When I was growing up, I was a huge reader. I devoured books. I spent years waiting until I could start on my sister’s collection of Babysitter Club books, and distracted myself with Jacqueline Wilson’s heartbreaking tales. I went to my local library, my school library, my brother’s bookshelves, anywhere I might find a new tale to read. It was something I did without thinking. I always had a book on the go.
I would read just about anything. Books about fairies, unicorns, talking animals, girls at boarding school, people with magic powers, stories set in the famine, World War 2, the future. I covered all the basics. I did draw the line at vampires though, which really cut down my reading material for a few years there. However I think the most important thing about my reading repertoire was that I had no knowledge of “good books” or “bad books”. All books were special things that could make me lose myself for hours, or days at a time.
But then I got a bit older, and found myself studying English and French, two subjects which, at university level, required a level of reading 10 year old me would only have dreamed of. But now, it seemed a little bit harder. The things I had to read were not as enjoyable – or easy – as the books I grew up with. I found myself reading for myself less, and for my education begrudgingly.
This year as I’m on my year abroad, I’ve found myself with a lot more spare time than usual. I’ve decided to put that time to good use, and to actively try make myself read some more. I missed the subtle and constant comfort of a book, and how they can sometimes captivate you and keep you up just as late as any binge-watching session can. I had forgotten one of the greatest things about reading; it’s timeless. Books are always there, just waiting to be picked up.
It’s like what they say about riding a bike; you never truly forget. You might be a bit rusty when you start back up; maybe you don’t know what type of things you want to read, or you don’t even know where to begin. What I found the hardest – brace yourself for a true millennial problem – was my attention span. Spending so much time on my phone has rendered me incapable of devoting five minutes of my time to finish a few pages, without picking my phone up.
I want to rediscover the urge to open the last page of the latest Jacqueline Wilson novel. I can still remember reading about Candyfloss’ Flora’s parent’s separation in the back of my car, in the middle seat. I had just bought the book in Easons and couldn’t wait to start it. That was a moment I’ll always remember – the sheer power that book had over me.
Books can have power in different ways, other than heart-tugging stories. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice at least 3 times and studied it twice; it will always hold a space in my heart. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with English and with writing, and part of the reason I’m here writing this right now. It was one of the first stories that I began to look at analytically and made me realise I could pursue my writing further.
The most recent book I read that I was blown away by was a non-fiction by Emer O’Toole that dissected the idea of gender in the most interesting way. It’s called Girls Will Be Girls and I couldn’t put it down. To me this book represents how my interest in writing and feminism is only further increasing.
All 3 books are very different, but still mean a lot to me. I won’t define myself to one genre or author, because that’s limiting myself to all the other literary beauties that are out there.
I know it will be worth it. Books were such a huge part of my life growing up, and a huge part of my bedroom now – my shelves are covered with well worn copies of well loved stories. I don’t want to let those years go to waste, and I want to rekindle the love that had me finishing books in hours because I couldn’t bear to put it down.
If you want to brush up on your reading skills, here is what I’d say to you. Read. Just read. Don’t worry if your book isn’t on The Guardian’s “To Be Read” list, or if it’s 7 years old. Books don’t age. Different books appeal to different people. The whole point of them is to be read. One of the worst things you can do is force yourself to read something that you don’t enjoy, just because “they” say it’s good. Don’t be afraid to put a book down if you don’t like it, or to buy the sequel even if it’s cheesy. Take back up the skill that has never left you, and you’ll find a hobby that will never leave you. If you do that much, then you’re halfway there.
We are book addicts here at Shona, so if you find a book you love, please tell us about it. Sharing is caring!