photo credits here, edited.

by dee pei hui

I wasn’t a book-lover all my life; it had to start somewhere. It began in primary school, back when I was still acing all my exams, when my classmate had gotten the “Avid Reader Badge” and I hadn’t. I wanted that badge too, for it signified an accomplishment that not everyone could achieve. I began going to the library, borrowing bag-fulls of storybooks each time. There was adventure, mystery, fairy tales, anything that interested me, which was quite a bit in fact.

I got the badge, I got the badge year after year up till I was no longer in primary school. But what I had gained was more than just a badge to show off, it was a sense of attachment to another realm I hadn’t known before. It was a keen sense of exploration, to seek the wonders trapped in those pages that smelled of home and coziness. I had discovered a portal, a portal into the minds of the ingenious. The library became my friend, and books my companion.

And then came high school and piles of homework and responsibilities. I couldn’t make time for reading. I would borrow 5 books from the library but read only 1 before the deadline was up. Sometimes I couldn’t even finish one. That was when I decided that I had enough of time-restricted reading, and got into book-buying instead. Until now, the sight of a new book, its edges intact and its cover stunning, still draws me in like a metal clip to a magnet. I would take it in my hands and run my fingers across it, staring at it as though doing so would make it mine. Often I had to put it back down instead of bringing it home, for only occasionally did I have enough pocket money for a new book. But when I did, boy was I exhilarated.

Books started piling up in my house- read, unread, reading. I loved staring at the beautiful covers, I loved picking them up and immersing myself in them for a few hours at a time, and then putting them back down and whispering “I’ll come back for you”.

With the holes in my pocket I decided there had to be a better way. There was something so attractive about secondhand books, the way they were all yellowed and browned and worn but intact, like it had been loved and was seeking more. New books smelled fresh, like a new beginning. Secondhand books smelled rich, ancient, like sunken treasure waiting to be rediscovered.

It’s strange how you know there are 28 books sitting at home waiting to be read, but then you buy another 53 more and decide to reread Harry Potter.

It’s strange how the more bewildered you feel after finishing a book, the more you fall in love with it.

It’s strange how you can connect more with someone entirely fictional than with the real life people around you.

It’s strange, and it’s the best feeling in the whole wide world.

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