I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with reading.
It was during playtime in Primary Four and, to my secret joy, the whole class was indoors because of the rain. I brought out the library book I’d been somewhat ignoring for the past few days (not because I had any aversion to reading but simply because I was more often drawing and making up stories of my own). For some reason, on this day, I progressed through each paragraph with a renewed sense of wonder. I was engrossed in the little world unfolding in my hands, spurred on by a spark of pride every time I’d read enough to turn the page. The simple comfort of being warm and dry, inside on a cold, damp day and drinking my 10p carton of milk while following the adventures of a baby astronaut would become a postcard moment from my childhood.
Reading brought me a strange feeling of safety, as though I could turn my back on everything in the real world for half an hour or so and lose myself completely in the embrace of a book. It would always welcome me back, right where I left it.
From that point on I became an avid reader. I started getting excited about class trips to the school library and began reading just about anything that was lying about the house (unfortunately this led to me being mildly traumatised by the illustrations in Miriam Stoppard’s ‘Pregnancy & Birth Handbook’, which I discovered on a high shelf upstairs).
I started reading whenever I wasn’t at school, doing homework or being forced to practise the piano. Books were my escape from the mundane. The characters in their pages took shape in my mind, became living, feeling, imperfect beings just like me and stoked the fires of my own creativity. I formed attachments to them and began thinking of how their lives might have played out had minor details of their stories been different. I carried all of them around with me, dreaming up stories of my own for them in the car, in my bed at night or while staring out of the classroom window. Their world was always there for me whenever I was sad, confused or just needing a friend.
Fast forward almost eighteen years and I seem to have lost that little girl I was.
Now the simple activity of relaxing with a book is almost impossible for me. I’m not sure whether this is due to my inability to sit still for long periods of time, my woefully diminished concentration span or just a feeling of anxiety that won’t allow my mind to switch off. I really struggle now to follow complex narratives of novels and stick with magazines and online articles. Since studying English literature at Uni I’ve also found it hard to read a book without internally identifying and labelling every simile, metaphor, interjection, imperative or example of personification.
It saddens me that my mind has become so incapable of slowing down. I feel I’m never in the present moment and much of my time is spent replaying and clinging onto memories or worrying about my future. I hate that I now seem to crave immediate entertainment and distraction and can’t settle myself.
What’s the point of this waffling? I’ve decided to reach out to books again, tell them I’m sorry and see if they’ll give me another chance. Hopefully they’ll take me back and it can be just like old times (there are just too many good memories to give up on what we had).
I’ve set a personal goal for myself to start reading and reviewing a couple of books every few weeks and post them on here, in the hope it’ll not only get me back into reading but will improve my writing and allow me to produce something (somewhat) entertaining for you. Watch this space and hopefully a half decent book review will appear here in a few weeks.
I want to recover that joy I used to have for reading. I want to feel less like a coiled spring of anxiety and fear of the world and more like that little girl in the classroom, the wind and rain outside and a book in her hands, utterly captivated by a stranger’s words and the pictures they painted.