Shelf Conscious [1]: Evolution

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I’ve always been a reader. I was that kid growing up in the rural Philippines where power outages go on for days without end.  That has never stopped me from reading. I was reading in the flickering candlelight till the wee hours of the morning. I was that kid who borrowed books from a friend’s sister’s Loveswept Romance library constantly. I was that kid who starved because I saved all my allowance just to buy second-hand books in the city. The library was poorly stocked in my school. And because it’s a Catholic school, the fiction section was very sparse. So you can say that as far as I can remember, I’ve made devouring of books an Olympic sport.

When I moved to Canada, I’ve found it easier to find books – especially cheap, used copies. Because I’ve never really outgrown my love for romance novels, those are always the kind of things I tend to look for. To my absolute delight, I found that they sell them for $0.25 a piece at a thrift shop near our house. I have three-container-full of these books. I’ve moved at least four times in my life now and they’ve moved right along with me (to my husband’s sheer annoyance).

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My reading preferences have always been fluid. It changes depending on where I am in my life. In the early years of the new millennium, I discovered Oprah’s Book Club. Without Goodreads to lead me, I searched for ways to improve my reading taste. Through Oprah’s recommendations, I found a wide-breadth of culture from authors all over the world.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck was a Pulitzer Prize winner about a Chinese family before the World War I. It was a tough read at times. They went through years of adverse hunger and poverty; abuse and imprisonment. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was her first novel. It dealt with a lot of controversial issues pertaining to race, incest, and child molestation. It’s about a girl who was dealing with insecurities because of her skin colour. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat is equally startling. It’s about a girl who grew up without a mother in Haiti. Having gained asylum in the States, Sophie’s mother sent for her years later. There, she’d witness the trauma her mother experienced while fleeing Haiti through nightly terrors. Sophie was a child borne of rape. Living with her mother will only highlight the struggles both of them go through about their past.

I don’t know if these are the kind of novels I would enjoy reading now. I find that the older I get, the lower my tolerance for difficult reads. I must say that my taste then has been startlingly different to what I read now. Perhaps I’ve had enough of reality that I’ve turned to impossible romances, unbelievable worlds, and nearly perfect characters to get me through the slog of my daily life. Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t as depressing as I’m making it out to be. But reading is a form of escape; and if I wanted to enjoy a book, reading about rape and child molestation would not be my first choice.


Shelf-Conscious is a semi-regular feature on the blog where I talk about the books as it relates to my life. I hope you’ll join me next time!

  • Thanks for sharing, Joy. I hope
    to see more posts in this feature. I noticed that I tend to read lighter books
    when my real life is hectic. It’s like I just don’t have energy for a book
    dealing with difficult topics. But from time to time I have this need to read
    something heartbreaking, something that would make me feel and cry.

  • Eee, you are awesome Joy. <3 And I love this post so much. Love getting to know you a bit more. <3 All the hugs. I love that you have always been a reader 🙂 And eee, YAY for having so many books 😀 Ahh. That is just the best thing. <3 Thank you for sharing sweet girl 🙂

  • This is a wonderful feature! I didn’t realize you grew up in the Phillipines. I had many Fillipino friends as a child growing up in Singapore. You also made me realize that for all my griping about my 2 years without new books while I was living in India, it really wasn’t as terrible of a situation as it could have been (I mean I moved 6 boxes of books with me). And I know what you mean about tolerance levels when it comes to reading. I read as a form of escape as well, which is why I tend to enjoy the fantasy and YA genre. I like my happy endings. The world is a shitty enough place as it is. I don’t want to fill my spare time with unpleasant reads.

  • This is a new feature and I found it pretty interesting. It then gives us a better understanding of why you enjoy the books you do – which makes me understand why the tough kind of subjects don’t really appeal to you. If reading is about escape, you want to escape into better worlds than those kinds of ones. Makes a lot of sense!

  • I love this post, Joy! I know my reading tastes have evolved some over the past decade (18 to 28), but I think I actually play it pretty safe. I mean, sure, I pick up less YA novels now, but aside from the occasional non-fiction novel, I don’t think I really pick up books that challenge me. Books that make me see life from another perspective or challenge my thought process on certain topics. I should probably do that…

  • Great post! I like hearing about your background. My mom gave me Where the Heart is because she saw it on Oprah’s BC. I loved it, and read quite a few more after that. I don’t remember all of them though.

    • I think I stopped reading after The Poisonwood Bible. Lol.

  • I tended to stay away from the Oprah book club picks after the whole Million Little Pieces scandal. I have always been a big reader but I did take some breaks from “fun” reading in college and while my kids were tiny. I have always been a sucker for a good romance novel or a great bargain price. Are those all your books? You must have quite the personal library!

    • That was quite the controversy, wasn’t it? I’m glad I didn’t read it. But also interesting to see how far he was willing to duped people.

  • I totally get what you mean. Sometimes I wonder what I would have been reading or buying if Goodreads didn’t exist. I feel like whenever I find a book, I’m always like “have I seen this before” or “does it have a good rating on GR?”. I also never pick up anything I don’t know or anything cheap just because it’s a book. But I think it would be cool to try. Just pick up any random book and start reading it.

    • That’s one thing I really should make a habit of doing. Before picking up a book, I should make it a point to look at Goodreads and see the kind of rating it has. it would save me some headache in case the book is crap. Lol.

