It’s funny, really. When I spend time in Canada, my reading habits tend to be focused almost exclusively on Asia, when I read books at all. But, when I’m in Asia, I read voraciously, and a large part of what I read is related to North America and Europe! I think it has something to do with connecting with the society I no longer feel a part of, alone here, I am reaching for a piece of home and I get it through the written word.
Actually, I consider it one of the happy side effects of living here, I do enjoy reading and regret that I don’t do more of it when I am at home in Canada. I read mostly non-fiction, but I do try to catch up on books I have been curious about for a long time or know are classics but have never touched. Especially in my current job, I have to travel about the city and wait a lot, and this affords me a lot of extra time with nothing special to do. For a while I was reading the newspaper, the Taipei Times is an excellent English language newspaper (one of 3 English language papers in Taiwan), but I got bored of always doing that so I started to make trips to the bookstore instead. I find it takes me a week or so to polish off a novel, maybe less if I get so into it I spend all my free time reading it. (Good books suck you in, what can I say?)
Recently I’ve had an interest in the Napoleonic era of Europe (don’t ask why, I have no clue) so when I went into the Page One (the biggest bookstore in Taipei) and found a copy of Horatio Hornblower sitting on the shelf I knew it was what I wanted to read. Set in the Napoleonic Era, Hornblower is the story of how a young seaman goes from Midshipman to Admiral in the British Navy. C.S. Forrester wrote 11 Hornblower novels, and apparently they’re considered major classics of British fiction. I remember reading once that Gene Roddenbery based some of the character of Captain Kirk off Horatio Hornblower, which I guess I will understand more when I reach the point Horatio is a Captain. Right now, he’s still a Midshipman, and I have to say the first book is a really good read that I can say I recommend wholeheartedly.
One interesting comment I read today was:
“Hornblower was of the type that would continue to observe and to learn on his deathbed.”
When I read this, I thought to myself, that’s not just Hornblower, that’s me! It’s interesting how a good book can actually teach you about yourself. Time abroad isn’t just a time of learning about the outer world, but the inner one as well.