Here’s an idea that’s been bouncing around my head lately.
It’s one I’ve always known intuitively, but like all things, it had to strike with the hammer of personal experience before it could resonate with me.
This one will be a little messy, a little incoherent perhaps, more of a musing and noting down a splurge of thoughts in a single session than a focused dive into the topic. But hey, let’s see how it goes, and see if you’re still with me at the end of it.
I’ve always loved reading. No one ever told me it was a good or a bad thing to be doing, but as soon as I figured the whole thing out, I was hooked.
Once I learned that if I followed those little symbols on the pages of the books on my bedside table, that I’d have access to all those stories that I’d previously have to pester Mum or Dad to read aloud to me, I was off to the races.
From a very young age, I’d always have a book tucked under my arm for long car journeys, holidays, trips to the doctors office, you name it. The younger me got great enjoyment out of it, and devoured (and re-devoured) book series like Harry Potter, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, His Dark Materials, The Edge Chronicles, and a lot more.
Then I lost touch with it. Reading became a chore, a task. An endeavour. I felt like I had to motivate myself into reading a book, or worse- guilt myself into doing it. This was when I’d become old enough to have have had non fiction books recommended to me, books on dry, but ‘important’ topics, and resulted in me basically dropping reading altogether for long time. It wasn’t until much later I realised why.
I wasn’t following my interests.
I’d been reading books that I thought I ‘should’ read, not that I wanted to. And it killed my enthusiasm. There was no ‘you should read this’ when I was younger.
It was time spent poking through the shelves of the local library, looking for the books with the scariest cover, and trying to sneak it into the pile without Mum seeing. Or in the large chain book stores during otherwise boring shopping trips to the mall, sifting through the haphazard collections in the bargain bins, revelling in that new book smell. Or maybe even trying in vain to take a Stephen King book from the shelf in my parents room, intrigued by the cover art, until apprehended by Dad. Probably for the better.
You’ve definitely heard it before- the friend telling you that you must read this book, your favourite podcast host espousing the virtues of the latest business book, your manager telling you about the latest book he or she has read on performance psychology. And you might pick it up from the library, or get a lend from them.
And if you’re interested in the topic, great. But how many times have you been laying in bed, read a few pages of whatever high concept but clunkily written book and felt your eyes beginning to glaze over, before setting it on the bedside table and turning on a podcast instead?
If your like me, often. More often than you’ll admit.
And it leads you to put the books down. And that’s a damn shame, because it’s hard enough to get reading in the first place these days, with all the distractions around. Don’t lose that.
I love reading non-fiction, but a lot of it just doesn’t grab me in the way that great novels do. In my adulthood, in an attempt to re-spark creativity, I have recently gone back and picked up some series that I read as a child, classics that I’ve revisited in adulthood and been absolutely enthralled by again, and with the little bit of writing that I have dabbled in myself, I now come away not only immersed in the characters, but also incredibly impressed with the skill of the authors to tell such a tale.
So don’t go off book recommendations. I think that reading lists should be personal. Books will find you at a certain time in your life and leave you breathless, but to others they won’t have the same resonance.
Read to your interests. You’ll retain more, and keep reading, and you will get so much more than if you try and read to the recommendations of others.