The Joy in Reading

Reading is an activity that has never felt forced to me, and I think a big part of it was influenced by my environment. Growing up, certain homerooms in my elementary school ran this program where, for every book you read, you’d get a sticker to put beside your name and the sticker board would then keep track of how many books you, along with your classmates, had read that year. The year that my homeroom did it, I distinctly remember having 60-70 stickers beside my name by the end of the year. When I was younger, each time I would wander into a bookstore, I would always get my hands on a book I wanted to purchase and my parents rarely said "no" to me; they wanted to foster a love of reading in me, and this desire to buy or borrow books has never left me. Even today, although it seems impossible to juggle reading a book for fun with the busy times that come with the life of an undergrad, I still try to carve out some time to do so every so often (though still not as often as I want to).

I’m somebody who believes that there is such huge value to be discovered in being an avid reader. George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only once.” This couldn’t be truer. With each book, you live a different adventure in the shoes of multiple characters. You’re jumping from one place to the next, all while sitting in the same chair. My parents always stressed the importance of reading as I was growing up (as they’re both huge readers) and I am very grateful to have had them as sources of reading inspiration in my life.

Some of my all-time favourite fiction books include:

  1. All the Light we Cannot See

  2. 1984

  3. White Oleander

  4. The Great Gatsby

  5. The Handmaid’s Tale

  6. The Book Thief

I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but at a certain point (sometime towards the end of grade 12), I also started to gravitate towards more non-fiction and biographical books. I remember in the early stages of high school, I was very against the idea of reading non-fiction. My mom always tried to push it onto me – “You’ll learn so much!” – and I just associated it too much with the reading we do in school. I just wanted to read for fun, and I didn’t want to treat it like a chore. So I can’t say what changed, but all of a sudden, I was reading more books that discussed certain concepts (many of which were business-related), ideas, or people. I found leadership books, for one, to be really interesting for some reason. Instead of seeing these books as boring, which is how I used to see them, I found that they were easy to read, and that I always put them down at the end feeling like I'd taken in so much.

A couple of the good ones I’ve read:

  1. Becoming

  2. Shoedog

  3. Lean In

  4. Sapiens

  5. Good to Great

  6. Any of the Malcolm Gladwell books – I’ve read Outliers and Blink so far.

I’m also a big believer in the fact that you don’t need to read certain genres or books for the sake of conforming to societal reading habits. Somebody once told me that every so often, they liked to indulge in trashy magazines because it was fun and it gave them joy. You don’t need to feel compelled to read War and Peace simply because it has been praised by so many, or because you think it will make you appear to be well-read.

For example, I love reading poetry. The free form, broken line type of poetry. The type of poetry that makes you feel something in just five or six lines.

Some of my favourite poetry books include:

  1. Milk and Honey

  2. The Sun and Her Flowers

  3. The Princess Saves Herself in This One

  4. Books by Lang Leav

  5. Books by R. H. Sin

Since coming to Queen’s, I’ve also gotten in the habit of trying to read the news more every day, which is a habit that I never had while going through high school (mostly because every morning, the TV was already on with the news blaring). But here, especially in first year, I felt like I was in a bubble, and so the news was a way to stay connected to what was happening outside this bubble. Being in Commerce, I normally try to read a couple of the articles from the Financial Times every morning when I wake up (mostly because we get a free subscription). I also recently discovered J.P Morgan’s "Notes on the Week Ahead" post that they do once every week – it’s a great resource to get a snapshot of what the economy and markets are looking like in the present. Newsletters are also a good way to get more reading time in, but I find that this is harder to stick to. Some good ones I’ve heard of include Farnam Street, the Skimm and the Hustle.

I really think that habit is so, so important when it comes to reading, and this is part of the reason why even reading the news for five minutes every day helps to get me into that habit. If the only time you read is for school, it definitely can be difficult to pick up a book next time you have some free time, simply because you’re not “wired” to do so.  This is part of the reason I’ve tried to get into the habit of even reading for 30 minutes every day right before bed, but this, for some reason, has been so hard for me to do. Nonetheless, because I grew up with the habit of reading, I find it easier to turn to books when I have a spare moment now. I find it easier to specifically carve out time in my day when I want to read. So, if you’re not an avid reader already, I encourage you all to try to start getting into the habit, whether it’s through short novels, poetry books, newsletters, your favourite genre of fiction, or whatever else you think you’d enjoy reading. And I hope you do it because you want to do it, and because you get joy out of it.