Featured Image taken from Book Riot
“It is better to know one book intimately than a hundred superficially.”Donna Tartt, The Secret History
Many avid readers are obsessed by the number of books they read and some are pressured by the number of books they haven’t. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) tendency makes them feel incomplete if they have not read popular books (say, Harry Potter series, Game of Thrones, Twilight series and so forth) despite it is actually not their liking. And sometimes this FOMO readers overshadow other books that fail to shine in the “most anticipated books” section in bookstores, like black writers books, LGBT+ theme books, translated foreign books.
Now, what about the readers that only read few books? Will they be less sophisticated if they don’t read so many? Based on my own experience, I dare to say no.
Around 2007, I read Nagabonar jadi 2 by Akmal Nasery Basral. It is based on the Indonesian movie under the same title, narrated into a book. The story is about conflict between Nagabonar, a senior who is a former pickpocket who became a general during Indonesia’s War of Independence and his son, Bonaga who is a successful property developer. The father and son are arguing on selling their palm plantation where it lays tombs belong to Nagabonar’s wife, Kirana and Nagabonar’s best friend, Bujang. The generation cultural difference adds the complexity to the relationship between the father and son.
In the book, Nagabonar is described as straight forward, temperamental, patriotic, but also discreetly loving to his wife and son. The book and the film are produced in 2007 where Indonesia is under Reform era, most of the teenagers are educated to have National pride. Many books and films started to raise topic on Nationalism, and Nagabonar jadi 2 is one of them. As the 2007 reader, I was touched by the patriotic personality of Nagabonar. One of the famous scene from the movie and the book is where Nagabonar harshly protested to a traffic police on forbidding a bajaj (three-wheeled vehicle) to enter four-wheeled vehicle lane. In Indonesia, car owners are seen as exclusive and stereotyped as coming from higher and richer people. Hence, the three-wheeled vehicle scene in Nagabonar jadi 2 was an attempt to criticize the injustice in Indonesian rule. When I read and watched this scene, I was emotionally touched by his patriotic and unapologetic attitude on criticizing Indonesian governance. And hope, this message is noticed by the government so they change the rule for the sake of justice to all.
Fast forward to 2020, where in this era, people demand transparency and there are more educated people thanks to the rise of digitalization. Now, as a 2020’s reader, my opinion on the bajaj debate scene in Nagabonar has changed. I see Nagabonar’s character as arrogant and using his status as a former general to abuse the rule without considering the safety. For those who does not live in Jakarta, let me explain this for you, in main road especially in the most crowded area, the only four-wheeled vehicles, which categorized as faster vehicle, are allowed to enter the lane. This rule is made to prevent accident and reduced traffic jam because of non-four-wheeled vehicles (such as bajaj, motor cycle and bicycle) that are categorized as slower speed vehicles. And Nagabonar refused to acknowledge this purpose. To my 2020’s thought, the meaning of justice is no longer about giving advantages to everybody equally, but it is also about where rule must be respected by everyone without justifying their background and social status.
Nagabonar jadi 2 becomes one of the book where I realized how my thought and opinion are modernized. There are still more books that shaped me to become modern after the second, the third, the fourth reading. Maybe you despise Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw because of the dose of drama you are not into. But do you notice its feminism and social hierarchy problems on those books? How does it relate to you now? Or maybe you are bored by Shakespeare’s Othello, but do you realized it carries message about the consequences of racism that leads to tragedy? William Shakespeare has sophisticated thought on racism hundreds years ago, yet our society is still not aware of racism issue.
The problem with the book rating is it blocks people to see the message they want to deliver from newer view. I have several books I rated as 1 star, nonetheless it should not become the reason to not reread. As time changes, our opinion about a book will change too, depends how it relates to our current situation. Our ability to empathize and our understanding in other’s culture are developing. That’s why, in my opinion, reread a book does not mean you are boring, but it is actually cultivating our thought to become a modern person you are today.
So, grab the worst book you remember and let see what it means for you.