Being a bookworm is an oddity in Indonesia

As an Indonesian, reading an English language novel in a crowd of bus passengers confronts me with two feelings. On one side, I feel smart. This feeling gets bigger when there is once a female passenger sitting next to me who says my reading choice wows her. She’s not the only one who says this. My office mates sometimes utter the same thing; that I look brilliant by looking at the book I frequently read; super thick difficult novels according to their opinions. Although I feel so flattered by their praises I then shortly stop their wonder. I usually say that this readings, for an English literature graduate like me, are so ordinary. I say that I have to read that kind of books to keep my English language prociency sharp. If I don’t do that, my degree would be useless.

While the first feeling boosts me to do just another reading activities, I sometimes regard myself as a weirdie by holding a book instead of a smartphone in the palms of my hands. With the popularity of smartphones, e-books, where you can just open your gadgets, click on the desired titles then read them all on the screens, carrying paper-based books during office journeys make me feel like an old-fashioned bookworm. Despite the fact that I have no e-books, the only reason why I stick to conventional novels are because I really love papers and all the sensations that come by flipping through them. Even looking at papers, let alone conventional books, make me feel so joyful already.

You may call me a closed-minded reader but I think I am not going to change my preference. At least not just yet. And this makes me feel awkward. Not only reading paper-based books sound weird, reading novels via e-books is odd, too. The reason is Indonesians don’t like reading. The Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan recently has said that the reading culture of the country is really low, at 0.01% according to the data by UNESCO. In another word, he said, only one person among 10,000 people who likes reading.

So, when you visit Jakarta, read a book in a bus or public space you will probably find yourself being stared at because of the titles you grab or being ignored because they just don’t read. Whatever the reasons are I have got used to that and the reading is still on.



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