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How did you get into literature? - UniLang

How did you get into literature?

A place for everyone to have discussions about literature, classical and contemporary.

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Prowler
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How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-09, 3:32

So, when did you stop reading comic books and comic strips and got into "real" books? As in novels Most likely from reading a book or two that you happened to like a lot, I'm guessing. But how long have you been reading books for leisure on a regular basis? And how did it all begin?

I was one of those kids who hated books without pictures. School made reading a chore and I didn't care much for the books I read for class. This turns off a lot of people from reading. Schools shoving books down kids' throats doesn't really help turning them into readers, from my experience. Ask your former HS and college/university classmates how many books they read a year. Most will probably tell you they haven't picked up a fiction book since their student years... unless they're English majors or something, obviously.

Having family members that love reading might help I suppose, but my mom mostly reads "whodunnit" crime books. Not a fan of that genre.

I started to get interested in reading books back in 2011, I think. Only truly began reading several a year in 2012. Only reason I don't read more fiction is due to all the reading I have to do for university. So it's mostly reserved for summer break.

So, what's your story in the world of literature?
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby linguoboy » 2015-01-09, 3:59

Prowler wrote:Schools shoving books down kids' throats doesn't really help turning them into readers, from my experience.

Dunno, worked for me. Almost as far back as I can remember, I was ordering books through school. Scholastic Publishers sent catalogs and my parents were generous about buying us titles. In fourth grade, we had SRAs (so called because they were published by a firm called Science Research Associates). These were stiff graded and colour-coded cards with short stories printed on them. I was one of two students in class (the other was my best friend Patrick) who read through the entire set, forcing the teacher to scrounge up some other materials for us to read. (She found two sets of softcover anthologies; we read through both of those as well.) During the summer, the local library gave out this large printed cards. For every book you read, you got a coloured sticker to plaster on it. Me and my siblings regularly filled ours up. My parents are readers and there were always books around the house. Pretty much everything I know about Watergate I learned from reading the Doonesbury compilations my dad left lying around. (With the exception of that, I didn't really read comic books growing up, only newspaper funnies.)

So, really, I don't remember a time when I wasn't reading literature. If you want to know the first "classic" that I read on my own without it being assigned, it was probably A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain. I think that was in the seventh grade. My very first day of German class in college, we began reading short-short stories in an anthology called Der Weg zum Lesen. Whatever we didn't read for class, I read in my spare time. That's how I learned that reading was the best way for me to pick up a language. A couple years later, when in Europe, I picked up two volumes of short stories from a bookstore in Barcelona and repeated the trick with Catalan. (I also picked up an abridged novel in Bangor, but with notably less success.)
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-09, 4:28

As a kid, I read nothing but comic books and strips. Grew up reading my parents collection of franco-belgian comics. They own every Astérix and Tintin book to date. As for comic strips, I read my brother's Calvin & Hobbes strip collections. He owns every strip in book format. My mothers owns this big book that's a collection of Mafalda by an Argentinian cartoonist known as Quino. You might have heard of it. Also read a lot of Garfield, but that one was always easy to understand even as a small kid.

I'm sure school getting kids into books depends on a lot of factors. I've known a couple of cases of people who fell in love with books due to teacher's they've had. A lot of times though, I've noticed that teachers, the ones I've had, at least, came across as elitists to me when they talked about comic books. Okay, I get it they were trying to tell us that we should value novels and such more than comic books. But it was almost as if they disregarded them as a form of literature. And I'm not talking about reading for class. They'd always ask us what we read during holidays for leisure, and if we mentioned a comic book series, they'd just made us feel like we were ignorant. Good luck hoping that has a positive effect on a 11-12 year old.

A few attempts of my own at reading books as a pre-teen included Harry Potter, The Famous Five and The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. Couldn't get past the first few pages of HP. The Famous Five? I read the first two books but never felt like reading more. The Old Man and the Sea? I don't even know what made me give that one a try. But I was like 13 at the time. Too young to find it anything other than boring. I remember enjoying a novel by Nat Hentoff titled This School is Driving Me Crazy, though. That one was read by many people at school here back in the 80s and 90s. My brother had to read it for 7th grade class. Not sure if it's a well-known book by well-known author, though.

