It is inevitable to feel keenly the construction of words when one is a writer. For the 2002 SEA Write Award winner Prabda Yoon, style goes hand in hand with substance. “When I choose a book, I get a feel of it by reading a small excerpt. The style of the prose is very important to me, so I first try to get a sense of how the author writes and the fluidity of the writing. I think I am more drawn to the stylistic feel of the book rather than the story line,” he says. A graphic designer himself, Prabda also has an eye for good design. “Of course the content is important, but I feel that it’s a shame when a good book has a bad cover.”
While some people’s reading habits change based on the time they have to read, Prabda’s changes in terms of subject matter. “When I was younger I had more time. I still read every day, but it’s not systematic. I read many books at the same time and I have a couple of books on my bedside table because I like to read before I go to bed and in the morning as well. As you grow your interests change or you feel like you’ve read enough of something. I used to read a lot of mystery novels but then it got to the point where I got tired of them. However, interests such as philosophy remain constant. So oftentimes I pick up a book that has some kind of philosophical leaning or questions to it,” he explains.
Prabda reads widely, as indicated through his favourite titles—from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe to David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature and Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. “Since the nature of my work is writing, I find myself reading more non-fiction for research purposes these days. I tend to buy more books on history and science as there’s so much information and knowledge that I want to acquire. I am currently writing a cyber-punk story so I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on artificial intelligence, neuroscience and identity,” he says. It’s not just about getting ideas for writing either. “While non-fiction is good for ideas and information, stylistically, fiction is better for inspirations. When I’m bored of my own writing I try to find a book or a piece that will get me excited again. When it comes to fiction, I am still drawn to a more modernist or experimental type of literature. I still follow up on contemporary writers in the UK and the States.”
In the age where the discourse on print versus digital has come to the fore, Prabda provides another perspective on the changing landscape of print. “I think it’s the case worldwide that bookshops are getting smaller and becoming more niche—it’s how they survive now. It’s harder to maintain big commercial bookshops but there remains a market for diehard fans of certain genres. For instance, The Mysterious Bookshop in New York is dedicated to just mystery books.”
While the writer prefers physical books, he does not object to e-readers. However, he is not on the same page when it comes to audiobooks—for a reason that those who love words can relate to. “I like to study the sentence when I’m reading and sometimes I go back and re-read a paragraph again. With audiobooks, however, the narrator’s voice distracts my attention from the structure of the prose. Perhaps it’s also because I’m more of a visual person and I like to see the words on the page.”