From Being a Voracious Reader to None at all

Usually parents are proud that their children like to read. They boast about how many books they’ve read and how thick those books were. Not mine. And I actually can’t blame them.

My brother and I would get library books by the bagful and just sit and read all day long. Forget chores, homework, and food. Forget social formalities and responsibilities. We get a hold of a book, and our noses would be buried in it until we completed it. I would just travel through time and space, on dragons and broomsticks, over prairies and under mountains.

Reading was a part of my identity and I was proud of it. I scoffed at adults saying they didn’t have time to read. I rolled my eyes at strangers swapping paperbacks for e-readers and audio books. What joy must they get from swiping left instead of turning pages? How could they have someone else narrate the seeds of their imagination to them? What do you mean they did not have the time?!

The answer to that came after I enrolled in university. By my third year I was barely reading ten books a year. By graduate school, I understood why people opted for the sleek grey electronic readers instead of hauling three inch thick fantasy novels on crowded trains.

I switched to audio books and could hear my thirteen year old self fuming with disappointment.

Audio books, I learned were just as immersive and could completely transport the listener to the fictional setting. The realization came crashing to me when I zoned out while driving and rear-ended the car in front of me. That stopped my audio escapes for sometime. And by the time I was working full time, I was averaging 0.5 books a year and 1 audio book per summer. I had forgotten how to read.

I didn’t make time [to read] and wasted plenty of hours scrolling through my phone on the internet.

I could sit next to a stack of books and not be compelled to read more than a page. The characters I came across, did not feel relatable. The plot was too cliche. My peers did not read and so I had no recommendations to go by. Anytime I thought I could crack open a spine, I decided I was better off doing something productive.

I didn’t make time for it and wasted plenty of hours scrolling through my phone on the internet. Social media took a large chunk out of free time. I would read Tumblr posts and blog articles but never a book.

I thought I just grew out of reading and that didn’t sit well with me. I started buying books hoping it would incline me towards opening them again. I would mentally designate times where I could read. And so with much conscious effort and slow pace, I am starting to physically read for leisure again. But it comes with a few challenges. It doesn’t feel normal to open a book in a public space. Taking out phones, although never polite to begin with, has become a norm, and is different than pulling out an actual book in someone’s living room.

Recommendations from friends are hard to come by so I look to people on social media or websites. And because of that I’ve had to change my preferences a little. In my school years I strictly stuck to young adult fiction and would consider non-fiction to be for the unimaginative dull adults.

Now I find that memoirs and nonfiction books aren’t so bad. Self-help books can be creative and autobiographies can actually be fun. And they make for good conversation. Unless you’ve got the right crowd, it’s not easy to stuff a sci-fi plot into a conversation. Perhaps, my younger self would think me dull.

Putting my phone down, I realize I do have time to read. On a road trip, in the lull of a weekend afternoon, before going to bed. Maybe I can’t always read a whole book in one go but I can break it up.

While I don’t think I’ll ever reach the level of obsession that I had as a kid, I can still go at a leisurely pace. It was just wrong of me to toss such an important hobby aside. I need to keep my vocabulary going and explore something else besides the virtual word. And there is always time, I just have to make it.

Got any recommendations for me to check out? Let me know!

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