The funny thing is, I've always liked long stories. And also reading long articles or descriptions. Not to mention I was always one of the kids who wrote the longest compositions in class. So I don't know what took me so long to get me into reading novels on my own. My aversion to reading novels seems so silly to me now. I tried to put an end to it between 2008 and 2010. I finally succeeded in 2011.

What's funny is that I know less people nowadays who read in their free time(other than the occasional comic or manga, that is) than I did back when i was a teenager. Hell, I'm pursuing a humanities degree. You'd think most of my classmates would love to read, right? Well, not as many as I expected. And as I've mentioned in the OP, it seems quite common for people to stop reading after they're done with school. And since it's harder for someone to get into reading novels than it is to get into watching movies or tv shows, a bad experience or two might turn a person off forever. Not to mention going to a bookstore without having a faint idea what to read is quite an overwhelming feeling. When someone tells me "books are boring", I always tell them that I perfectly understand their side and I certainly don't judge them for it nor look down on them.

Of course, there's always those people who read the occasional book... too bad the authors they like turn out to be Nicholas Sparks or Clive Cussler. Dan Brown is very popular too, ofc. And many people have read Harry potter books or even TLoTR as kids.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-01-09, 5:45

Hmm...I may not read much literature, but I also started reading it early. I'm trying to remember what my first novel was. I've always been more inclined to read language-learning books than literature per se tbh. :lol: I vaguely remember having to read stories (in English) in workbooks that I had to go through as a kid before starting kindergarten. I think it was part of the process I went through learning English at the expense of Malayalam. :|

I like reading (even if I'm terrible at getting any done these days lol), and it's probably true that a lot (or even most) of the reading I actually got done was assigned in school. Still, I think I can kind of relate to Prowler's feelings about the literature that schools assigned (or even offered) for reading. In elementary school especially, when we had to choose books to read, it was almost maddeningly difficult for me to find any literature that clearly had to do with anything other than mainstream Anglo-Saxon/American culture. I remember several times when I felt like I had to settle for something just because there was either no more time to look around (and no option of choosing nothing at all) or because there were simply no other options.

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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Johanna » 2015-01-09, 11:37

The way I learnt how to read was sitting next to mum or dad when they read to me and my sister at bedtime, and without thinking about it connecting what I saw on paper with what I heard, so the first time I consciously tried to read I did so fluently, and after that I simply switched from being read to to reading the same books myself.

So yeah, I've read novels since early 1990, when I was about 4.5 years old, if you count those written for children. The first one was probably by Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking or something :) I didn't discover comics until a couple of years later, at about the same time as I expanded to also reading novels aimed at adults. I had read everything bought for me and my siblings, so I started raiding my parents' bookshelf at the age of 7.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby linguoboy » 2015-01-09, 16:49

Prowler wrote:As a kid, I read nothing but comic books and strips. Grew up reading my parents collection of franco-belgian comics. They own every Astérix and Tintin book to date. As for comic strips, I read my brother's Calvin & Hobbes strip collections. He owns every strip in book format. My mothers owns this big book that's a collection of Mafalda by an Argentinian cartoonist known as Quino. You might have heard of it. Also read a lot of Garfield, but that one was always easy to understand even as a small kid.
I'm familiar with all of these. Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield were running in the newspapers when I was a kid. (Garfield still is.) The others I didn't start reading until college (unless you want to count the translated excerpts of Astérix which appeared in our Spanish-language learning materials in high school.)

Prowler wrote:A lot of times though, I've noticed that teachers, the ones I've had, at least, came across as elitists to me when they talked about comic books. Okay, I get it they were trying to tell us that we should value novels and such more than comic books. But it was almost as if they disregarded them as a form of literature.
In the USA, comics were long regarded the way video games commonly are now: violent juvenile entertainment which rots your brain. When my father was growing up, the only ones he was allowed to own were Classics Illustrated, since at least those introduced him to "real" literature. My grade-school teachers simply disregarded them entirely. We had to give regular "book reports" to class on books we read, and I don't recall anyone attempting to give one on a comic book. It simply never would've occurred to any of us.

