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You are what you read

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I recalled a sentence from the book Shadow of the Wind :

Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.

When I was younger, I was warned by my mother that you have to choose what you read very carefully. My book was confiscated by my class teacher one day because I was found reading a romance book under the school desk (not during lessons though). They seem to think (with good intention) some books may contaminate my mind.

Many moons later, my reading choice had widen. I know I consciously look out for tales from around the globe, travel tales, and tales especially from Asia or Middle East; and I do feel drawn to stories of normal day-to-day people got caught in the war, human conflict, tragedy, tribulations etc and also about personal struggle in establishing own identity in the process of coming-of-age or in a foreign land; but other times I’m just experimenting.

What does my reading choice say about me? Maybe I have unresolved pain and grief that requires validation and constant dose of encouragement to rise above it. Maybe I’m just curious about social issues, culture and stories of other people around the world.

If I literally became what I read, I would be: 

  • A man
  • Occasionally a woman
  • A person in need of help and support
  • An arm-chair traveler with unquenchable wanderlust
  • Someone who enjoys black humour relating to capitalism, politics and economics, when really my secret wish was to be a major part of it.
  • An alien who is stranded in a foreign land, displaced, torn between east and west
  • A sinophile, an anglophile and moving on to become a japophile.
  • Someone who empathise with human pains, a short-lived gratefulness to know there are a lot more people who are less fortunate than myself.
  • Muddle about my principles and values, often find them misplaced.
  • Falling hopelessly in love with blood sucking vampires, lament fate that I didn’t marry one.
  • Feeding on human tragedies and wars
  • Seek out life in desert, the way of Bedouin.
  • Prefers to live between 1930’s and 1950’s
  • A masochist, misogynist, a pervert.
  • Religious
  • (Not until very recently) confused about my sexuality
  • Vacillating between the good and evil parts that are part of my character
  • An incorrigible romantic who possess a fervent desire to escape reality and elope with fantasy.
  • Victorian, inspired to be Russian.


What about you? Do you think you are what you read? Do you find out about yourself more than you never knew before in the choice of book you have picked?


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


20 thoughts on “You are what you read

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post of yours 🙂 I have to agree with you, reading has widened my horizon, I find myself being more passionate about the suffering of others, I’m becoming more and more of a feminist, although ironically, I’ve learnt to be more open minded and receptive to the views of other people. I’ve enjoyed all the travels that I’ve been able to partake in through all the books that I’ve read, and I do know that I’ll never want to stop, my love for reading is really insatiable. So yea, to a certain degree, reading has helped shaped the person I’ve become and am becoming 🙂

    Posted by Joanna | April 14, 2010, 12:32 pm
  2. I think what you said is all true Joanna. I hope reading shapes you the person you become more positively rather than negatively! 🙂

    I think reading just reinforce some of my belief that I’m already a feminist, so I’m indignant for the injustice that’s been done to women; that the world is full of pains and sufferance, so stop whining and start living; and travel books just goes on reaffirming the beauty of the places that I wanted to visit.

    Reading is just so amazing, isn’t it? I pity those who don’t read. 🙂

    Posted by JoV | April 15, 2010, 11:44 am
  3. Great post! Thank heavens I only read books about non-neurotic gorgeous female superstars! (no, alas, just kidding!)

    Posted by rhapsodyinbooks | April 15, 2010, 1:32 pm
  4. If reading makes you the person you are, you would probably have to have multiple personalities 😀 I agree that it shapes you and broadens one´s horizon. But often I read to see another world(view) with which I don´t agree but which helps me understand how other people tick.

    Your reading definitely shows that you´re curious and enthusiastic about other cultures and lives! 🙂

    Posted by Bina | April 15, 2010, 7:52 pm
    • You don’t honestly think I’m a masochist, mysoginist and a pervert do you? (if you do, I’m staring at your gravatar menacingly now…..) 🙂

      I do read weird stuff because I’m trying to get into the head of others. But on top of all this you are right, I’m curious and enthusiastic about all things cultural and ethnic. I should be a anthropologist, sociologist instead of a finance person.. I’m blaming my parents on this one. 😦

      Posted by JoV | April 15, 2010, 10:07 pm
  5. LOL! It sounds as though we read similar books, because I am drawn to experiences very different to my own and I would never want to become part of most of the books I read!

    I do agree with the quote about mirrors – it always amazes me how people see different things in the same books.

    Posted by Jackie (Farm Lane Books) | April 16, 2010, 12:09 pm
  6. Haha, course not. Though I don´t think anyone can stare menacingly at Groucho! 😀 Well, I´m sure as a finance person you can make a decent living. I´m studying literature and culture and everyone thinks it´s a hobby and not a job.

    Posted by Bina | April 16, 2010, 1:55 pm
  7. I love the quote- it’s so true! Really gives me something to think about to see who I really am 🙂

    Posted by christa | April 17, 2010, 1:32 am
  8. In my early reading year I too was really drawn towards Asian and Middle East setting that are full of human conflicts. But I read a lot more widely now. I agree with that first quote above. I’m not sure what my reading choice says about me though. I’ve been trying to analyze that for years, but have no good answer 🙂

    Posted by mee | April 17, 2010, 11:59 am
  9. Great post! I agree that a great book can make you think again and reflect but when picking books to read I tend to want to escape into a world/life/character different to my own on purpose.

    Posted by jessicabookworm | April 17, 2010, 7:55 pm
  10. Eeek – I hope I am not becoming a psychopathic killer. Or even a gloomy detective so troubled by the evil I see in the world that I ruin my family relationships and become an alcoholic 🙂

    Posted by bernadetteinoz | April 18, 2010, 1:13 am
  11. What fun! I’m not sure what I’d be I am what I read. Probably a feminist obsessed with international cultures…oh wait…LOL

    Posted by Eva | April 20, 2010, 12:08 am
  12. Okay, Okay, you were so right! Did we have the same parents, too? Loving your book choices — and I LOVE that you enjoy black humor. Stay in touch.

    Posted by nancyo | April 20, 2010, 11:16 am
    • If we have the same parents you must be my long lost sister…. probably why of all the trips I have done in my life I kept going back to Orlando, Florida for business trips, and may one day go out there for leisure! Do stay in touch. Anyone who loves “Fieldwork” deserve a special place in my favourites. 🙂

      Posted by JoV | April 20, 2010, 7:26 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
Share book reviews and ratings with JoV, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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