How I Revived My Strained Relationship With Reading For Leisure

The first time I was enamored with a book was when I was eight years old. The novel was The Lightning Thief, the first of the beloved Percy Jackson series by the intersectional and inclusive author Rick Riordan. The story of how I started reading this series was indirect. My third grade teacher’s grandson won a set of four Percy Jackson novels but didn’t want them. So, knowing my obsession with Greek and Roman mythology, she allowed me to borrow the series. I never let those books out of my grasp. At some point, the spine of the books had permanent damage because of how tightly I would onto them out of excitement. This was the first time in my life where I would pretend to sleep, wait for my mother to go to bed and then sneak into the night to keep reading and reading until 3 AM. The way these characters came to life for me was almost frightening. I nearly thought of them as my friends, and any trials and tribulations they went through affected me as well. 

My early relationship with reading sounds corny, but I truly missed the days when I was not trapped in the confines of assigned reading in college. Sure, academia is important, and reading research papers are definitely a way to help me learn, but I was feeling drained both physically and creatively. Over the summer, I practiced mental health with meditation. While that was very helpful, I found myself needing a more intimate and inspiring approach to keeping myself happy. I felt the need to reach back into my childhood to find something simple that could easily energize me. So, I decided to go back to my simplest form of pleasure, and started reading for leisure again. Before embarking on this stress-free journey, I decided to give myself a few rules. Firstly, I would neither be too repelled by or too attracted to a book just because it seemed like an intellectual find. I also did not hold myself accountable to sticking to something that was not sticking with me. That meant that if I consistently did not enjoy reading a novel, then there was no self-imposed pressure to stick with it. I also encouraged myself to go beyond the same genres I was used to reading and tried to make sure that every book I read had almost nothing in common. This was to keep things spicy and prevent me from getting bored. My last personal rule was that I would recommend the book I chose to a friend I thought would most enjoy it.

At certain points throughout my attempt to rekindle my love for reading, I found myself feeling exhausted, not because of the novel’s hold on my attention but because I had not left my apartment for some time. So, I started to go to public places to read. Normally, I am easily distracted, but while I was reading in a public setting, I felt as if I was in my own little world. One of my favorite spots to study at is Ministry of Coffee

The first novel that I read on this journey was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It was given to me months ago by a co-worker from my past internship. In summary, it is about a family coming to terms with a tragedy and how they piece together the moments where it all may have went wrong. This was the book I consistently saw reflected in mirrors on train rides back and forth from home. Instead of eating homemade breakfast by my mom, I would stay in bed until the early afternoon flicking through the pages. This book resonated with me because I was equal parts enamored with and saddened by the characters' imperfect relationship with their family, the outside world and themselves. This novel managed to make me tear up and reevaluate my relationships with those around me. It was the more melancholic part of my bright California summer, but I appreciated that because I certainly had somber moods and needed something to express that with. I also appreciate the way Ng balanced the storyline between so many perspectives while keeping the entire story cohesive. I recommended it to a friend who has experienced a similar familial relationship as the main character.

The next novel I read was Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of the famously brutal novel and film, Fight Club. This novel is like an anthology about how seemingly normal citizens can find themselves in disturbingly brutal situations, in which they see themselves transform into some sort of monster, sometimes by accident and sometimes out of necessity. Normally, I shy away from gore. I’ve never fully enjoyed a Saw movie and the Final Destination series still sends shivers down my spine. However, Haunted was different. Yes, it was definitely a disturbing read, but I think my ability to visualize and imagine the scenes on my own terms, allowed me to feel control over how badly the novel could affect me. This ended up being my bedtime story for a chunk of my summer. I read it on quiet afternoons so that I could process the twisted situations. Some novels have the power to tap into parts of you that you never even knew existed. I actually really enjoyed reading Palahniuk’s famed novel. My favorite part about reading this was explaining the plot to friends; some were shocked that I was reading something so intense, while others were intrigued. I recommended this book to my friend who has an obsession with serial killers. 

The last novel that I threw myself into was And Then There Were None by famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie. I actually found a copy of this novel in my local LittleFreeLibary located on 1315 Malcolm Ave. Los Angeles CA 90024! 

This was a re-read for me. I first discovered this novel back in the eigth grade when I was going through my Sherlock Holmes phase (thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch). While consuming as much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as I could, I discovered Christie’s works. The mystery novel follows 10 unique individuals who are invited to a dinner party by a mystery mansion owner. Slowly their little dinner party turns deadly when they are murdered off, one by one. I read this novel closer to the start of the school year, so I was already getting stressed out. This novel was the perfect dose of nostalgia that I had not realized I needed. I recommended this novel to a friend who I used to binge watch BBC’s Sherlock with.

Overall my experience trying to self-induce my pleasure for reading worked. Now I make time to read something that is completely removed from academics. I highly recommend finding your “breather” activity, whether it be going out in nature, drawing, reading or even just journaling. It is important to decompress, especially during a tumultuous time like college!