I have my high school Spanish teacher to thank for introducing me to the usefulness of comic books in language learning. (One of the first works we read in his class was a Donald Duck comic translated into Spanish.) Reading Ralf König filled a valuable gap in my German, since up till then I knew almost nothing of contemporary slang or sexual vocabulary.

Prowler wrote:The Old Man and the Sea? I don't even know what made me give that one a try. But I was like 13 at the time. Too young to find it anything other than boring. I remember enjoying a novel by Nat Hentoff titled This School is Driving Me Crazy, though. That one was read by many people at school here back in the 80s and 90s. My brother had to read it for 7th grade class. Not sure if it's a well-known book by well-known author, though.
The old man and the sea was the only Hemingway I actually liked. We had to read For whom the bell tolls for class sophomore year of high school and it nearly caused me to flunk that quarter. Never heard of Nat Hentoff before; he seems to write mostly about jazz.

Prowler wrote:Of course, there's always those people who read the occasional book... too bad the authors they like turn out to be Nicholas Sparks or Clive Cussler. Dan Brown is very popular too, ofc. And many people have read Harry potter books or even TLoTR as kids.
I don't understand people who don't read. I mean, I get that some people don't enjoy reading, but I find that baffling in the same way that I'm baffled by people who believe in pseudoscience or love talking about cars.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-09, 17:19

Yea, Garfield has been running since 1978. Jim Davis hasn't drawn himself a strip in over a decade now, though. He has a team doing his work for him. I'm surprised how he can still think of jokes about mice, diet, cats, Monday and spiders after all these years.

Calvin & Hobbes is a timeless classic. Naturally, as a kid, some of the humor went over my head.

In my teen years, I was introduced to Foxtrot and to Zits. The latter was quite easy to relate to when I was a teenager. In Foxtrot there were teenagers, but since the comic strip wasn't about being a teenager, I couldn't really relate to the characters in that sense.

As for people who don't read... they might not read books, but still read magazines, newspapers and news articles on the internet. Better than nothing, I guess. There's also people who only read non-fiction fictions that focus on areas they're interested in. Some people just struggle to like fiction. They need still or moving images to help them picture descriptions in their mind. I find it kinda odd, but i guess that happens when you're not used to read fiction. Or maybe they were unlucky in reading an author who described the background poorly, or one who took 20 pages to describe something.

I'm with you on pseudoscience and cars. The former is just BS. No point in even pretending to believe in it. Cars isn't a silly subject, but I'm not the kind of guy who obsesses with them. It's good to be informed about cars in general if you have a license and are looking for a new one, but people who can only talk about cars and sports aren't exactly the most interesting individuals out there.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby linguoboy » 2015-01-09, 17:54

Prowler wrote:Calvin & Hobbes is a timeless classic. Naturally, as a kid, some of the humor went over my head.
It's probably the only strip that I both read faithfully and can remember both the birth and the death of. I don't think anyone has captured the mentality of an imaginative child more perfectly than Watterson.

Prowler wrote:In my teen years, I was introduced to Foxtrot and to Zits. The latter was quite easy to relate to when I was a teenager. In Foxtrot there were teenagers, but since the comic strip wasn't about being a teenager, I couldn't really relate to the characters in that sense.
By the time Zits came out, my 10th high school reunion was around the corner, so it never had much resonance for me. I could relate much better to FoxTrot, since I had both a sister and an annoying little brother in my family.

Prowler wrote:As for people who don't read... they might not read books, but still read magazines, newspapers and news articles on the internet.
IME, if you don't read long-form texts (fiction or non-fiction), then you don't really know how to read at all. I meet too many people for whom "reading" seems to mean "perusing until you get bored". They glance at articles but don't finish them and often show a shockingly poor understanding of what the author's purpose or salient points are. It's a mindset which is so far from mine, I literally can't comprehend it.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-09, 18:07

As a kid, I could read a video game magazine all the way through the end. And sports newspapers as well. But not regular papers. I needed more concentration and would get bored since most news didn't interest me much.

