Reading for Pleasure: A Journey

Reading for pleasure used to be my thing. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I was known as a reader. I would spend my nights reading into the early hours of the morning, hoping my parents wouldn’t come check on me to find out that, no, I hadn’t gone to bed at 9 and was, in fact, awake at 1AM reading my beloved books.

My Harry Potter books are well-loved. I’ve read them more times than I can count and have annotated them heavily. My dystopian classics still retain their proud place on my bookshelf at home as my favourite genre. My copy of Pride and Prejudice still sits in the cupboard under my nightstand, having been read when I was probably too young to understand everything and reread once I realized how much I loved the film.

But then school happened.

Suddenly, reading became a chore. Something I needed to do if I wanted to do well in class discussions, write good essays and make good grades. The thought of reading something on top of my already assigned readings filled me with a sense of dread.

nope-2

And I felt guilty because of it.

I was no longer the reader who looked forward to reading each night before reluctantly dozing off on top of a good book. I was the girl who read to keep abreast of class assignments, dutifully checking chapters and sections of political philosophy, French novels, and political science articles off my to-do list.

Fast forward to my year abroad.

Because of the UK academic system, I didn’t have to worry about drowning in work if I didn’t do one week’s reading. I started reading my assignments [mostly] for the pleasure they brought me.

I even read two books!

Very British Problems, which was a quick, couple hour read that had me giggling the whole way through; and All the Light We Cannot See, a lengthy World-War II historical fiction that grabbed my attention with its pretty diction and, in my opinion, compelling storyline. all-the-light-we-cannot-see

I found pleasure in audiobooks as well: a welcome escape from the thoughts racing through my head. Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! kept me laughing out loud on my way to class. Tina Fey’s Bossypants kept me entertained on train rides. Harry Potter kept me distracted during stressful moments.

yes-please

But those feelings didn’t last long.

Back to American school meant back to chore reading. I couldn’t bring myself to read for pleasure again, and, crippled with mental health struggles again,I fell back into my comfort zone of watching tv as my means of entertainment and relaxation from reading for class.

Fast forward again to today.

I’ve started re-learning the beauty of the written word. I powered through the new Harry Potter book; I spent a day reading The Opposite of Loneliness and fell in love with its witty prose and short stories that captivated my attention without turning my skeptical mind away from reading for pleasure forever. I’m currently engrossed in another book that I just started.

So I guess the point is this:

School and/or life might derail you from your once-beloved passions. Depression might work its way in there too, as I’m sure it did for me. Don’t try to force yourself into something that once used to bring you pleasure. Test it out every once in a while and, if it feels good, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try again later. Before this summer, it had been a year-and-a-half since I read anything for the pure pleasure of it. Now, I’ve knocked back two books and am working on my third.

I’m not forcing it, though. If I don’t want to read, then I won’t make myself read. I did that far too much with school readings which clearly put me off from reading for fun. One day, hopefully, I’ll find myself in bed late at night trying to fight off sleep while I attempt to finish off a really captivating book. Until then, I’ll take my progress a few chapters at a time :)

Do you like reading for pleasure? Or do you see reading as a chore?

reading-for-pleasure

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Dawn
    24 October 2016 at 09:35

    What great reminders! And I feel your struggle, I used to read for pleasure daily, when I commuted on a train into the city for work. I don’t miss commuting, but I do miss that personal time I had to myself twice per day. Now that I work from home, I rarely make time to read. If I do, it isn’t the novels I used to enjoy, but instead books more focused on my career. I also love audio books and am going to make it a year-end goal to get back to reading/listening weekly. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      almathews
      24 October 2016 at 16:38

      Yeah I definitely understand! Audiobooks are great because you’re “reading” without actually “reading”. They’re great if you’re taking a walk or need a break but don’t want to watch TV. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Kirstie
    24 October 2016 at 11:11

    I’ve definitely slowed down on the number of books I read, mostly I think because I read so much online. I, like you, have decided not to force it, but simply pick up a book whenever I feel it calling to me and go with the flow.

    • Reply
      almathews
      24 October 2016 at 16:41

      Oh, that’s a good point! I’m definitely reading more online. It doesn’t feel as much like reading though to me (even though it is) because it comes in the form of short blog posts or news articles. Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Marsha
    24 October 2016 at 21:45

    I do like reading for pleasure and I was once always in a book when I was younger. Then I had kids. Now, I start books and rarely finish them. Unfortunately, it also happens that by the time I have the chance to sit and read a book I end up falling asleep after just a few pages lol!

    • Reply
      almathews
      25 October 2016 at 09:12

      I understand! I don’t have kids but I’m often so wiped out from work that when I do want to read something before bed I pass out before I can get to far! Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    Marie
    24 October 2016 at 21:58

    I can totally relate to you 100% on this topic and our “reading fallout” stories are very similar. I am not in school any more but I can honestly say college is what started the decline of my reading. Then life happened and I always felt like I never had time for it. Now my life is slowing down a little and not so hectic I have been trying to read but it’s no where near the pace it use to be. Since I am a blogger now I find joy in reading others content so at least I got that working for me. I also joined Goodreads and set a book goal for the year for myself. 2 months left to go and I am only 3 short from my goal. I might not make it but I’m happy I got this close!

    • Reply
      almathews
      25 October 2016 at 09:15

      Glad to know I’m not the only one out there! I also like reading others’ blog posts so at least I’m getting a little reading in. Congrats on your book reading goal! I might start something like that in the New Year so I can find interesting things to read and hopefully read more than I do now! Thanks for your comment :)

  • Reply
    David
    25 October 2016 at 03:34

    It’s tragic that school puts people off reading when the opposite should be true. My love for reading began at school (I’m from the UK). I was lucky enough to have a fantastic English teacher who made me appreciate the (mostly American – Of Mice and Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, To Kill a Mockingbird) books on the syllabus.

    • Reply
      almathews
      25 October 2016 at 09:27

      Isn’t it? I definitely think my primary school teachers fostered my love of reading but then in university it just all went downhill when you’re forced to read in order to stay afloat and suddenly reading loses its novelty. I’m so glad you had such a good English teacher, though. That can make all the difference (I went through 6 horrible ones in 4 years because they kept leaving our school…) Thanks for your comment :)

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