Get to know us through the books we read! Every month we’re sharing an interview with one of the Language Centre’s staff members on a favourite or memorable book.
This month we chat to Ydalene Coetsee, an academic literacies lecturer at the Language Centre. Ydalene is an avid reader who is tempted to read even while walking in the mountains, but, having said that, she quickly admits that she does enjoy the view too.
What is the title of the book you’d like to share with us?
The Overstory by Richard Powers. The book won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Why is this book memorable to you?
Although I have consistently read at least two books a week for the past 50 years, there are not many that will drastically change the way I live. But The Overstory is such a book. It is a novel about trees, and it inspired me to live more proactively for the sake of the natural world.
Who is your favourite author? Also tell us why?
It is Philip Yancey. He applies complicated principles to daily living in such a way that his readers can live a more fulfilled life.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am always reading at least three books. Because Covid-19 has prevented me from travelling over the winter holidays, I’m enjoying warmer climates by reading A year in the World by Frances Mayes; I’m also preparing a book club talk on Confessions by Jaume Cabre, a Catalan author; and I’m reading Vonke uit die koeroeklip by Gert Sarrisam, about somebody I used to know as a child.
Do you have a preference: reading physical books with paper pages or on a Kindle or other electronic platform? Why do you say so?
This pandemic necessitates spending way too many hours in front of a screen. Now I prefer paper books again. They smell and feel better, and sometimes even have beautiful covers!
What book have you re-read? Also tell us why?
I’ve read most of the classics more than once because I read most of them for the first time when I was about 20, and at the time I wouldn’t have understood them fully. Also, I tend to read so fast that I sometimes miss some important information or things to think about.
Who is your favourite literary character?
Huppelkind, because he reminds me of a very happy and uncomplicated time in my childhood. The book also has a lyrical quality that encourages dancing and running in the sun.
Have you perhaps learnt a life lesson from a book or character that you would like to share with us?
The wisest lessons for me are from ancient religious texts: Ecclesiastes, Rumi, Kahlil Gibran.
What book/books would you recommend to your students, friends or anyone else?
There are no limits to the growth that you can effect in yourself and the world if you read books. Read about world changers if you want to change the world. (The last biography I read was Empress Dowager Cixi (by Jung Chang) about the Chinese ruler who opened up China to Western influence.) Read what you enjoy, think about what you read and apply your reading to improve our world.