Those people you mention that have trouble reading long articles and interpreting long texts probably don't read anything deeper than tabloids or celebrity gossip magazines.

What I find hard to understand is how some people who I consider to be quite intelligent and articulate seem to only like shallow entertainment, from generic pop music to reality shows. If one likes to watch/read/listen to that stuff but also like intellectual stimulating stuff, then it's fine. But only shallow entertainment?
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Varislintu » 2015-01-11, 9:27

A bit of a hard question, since I guess children's novels don't really count here?

I can't remember what would have been the first adult novel I read. :hmm: However, I read David Eddings' Malloreon series when I was 11, and I think that counts as adult literature, or at least young adult, despite it's reputation nowadays. It was also the series which made me realise that fantasy literature existed, and that that was a genre I really liked.

Nowadays I do see all the... quality issues with Eddings' production, and would not read any more of it, but as a novice reader, the Malloreon, the Belgariad, Polgara and Belgarion were almost mindblowingly fascinating (I guess it was simply the feeling every nerd gets when they discover their particular nerdery as a pre-teen). The names characters had! (I was also fascinated with how "Swedish" the names sounded. I mean, 'Mandorallen' and stuff. :lol: ) The places they visited! The maps! The cultures! The history and mythology and religions and magic and its rules. :)
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Johanna » 2015-01-11, 10:17

Varislintu wrote:The names characters had! (I was also fascinated with how "Swedish" the names sounded. I mean, 'Mandorallen' and stuff. :lol: )

In the Swedish translation of the Elenium and Tamuli trilogies they had to change the name of one of the main characters because of that :P He used an actual Swedish name, it was just that the character was a knight in training, and later a knight, and the name in question was Berit :lol:

For those of you who don't know Swedish, that name is a female one, and not particularly badass or elegant either, when you hear it you think of the woman behind the desk when you visit the tax agency or a cashier or similar.

The name used in the Swedish translation is Beril, which we think sounds completely different and much more fitting for a fantasy story.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Varislintu » 2015-01-11, 12:31

Johanna wrote:
Varislintu wrote:The names characters had! (I was also fascinated with how "Swedish" the names sounded. I mean, 'Mandorallen' and stuff. :lol: )

In the Swedish translation of the Elenium and Tamuli trilogies they had to change the name of one of the main characters because of that :P He used an actual Swedish name, it was just that the character was a knight in training, and later a knight, and the name in question was Berit :lol:

For those of you who don't know Swedish, that name is a female one, and not particularly badass or elegant either, when you hear it you think of the woman behind the desk when you visit the tax agency or a cashier or similar.

The name used in the Swedish translation is Beril, which we think sounds completely different and much more fitting for a fantasy story.


Oh, that's funny! :D
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Yserenhart » 2015-01-11, 13:33

linguoboy wrote:I don't understand people who don't read. I mean, I get that some people don't enjoy reading, but I find that baffling in the same way that I'm baffled by people who believe in pseudoscience or love talking about cars.

I'm baffled by people who are baffled by people believing in pseudoscience. Real science makes far less effort to connect with normal people; and to the untrained person, much pseudoscience is presented in a way that makes it seem just as proper as actual science. Doesn't help that people who are actual scientists also like to spread pseudoscience, especially when those people seem to be an actual authority in the field (e.g. Michio Kaku).

Prowler wrote:people who can only talk about cars and sports aren't exactly the most interesting individuals out there.

People who can only talk about languages also tend not to be the most interesting individuals out there. Same goes for anyone who can only talk about one thing.

I don't often read anything that isn't either a scientific article, or related quite strongly to whatever task I have to do; except for skimming the news daily (skimming because the modern internet news from almost all major providers is not good for anything more than that). I just don't have the habit of sitting down and reading a fiction book, and while I do try to read other non-fiction things, my time is often completely taken by other things.

