Why I Fell Back in Love With Reading

Over the past two years, I’ve been on a real reading kick. Not only have I been able to reach my end-of-the-year goals for total books that I’ve read, but I’ve also been able to read fairly consistently over the course of the year. Beforehand, reading was a hobby that I told myself I would begin when I became less busy. And it’s true that I didn’t start reading again until I was bored and had some free time. But now, I find myself reading both in my spare time and also as a scheduled part of my day as it has become a very important habit.

I was a reader as a child, but with growing older came a growing workload, and most of my brain power was dedicated to high school--and now college--classes. When I get home at the end of a long day, I definitely feel the temptation to just watch some Netflix or engage in a passive activity that doesn’t require a lot of effort. When reading wasn’t a priority for me, I viewed it more as a chore that I should do in order to be “well-read” or something that I needed to do in order to perceive myself as intelligent. Now looking back, I can see that not only are these beliefs unmotivating but are also rooted in elitist attitudes. I mean, it’s a tale as old as time: rich people read a lot of books with fancy prose written by rich white authors from 1000 years ago, while poor people are assumed as less literate and therefore less educated and less intelligent because they are not interested in the same books. Reading and accessing books has certainly improved in modern America, but I think we still tend to conflate reading with intelligence and not reading with ignorance.

Funny enough, I think my process of unlearning this bias has helped me love reading even more.

The more I read, the more I want to branch out in terms of what I read. I began to notice what type of books I enjoyed, which allowed me to do my best to branch out from what I’m used to. This can apply to try new genres of work, new authors, and perhaps especially reading new perspectives. Sometimes I look over the past couple of books I’ve read and I think, “How many of these are written by women? By black people? How many of these stories tell the perspectives of people who are otherwise silenced in academia and mainstream literature?” Outside of directly listening to people talk about their experiences, reading is one of the best ways to begin to understand an issue that affects someone and all the nuances that come with that. Furthermore, reading an author's prose, or poetry, or an autobiographical account of their experience allows for a level of emotional intimacy that is lost in news headlines and articles written by somebody on the outside looking in. Sometimes I think about how reading a person’s writing might be the best way we are able to know a person; you have the perfect mix of emotional conviction put into painstakingly put-together words in the way that the author thought they would most accurately reflect their intentions.

I also think another pitfall of trying to read more is the idea of reading just to read. Like I said earlier, reading is perceived as an activity that highbrow people do. But it’s not the reading that even helps expand our mind, it’s the reflecting on the reading. Some of my favorite books I’ve read over the past few years have been books I read for class. I think a big part of this is because we spent so much time discussing them. Hearing everyone’s theories and reactions to what we all read is eye-opening, especially if the ideas were widespread and maybe controversial. It’s easy to feel passionate about a book when you’ve put in so much labor trying to understand it. Even when I hate a book, I hate it passionately when I have to defend my distaste to a group of people who may love it. And yes, I am thinking about Call Me By Your Name. But I even had an illuminating conversation with a friend recently about why she enjoys the book and what value it brings to her. I can read better because of what I do after I finish reading. Extracting meaning from reading is always more valuable than just collecting knowledge and claiming finished books like a dragon would claim treasures in their den. Even if it means I don’t get to finish a hundred books a year, I think reading in order to get to a point where you’re engaging in something without directly reading it is a good place to be.

I hope this has sparked some interest in you to go out and read something for pleasure, not because you “should” but because you genuinely want to. Go read about something you’ve wanted to learn more about or read your favorite romance trope. I highly recommend joining a book club or reading something a friend of yours has, so you can get the satisfying ending of mulling over what you have read. There are even some groups online that choose a book to read that month and a panel will discuss their thoughts at the end of the month. If you find it within yourself that you really do want to read, you’ll be able to make the time for it. Find your why for reading, and then head to your local public library to find your what.