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    Great post! My reading preferences have definitely evolved as well. I also don’t want to read books that deal with controversial issues unless I am really in the mood for it. I just DNF a book, because I tired of all the bickering in it and the women not supporting one another. It was depressing. I really love this feature!

    • It’s tough to read, but at the same time, it’s a great life teacher. Nowadays, I’m the same. I need to be in the mood for them.

  • I get what you’re saying. My reading tastes have evolved and changed too. When I was a teenager, I actually read more romances than anything. Today, I don’t really like books that focus exclusively on romance (depending on my mood anyway). I also read a lot more young adult today than when I was younger. Oh, and funny story about a power outage: I was fourteen or so and our power went out. I was not going to let that stop me from reading, so I held up a candle next to my book. Apparently, the candle was a little close to my hair because my hair caught on fire. Ha. My stepfather put it out pretty quickly, thank goodness but it was amusing.

    • OMG. That’s scary! The things we do for reading, eh? It could’ve been worse!

  • I think we all go through phases. I used to only read literary fiction then I got introduced to PNR and UF when I started blogging so my taste shifted. Now I’m all over the place, with everything that’s been going on in my life, I think it’s best if I dabble in some self-help just to keep me grounded.

    • I get into moods like that as well. I’m all over the place and very sporadic. But it’s great to discover other worlds aside from the ones I’m used to reading.

  • shootingstarsmag

    Oh fun feature! I used to watch Oprah with my mom so I knew what her book club books were, but I’m not sure I read many of them. I do really like realistic fiction, even if it’s dark, but sometimes I can’t really get into the more dark, literary fare.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

    • Definitely not a place to escape to when you’re already feeling down in the dumps, so I don’t read too many of them nowadays.

  • I get you, I get like that too as I grow older

    • Yep. I sometimes feel like I’m regressing instead of progressing as a reader, though.

  • I knew Oprah spoke of books on her talk show, but I didn’t know she had a book club! Must check it out 😀

    • Now you know. 😀 Just a heads up, her choices tend to lean to literary fiction.

  • kindlemom1

    I’ve always been a reader as well and my tastes have definitely changed, more so since I’ve expanded into different genres I think but that’s okay too. As long as there are still books out there for me regardless of my tastes. I’m a happy girl. 😉

    • I think it’s like, life has gotten more real, so I’d rather read about impossible story lines more than ever.

  • I’m more of a mood reader, but my reading is very diverse. There are days where I can’t stand to pick up a romance book, and opt for some type of dark fantasy. I also appreciate good literary fiction, and most of the ones I’ve read in the past 10 years have come from Oprah’s recommendations. I can also drown myself in contemporary YA for weeks on end. I need more shelf space though. Like, ASAP. No matter how many I take to the library, or give to my cousins, I’m always buying/receiving more.

    • Contemporary Fiction is a quick sand if you’re not careful. I find that once I read a book from this genre and enjoy it, I can’t get enough of it. Lol.

  • Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    “I find that the older I get, the lower my tolerance for difficult reads.”

    SAME HERE JOY! I just want fun reads now. That’ doesn’t mean they can’t be emotional or dark at times, but all in all I’m not up for sifting through super literary reads or classics.

    And your shelves are absolutely gorgeous!

    • Real world is just too scary now more than ever. That’s why we tend to gravitate towards worlds beyond our imagination.

  • I am exactly the same way now. I just can’t tolerate difficult books anymore. I read for fun, for escape, for entertainment. There are some days when I crave a heavier book, but it isn’t very often. I just don’t have the time and energy to devote to those kind of books at this stage in my life. When I have time to read, it’s for an hour after my daughter goes to bed, and it’s just enough time to get a few chapters in a good, easy romance or thriller done. I have to read something that will hold my attention and make me want to pick it up the next day. Otherwise I would never have the desire to read.

    • It’s funny because we should’ve been able to develop an immunity to dark reads, but we didn’t. We actually grew more wary of them.

  • Maja (The Nocturnal Library)

    I was just like you when I was a kid! We moved around a lot and it was hard for me to fit in, but books were my friends wherever I went. And I love how my reading tastes changed and evolved with time! I have a master’s degree in Croatian lit so I spent five years reading a whole lot of classics. After I was done, I said no more. I’m an escapist through and through and I’ll read for pleasure, nothing else. But that too will change at some point.

    • Ah yes. I feel like books rarely ever fail us, but when they do, it’s the worst kind of betrayal. Lol.

  • Your childhood sounds a lot like mine, Joy. I would try to snag books everywhere and in any way and I was ALWAYS reading. My parents would take me to family parties and such, and I’d read instead of socializing. Most of my books came from a friend whose aunt worked at a hotel with a giant stock of romance novels. I eventually started reading Harlequin romances because I was running out of reading material!

    Reading is a form of escape for me too and I struggle so much with difficult topics. From time to time, I’ll pick up a book that has rape or molestation or torture, but I’m in a terrible mood for days after that. I read Menagerie by Rachel Vincent last year, which was an amazing book, but there was a lot of abuse and every time I think about the book, I get nauseous. So yeah, I definitely go for the fluffier reads and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape from reality.

    • You know, I still do that. I still sneak away and read when I’m at a house party. I still find myself reading difficult reads, but I don’t go out of my way to read them. I’ve not read Menagerie, so thanks for the warning, Nick!