Falling asleep in my closet buried in books, or staying up way past my bedtime using a flashlight to read in the dark (so my parents wouldn’t find out I was still awake) were regular occurrences for me as a child. I absolutely loved reading when I was younger, regularly devouring books in a single day and begging my parents to immediately take me to the library or bookstore to get more. It was my favorite hobby, and I was more than happy to spend my days dreaming about myself in the worlds that I read about and trying to write my own stories, gleefully imagining the day that something I wrote would resonate with people like the books I loved so much.
Some of this love for reading died as I grew older, especially as I got into high school. As I’m sure many of us are familiar with, being forced to analyze and dissect a book thoroughly is often not the best way to foster a love of reading in young people, and I was left feeling like I was grasping for straws to find hidden meanings within the books I was reading in school. While I didn’t hate all of the books I read in high school, the in-depth analysis and discussion and having to read large amounts on a strict schedule for homework, left me feeling detached from a hobby that I once loved so much. Thanks to this, I rarely had the motivation to read for fun outside of school. Flash forward to a couple of years later, and I gradually started to read more for fun as I started college. I would pick up a few books a year and enjoy them, for the most part, but reading didn’t feel the same as it had when I was a child. I was mostly reading books that everyone told me I should read, and although I liked them, I wasn’t completely immersed or dying to get to the end. I continued like this until early this year, which is when I discovered BookTube. Essentially, BookTube is a community of book-lovers on youtube who make content related to anything book-related, be it book reviews, book hauls, and reading vlogs. Seeing people my age be so passionate about books reminded me of my younger self, and I longed to rekindle the love for reading that I once had.
So, I watched these YouTubers’ videos, gathered a long list of books that I wanted to read, and told myself that I would read as much as possible once the quarter was over. Come summer, I utilized both the public library in Davis and the growing stack of unread books that I had been collecting and got to reading. I was surprised by how quickly I got back into it when I picked up something I actually liked. My first book of the summer was Orange by Ichigo Takano (which is technically a manga collection, but it still counts). I was instantly sucked in, and reading this made me truly realize how much I had missed getting completely immersed in a story and its characters. I finished the book in a few days and immediately moved onto another one. The rest of the summer continued like this, as I picked up books that sounded interesting and devoured them as quickly as I could. In total, I’ve read 48 books this year so far, which amounts to a little more than 1 book per week. (Note: Not all of these were long books. A fair amount were manga volumes, graphic novels or audiobooks, but I still count those as reading.)
Rekindling this hobby also helped me realize how important it is to take time for myself during the day. This is something I’ve really struggled with for the past few years; I often feel like I’m so busy that I don’t have time to relax, and if I do allow myself a short break or time to do something just for fun, I tend to feel anxious because all I can think about is how much I could be getting done if I wasn’t “wasting” time relaxing. Taking this challenge to read as much as I could was essentially forcing me to do something just for the sake of enjoyment. I do feel accomplished when I finish a book, and I can try to rationalize the time I spend reading by saying that it will help me improve my reading speed and thus be able to complete assignments faster, but really, reading is something that I am doing just for myself, and I feel so much worse when I don’t do it. Even taking 15 minutes on my busiest days to force myself to sit down and read a few pages of a book helps me recenter myself, and makes me feel less anxious and ready to take on whatever remaining responsibilities I have for the day. Although it can sometimes feel like our worth lies in our productivity, taking time to rest and relax is essential and something that everyone both needs and deserves in their day.
So with that, I urge everyone to do the same. If you haven’t already today, take some time to do something just because it makes you happy. You owe it to yourself to have a small chunk of your day devoted to something that makes you feel like yourself. Your body and mind will thank you for it.