stopped and decided I will only read what I can get lost in, things changed. Reading isn’t meant to be a chore; you can enjoy it. Why should we only read books that are supposed to make us smarter? Or why should we read the books all the ‘intelligent’ people are reading? Do we really want to read about why we need to get up at sunrise (no offence if that’s your thing) Why can’t we just read a story that doesn’t teach us anything? Why can’t we just read for the poetic writing and nothing else? or for the laughs and endless adventures, befriending the characters in the book? Why is it shameful to be into stories about sparkling vampires (no judgement, we all have our pasts)? At least we’re reading! I always say that if you don’t enjoy reading, you are simply reading the wrong thing.

I leave you with a recommendation that I hope will change your feelings. If you love reading, you’ll love it more, and if you don’t love it at all, maybe you’ll love it a little.

What you HAVE to read:

  • Whatever you want