by Lye Tuck-Po
[This began as a 10-minute writing exercise, following a tip I learnt in college from Carolyn Bell, now retired]
Random collection of books I picked up in Cologne, 2015. Thanks to Thomas Widlok for the August Sander, which continues to give pleasure., and to Tim Earle for some novels.
I read a lot. Much of it for pleasure. I've always been like that, ever since I was six years old and found that I understood every word of page 1 of one of Enid Blyton's Secret Seven series. An aunt remembered that she never saw me without a book. When I ran out of children's books (I never read Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, and other such classics), I went to the family shelves and rummaged among books I found there. At school, they let me borrow books from the library: books on polar expeditions being a favourite. 
By the time I was 10 or 11, I was reading my grandfather's old books. He died when I was two. He was a voracious reader too. My grandmother remembered that she was always clearing the house of books. Well, he left behind a seemingly huge collection of detective novels. My grandmother read them, my father read them, and I precociously followed: the Ellery Queen series was an early favourite. I developed my tastes then. In secondary school, I got a membership at the public library and read my way through exciting books on art history, stage productions, travel memoirs, biographies, and the like. My tastes were catholic; I read anything and everything.
All through my reading years, I divided my life between "reading for school" and "reading for pleasure". I wouldn't say "never the twain shall meet" because sometimes they did. I really enjoyed history (some of it). I found it easier to understand some scientific concepts and terms by looking them up in a different language (schooling was in Malay and everything else was English).
Then came college. Came the time to declare my major (in my second or third year). I think I must have declared it three times over. It didn't feel right. But try as I might, I couldn't run away. That which I had taken as pleasure—the novel reading of my childhood—could be turned into work. I finally decided—English and Philosophy for me. English—novels, drama, poetry—for fun, and Philosophy—teeth grinding away—for hard work. (Time for a boast: when I graduated from college, I scored one B but otherwise straight As in English)
Books currently spread out around my bedroom. I wanted to show how small is the Bourdieu. This surprised me, as the book is a visual anthropology, with lots of interesting photos. The Haddon is pretty good. The others are Malaysian ethnographies.