On Reading

One of the saddest things about college is that you stop reading.

At least, I did.

I used to be a voracious reader. I was the kid that had a flashlight hidden under her pillow and piles of books hidden under her bed, until one day she upgraded to a bed that had a hidden compartment in the headboard (I know, I was so cool) so her current books hid there instead. I was the kid that would have her textbook on the table and a book in her lap and end up getting spanked because of it. I was the kid that had so many books her bookcase couldn’t hold them, so she took up the shelves in the DVD cases and in her parents’ office. I loved reading. I loved fantastical stories where I could escape and go on adventures with other people; I loved traveling through history on the magic tree house and solving mysteries with the Boxcar Children and fighting the Yeerks with the Animorphs and learning magic spells with Harry Potter.

I still read in high school, but my focus was forced to shift and I read classic literature with my English classes and SAT prep books (I know, how sad) in my sophomore and junior years. I remember loving Brave New World especially, even though I hated it when I had read it a few years prior, and I painted a scene from The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, the beautiful scene on the ocean when he’s looking at a girl who has seaweed tangled on her leg, and I enjoyed them but I could never read them as passionately as I had read young adult fiction before because the language never flowed as easily for me. When I could I stole time to read books like The Other Boleyn Girl and Harry Potter (for the millionth time) and at some point I read all of Twilight once and decided it wasn’t worth picking up ever again. I fell in love and then out of love with John Green’s work. I read The Art of Racing in the Rain and fell in love with the idea of dogs even though at the time I was still scared of them. I read Go Ask Alice and became even more vehemently against drugs.

Books had always been my solace.

When I got to MIT, I stopped reading. I can probably count the number of books I’ve read out of class on one hand, and even for class I only read a few – the study of architecture is so much more about being hands on than reading literature about other people’s works, so the only books I read were for the random humanities classes that I undertook for fun.

And I forgot how to read for fun. I felt so obligated to read books that were “for adults”, books that were classic literature and books that were self-help and books that were not categorized as “young adult” because those books were for high schoolers and I was going to be an adult. I felt like I had to be reading short poems and stories with some kind of hidden deeper meaning that I had to figure out and biographies and nonfiction books and all these books that I didn’t find interesting because ultimately I have always been a child at heart and I will always want to lose myself in fantastical worlds.

Whenever I go to a bookstore I look at everything that I want to buy and then walk away because I feel like I should be reading something of more importance, but really, what is of more importance anyway? Every well written fiction book has some kind of moral of the story, some kind of reflection on today’s society, some hidden thoughts and ideas that only the most committed readers will go and parse through to find. Just look at the huge Harry Potter community – the book series that was written for children and yet somehow, nine years later, adults and children alike are still reading and finding details that Jo hid in her words and recognizing parallels between the Wizarding world and our own boring Muggle world.

I like books that tell me stories and books that I want to go back to constantly so I can read between the lines, not books where I have to spend eons of time trying to understand what it is the author is even trying to say.

When I was in New York my friend Alyssa told me about her reading challenge, where she wanted to read 30 books in 2016. I was intrigued, but kind of scared because it’s been so long since I’ve last picked up a book. I asked her what she thought a good number might be to pick up on, and she said to start with an easy number. We settled on 15.

15.

15 year old me would’ve scoffed at that number. 15 books in a whole year? 15 books in 366 days? That’s about a book every 24 days. That’s a pathetic number of books.

20 year old me is wondering if I will even have the time to read 15 books this year. I would love to be able to read 15 books. I would love to be able to read 20, 30, 40 books, but will I have the time? Will I have the energy?

The thing about college is that my brain is so tired from classes that I don’t want to spend the brainpower digesting words on a page. It’s why I started watching so much TV. Interpreting the body language and having people talk at me is so much easier.

Since I wanted to begin reading again, I decided to start tracking everything I was reading and watching. As in movies and tv shows. I have yet to begin tracking youtube videos because quite frankly, it would be rather embarrassing.

As of yet, I have finished two books (and many more tv episodes than that). If I can manage to read 2 or more books a month, I will be quite pleased, although I am currently working on a French Tintin book that is taking longer than expected because, well, it’s in French. I plan on writing a recap blog post once a month or once every two months for what I’ve been reading and watching, and perhaps that will keep me more on track?

Cross your fingers for me.

Do you like to read in your free time, or are you mainly a tv/movie kind of person? Do you have any book recommendations you think I should read, given what I’ve said I enjoy reading? Let me know!

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