Reading was very much a part of my life when I was a child – bedtime stories, targets set by school – but, in my teen years, I pretty much stopped. As the routine of reading dropped away and I was no longer being held accountable for not getting through a book every few weeks, I felt no motivation to read. It’s easy to choose a screen over a page.
I could probably count on one hand how many times I had read a full-sized book purely for enjoyment before. There had always been a greater reason that I had focused on: finding it easier to fall asleep, because I had been told to, because the book was a present from someone… Naturally, I enjoyed reading as a by-product of these things, but I don’t think I ever latched onto that pleasure in the same way that bookworms did.
I assume that’s why, when the primary reason I read books for was taken away, the secondary reason wasn’t enough to continue. I didn’t feel a desire to read because there was no longer a purpose to. It wasn’t like I literally didn’t touch a book for five years, but I can’t have read any more than two a year (and mostly for the reason of them being gifts). It was when I was seventeen that I became best friends with my local library, maxing out on the number of books one can reserve and take out at a time. For the last year, I have thought that I had a renewed love for books and that I was focused on the pleasure of reading but, whilst reflecting recently, I realised that I was once again doing it for a greater reason. I have been saying that I’m loving non-fiction, but absolutely everything I have read in the last twelve months has been self-help (with one or two autobiographies thrown in the mix).
It was my last couple of months of sixth form followed by the transition period into my career. Yes, I had more spare time than I’d had in a while and reading was the perfect filler, but I was craving character development and, simply, help with this period of my life. I enjoyed reading but mainly because of how much I was learning and evolving into a version of myself that I much preferred. Again, I had a very clear goal. And this was a hugely positive thing at the time – those books which I binged on seriously helped me emotionally and cognitively. From my interview to commencing my career, I had a self-confidence and glow that I had never felt before, thanks to those books coaching me to rediscover myself.
Last month, I got halfway through my most recent self-help endeavour when I battled with myself over whether I was actually enjoying it or not. It felt like a bit of an uphill struggle. This confused me because the content of the book was valuable, I liked the author and style of writing and it wasn’t all that different to what I’d been reading for the last year. I faced the fact that it was a really ‘thinky’ book. It wasn’t relaxing to read; it was tiring.
It took me to plan a holiday to realise that I needed fiction back in my life again. Knowing that I didn’t want to read a book on self-image and psychology in the 1960s while bathing on a beach was a very helpful realisation. I laughed at the fact that I thought this had been a good way to unwind after work either. I decided to take things back to the noughties and picked up Twilight from the library. Literally nothing about a vampire romance novel involves introspection nor relates to my work.
And so begins my journey of reading purely for pleasure. I’ll keep the non-fiction going on the side – reading is reading, after all – but I want to give myself a headspace where I feel creative, fluid and like my mind is breathing fresh air.
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