I have been reading a lot this year, and I’ve made some strides in how I approach this pastime.
I primarily read purely for the enjoyment of it. A good book can pull me right into a state of flow, where my mind inhabits the narrative for the days that the words live in my mind. It’s an exhilarating feeling, one that I have to time carefully. Once I enter this state of flow, few things matter more than getting to the last page.
I’ve been sticking to mainly 2 genres this year: fiction and autiobiography. Both introduce me to the life of an individual from a parallel reality across every imaginable timeline. I love seeing the world from their eyes, experiencing life vicariously through them. The autobiographies offer a source of inspiration for me, but the fiction novels are the ones that make me fall in love with life. As different as the characters may be, they all seem to be pieces of the same puzzle.
I had a stint of reading self-help books for the few years where I felt completely lost within myself. But after a couple of them, you’ll learn that you’re reading the same thing. So now I only pick up those that delve into a very narrow field of study, and often not intended a self-help. I’m trying out more philosophy books. The purely philosophical, textbook-y ones are hard to digest, but I oftentimes come across those masked as sci-fi (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) or literature (Atlas Shrugged), and I don’t end up disappointed. It’s not about agreeing with any outlook on life, it’s about opening yourself up to them.
I’m also looking forward to rereading some books. Whenever I read a book a second time, I’m always surprised by the details that I either missed or forgot from the first read. It’s like watching your favorite childhood film, years later. Watching Grave of the Fireflies at 7 left a somber aftertaste in my mind, and rewatching it at 22 left me sobbing for the same reasons that I finally understood. It’s those details that you brushed off the first time, that strike a chord when you pay attention to them next time.
In order to enjoy the reading process as much as possible, I will easily stop reading a book that does not pique my interest in the first few pages. It can have rave reviews and be hailed as a 21st century classic, but if I can’t insert myself into the narrative, it’s off my bookshelf. There’s not enough time to read all the books in the world, much less the books that I will not enjoy. If I only read the books that others deem to be great, then I might as well be illiterate. I choose the books. I choose your worlds. Never the other way round.
Another realization that I’ve had in the past year is that I don’t really like audiobooks. Admittedly, I have gotten through some amazing stories with it, including Stoner and Conversations with Friends, but I prefer listening to music and podcasts when I commute. I don’t like being cut off when I’m about to get off the subway. I don’t like not being able to reread passages at my own pace, and I hate not being able to look at the words that I want to ingrain in my mind. I also have to say that audiobooks are a lazy person’s way to “read.” You may be able to listen to an audiobook at 2x the speed in half the time it takes me to read it, but honey—you didn’t read the book. You listened to it. If you can’t make time to read and only read, then you’re too busy doing nothing.
I’ve always loved reading. I learned English from reading The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High series hiding in my school bathroom and every day after school. I lived in these worlds for a long time, before school consumed my life. Then I reclaimed my love for books when I once again found myself lost after graduating high school. I started off reading the books I thought I had to read, but the child in me knew what she was doing when she picked up books for the sake of living in an alternate world. To fall in love with the infinite possibilities that life could play out, with the endless lives I have yet to live, with life itself.