The reason I don't have the habit of reading just for reading's sake: as a child I had little access to books. My parents' house did have a couple of decent-sized bookshelves full of books, but I was forbidden to touch any of them; they weren't there for anything more than my father wanting to pretend to be an intelligent and well-read man, even though he himself hardly touched them. I did have a library card, and was occasionally taken to the library, but often my parents wouldn't take me/the books back in time, and so I got fines; when I was 12 I took some books back a day late (I'd had something at/after school the day they were due, which meant I couldn't get there, the first I'd taken books late in a couple of years), and naturally got a small fine, something less than a dollar. As my parents never allowed me even the smallest weekly/monthly allowance, I had to ask for the money to pay off the fine so that I could get some more books; my father became so outraged at having had to pay so much for fines (in reality it can't have been more than $30 in my entire life, most from when I was too young to go alone) that he cut up my library card then and there, and banned me from ever going to the library again. Until he left, I could only read the books proscribed by school (or the very few I had of my own, almost all of which had been damaged and were written for young children), which was never really more than two a year.

It also didn't help that my father fancied himself an author, and was writing a book that featured me and my brothers as characters. I was made to read each chapter as it was finished; consistently I was portrayed as stupid, inept, and mocked. I remember complaining about it once, the response was something along the lines of "it's just for entertainment purposes, every story has such a character." That put me off reading even more, as I didn't want to read about people whose sole existence was to be mocked and ridiculed for the entertainment of the other characters (and the reader); if such a character is in all books, then why would I bother? Fortunately I realised later (in those books from school) that it wasn't so, and when my father left I actually managed to get him to grudgingly leave some of his books for me (he was just going to throw them out!), even though he took most of them with him.

Still never really got in the habit of reading daily though, even after my father left intellectual pursuits were discouraged. My maternal family are mostly working class; even though everyone of my mother's generation have bachelor degrees, and one a master, they're content working jobs that don't even require finishing high school, or at best don't really require university education. I was actually given a hard time of wanting to go to university at all, instead of training to be a plumber or electrician. I would regularly get abused for taking a book to read instead of talking about how horrible so-and-so are, and how you don't actually need to go to the doctor, just take aloe vera instead.

So, for those of you who can't comprehend how people don't read, maybe that helps a bit. Also remember that for many people books are expensive, either to buy or to go to the library to get them; and if the only real reading of books you get is in school, of the form where you're not actually allowed to just enjoy the reading but instead have to analyse every sentence as you read it, it can be very easy to be discouraged, especially if family is also indifferent to reading.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-11, 19:30

Yeah, books are expensive here as well. And not every book gets a cheap pocket edition. A non-pocket softcover can go from 18 to almost 30 euros here.

Book piracy has risen recently, but many people still have an aversion to the idea of reading a whole book on an e-reader or a tablet.

Yserenhart wrote:People who can only talk about languages also tend not to be the most interesting individuals out there. Same goes for anyone who can only talk about one thing.

Obviously. Fortunately I talk about a lot of things with people, so I don't have that problem.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-01-11, 19:58

Varislintu wrote:A bit of a hard question, since I guess children's novels don't really count here?

I don't see why not. :)

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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-11, 20:04

vijayjohn wrote:
Varislintu wrote:A bit of a hard question, since I guess children's novels don't really count here?

I don't see why not. :)

It definitely does count. It's kid lit, but it's still literature. I'm basically asking about your history with literature in this thread of mine. If you start with children's novels then, by all means, mention that. That's probably where many or most start.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Levike » 2015-01-11, 20:10

My case is more simple, I never got into literature and never will. :mrgreen:
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Prowler » 2015-01-11, 20:16

Levike wrote:My case is more simple, I never got into literature and never will. :mrgreen:

And why's that? Not judging you or anything, but I'd like to know your reasons. Bad experiences with books in the past? Not knowing where to start?
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Levike » 2015-01-11, 20:29

No special reason, I just don't like it.

It's the idea of spending hours and hours reading someone's imagination that I dislike.
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Re: How did you get into literature?

Postby Varislintu » 2015-01-11, 20:40

Yserenhart, that sounds bad. Frankly put, it sounds quite asshole-y of your father to be like that. :x

In Finland children don't get library fees (and adults don't get them for children's literature). I think that's a good system precisely because children can land in all kinds of binds with their parents otherwise. :hmm:
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