I’ve always been an avid reader and it amazes me that in this day and age people still read books. In fact I think they read more books than ever before. At one point everyone was all like “oh noes books are going to die with the Internet!” but just look at Kindle and Amazon and what have you. They’re here to stay in whatever form they take in the future.
I’d like to have at least one section on books so that you can see my life is not all about video games. I learnt so much from books and comics that I feel that I just have to at least put SOME of my favorites here. This IS the story of my life, and my life has been filled with books since almost Day 1.
Young adult fiction. What with a mother who had such an interest in children’s literature it was perhaps inevitable I would read a lot of this genre. During the Bad Times she would still take us to bookshops and we would still buy books and read them.
Comic books. I read the Sandman and thought I didn’t exactly go through a goth period and muse about life everyday it did have an effect on me. I think Alan Moore may be the best Western writer of comics alive. I read a fair bit of the Vertigo imprint which was pretty interesting.
I used to read a lot of superhero comic books when younger but when I made the leap to Japan I never really looked back. They just didn’t interest me as much anymore. Given my highly analytical self I did think about this for a long time and came up with a lot of (probably accurate) theories but it’s all past me now.
Mike Carey’s Lucifer did have a lasting effect on me though. It is probably the only English comic I actually PAID MONEY TO BUY (and didn’t download) which is how much I loved it when I was still struggling with that goddamn 500 bucks a month. I used to read the whole thing from cover to cover every few years.
All its themes appealed to me – comparative philosophy, the search for identity, and of course the main one – children and parents. Looking back on it now I probably also sorted out a lot of my issues with Christianity by reading it (it IS about Lucifer after all)
Fantasy and sci-fi, of course. Though I had stopped following the genre closely after my conversion to games and anime in my early teenage, I still read here and there. Classic fantasy like Micheal Moorcock, and of course the Big Three – Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Ursula K. Le Guin was also a big influence.
Dune had a deep and profound effect on me that I didn’t realize until years after I read it. Most of what I know about Islam comes from Dune. I think that of all the sci-fi I read in my life it may have affected me the most (and I read a lot of sci-fi!) due to its spiritual nature. I can remember picking it up every few years or so to re-read the whole thing from cover to cover.
Let’s not forget sourcebooks. I never played any tabletop RPGs but I sure as hell read a lot of sourcebooks. Back when P2P filesharing services took off I downloaded a lot of them – all the stuff that I would have dearly liked to read in my childhood and youth but that I didn’t have the money to buy back then. Finally it was all free!
World of Darkness was actually a big influence on my life at one point, and not just Vampire the Masquerade either. Around the time I started to read and write fanfiction I happened to learn about Mage : the Ascension. The entire idea that reality was malleable (and yes I still think it is) really blew my young mind.
I read TONS of WoD sourcebooks and Shadowrun as well. (my old love from the USA) Say what you will but the world building in those 2 franchises is superb. Not to mention they are chock-a-block full of deep intriguing philosophical and spiritual content. What’s a geek not to love?
Philosophy – lots of that. I don’t think I ever really stopped reading philosophy even after my teenage. I guess that ol’ hankering for Big Thoughts never really went away? Mankind has always had the drive to discover what made himself (and everything else!) tick, and throughout my travels I continued to ponder the questions that had been asked throughout the ages. I recall Sophie’s World being a good introduction to a deeper exploration of concerns ontological – a whimsical tale of a young girl through the annals of Western philosophy.
I went on to read the classics (Kant, Hegel, Augustine, and so forth) and then I discovered that anime and games had the same philosophical depth but with the added advantages of pretty girls, swordfights, giant robots and explosions. Not really any competition there.
Psychology of course. I read textbooks and case studies and everything in between. I studied it on and off, but always more on than off. I don’t think I ever approached my youthful fervor with the subject (back when I was convinced that Therapy could Solve Everything) but sometimes I am astounded by the sheer amount of psychological texts I’ve pored through…all this from someone without a high school education.
All the way from Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (which I read waaaay back when I was fourteen) to newer stuff like Dan Siegel’s Mindsight, my study of the study of the mind carried on unabated. Among the books that stand out are Destructive Emotions – various accounts of a conference that was held with the Dalai Lama and eminent psychologists, a melding of science and religion that I found fascinating. John Bradshaw was another favorite of mine – I would find it hard to believe there was a man alive who knew more about the inner child that he did. There was of course that old bugbear Freud…but in reading far more widely I was relieved to know that we’d moved far beyond the Oedipus Complex and penis envy.
Over the years I actually read less and played more games. This was blasphemy to my parents but quite natural to me. Books aren’t the only form of knowledge – far from it. I think the point where I sort of said “games now, not books” might have been in my late teenage? Of course some of it was a natural (if largely unsuccessful) rebellion against my parents to whom nothing was true unless an Old Dead White Man said it was. I didn’t want to be that nerdy kid who just read and read and read to the exclusion of all else. But some of it was me discovering just how many ways there were to learn and grow. There’s games and videos and websites and who knows what else…reading in the modern world isn’t just confined to print in whatever form.
In retrospect I can see how reading voraciously from such an early age led me into fanfiction (as an act of creation, not just escape) and then into my first forays into original work…which finally ended up as what you’re reading now. Reading and writing go hand in hand – you can’t really have the latter when you don’t have the former.
This might just be the natural conclusion of a path set in motion when I was younger. When I was in grade school (a time which seems so far away now!) whenever I was asked what I was going to be when I grew up, I answered “a writer”. It looks like in some ways I got my wish.