I recently watched a TV programme which quoted a study that said the average Hongkonger reads 4 books a year. I gasped. Four a year is worse than I imagined when I heard people moaning about the decline in reading. Also, one of my most distinctive memories from my early days in Hong Kong is chancing upon the long lines for entry to the Book Fair (and promptly joining the queue) which seemed to indicate that reading is not a dead hobby horse yet (excuse the mixed metaphors, I couldn’t resist.)

On the other hand, I’m always bored when people wring their hands over how little they’re reading or how they should start reading again and pause expectantly presumably for me to offer some encouragement. Similarly trying are people who go: “You read so much. Suggest something for me to read!”

To the latter, I want to say: There is a universe of books. You at least have to pick a genre. Also: What I like, you may not like. But now I will say: Goodreads.com.

To the former, I am nonplussed. If you don’t read, don’t. I am married to a man who does not read and it does not perturb him or me, except when he gets angsty about me reading and snatches my book away. There are people who don’t read and since I married one, I cannot be snotty about those people though my mom, dad, sister and close friends are all readers. Only barefaced lust could have conquered that prejudice, and just barely.

The troubling assumption of these people is that reading is a good habit that needs to be cultivated. I don’t really understand that at all. For me, reading is like breathing. Breathing is not a habit. I can’t teach a full grown adult how to breadthe, can I? I read because I am.

Frankly, I probably read too much. When I realised that the husband’s argument to that effect might be making some sense, I quickly applied for a PhD in order to legitamise the amount I read. Now I shall read unquestioned. Hell, I shall read on the government’s tab. Something useful shall come out of it, I hope, but what I shall enjoy most is the reading.

Once I was lunching with a PhD student who was finishing her programme and looking for a job. “You could teach, no?” I offered. “Oh, I don’t want to teach,” she said quickly. “I just want a job that lets me sit quietly and read.” Ah, holy aspiration.

I also remember a similar conversation with Curly about our jobs and their drawbacks, which ended in her saying: “Okay, I don’t think anyone is going to pay us to sit in a spa and read books.” Well, I’ve been paid to do that, but not fulltime unfortunately.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, don’t ask a reader for help in getting you to be one. The gap is too wide.

***

Similarly blogging. People are always ruing how little they blog and how they should blog more. At least with reading everyone from philosophers to the self-help quacks agree that it’s a noble pursuit – so fine, maybe everyone should make the effort to lay eyes on the written word for the sustained period that it takes to finish a book.

But blogging? There’s no reason for it to be mandatory.

I blog because I enjoy it. I’ve kept a diary since read Anne Frank’s when I was 10. When I discovered blogging, my blog became my diary. There’s a difference between a blog and a diary, but in my case, there’s a lot of overlap. Recently, because I felt the need to explore my dark angst more deeply than I’d care to share with you, I started a private blog where I record these musings just as I used to in a physical book. The digital version is password protected and accessible anywhere (to me only) and I don’t have to rely on my family’s discretion and restraint to be sure that my dirty secrets are safe with me. AND I have Evernote to jot down random thoughts in, some of which end up being full-fledged posts on either blog. So yeah, actually, I blog twice as much as you think.

The most tedious blog posts are the ones in which people apologise for not blogging and promise to do better. Why? If you have nothing to say, don’t say it. The second most tedious ones are when bloggers force themselves to blog, often in a marathon.

The moral of the rant story: Read if you want, blog if you want. Or not. Don’t keep talking about it.

 

 

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