My mom has given me many things in my life, but among all these gifts that I am grateful for, she gave me a love for words. Before I knew how to read or write, I loved stories. Every night as she tucked my sister and me into bed, she read to us. From Little Women to the entirety of the Little House on the Prairie series, we journeyed from Orchard House to the Ingalls homestead and through the long winter.
By the time I learned to read by myself, I was a voracious reader. I had a book in my hand everywhere I went. In math class, I was notorious for reading my library book beneath my desk. At the dinner table, I ate with one hand and held a book with the other. My sister and I attended reading camp in the summer alongside our normal activities of swimming lessons, lake trips and basketball camp. I would often sneak out of bed to read beside my night light when I was supposed to be sleeping.
Reading became a chore instead of a gift around the time I started high school. I enjoyed some of our required reading, but I despised Lord of the Flies and A Tale of Two Cities as a freshman. I got a bad taste in my mouth when thinking about many of the classic novels. When college rolled around, I signed up for a 300-level English course in hopes I would finally get to the reading and writing I had wanted to do as long as I could remember. Instead, I felt like I was having to learn how to read again as I went through post-modernist novels, literary realism and naturalism. I loved the class, but I felt exhausted.
Reading became a chore instead of a gift.
My junior year of college, I picked up The Book Thief after a friend (whose literary taste I admired) proclaimed it to be her favorite book. Within the first few pages, I was hooked. For an entire day, I only left the cozy nest of my bed to refill my water and get some coffee. Author of the novel, Markus Zusak, wrote, “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” I felt my heart race in agreement. More than that, though, I found that I was falling in love with reading again.
Books can transport us to places we can never go, to worlds we do not live in. It saddens me that many people believe they hate reading or do not love it anymore. I am a firm believer that anyone can love reading, either for the first time or again. I have fallen back in love with reading again, and I learned a few things on the way back that helped me immensely.
I am a firm believer that anyone can love reading, either for the first time or again.
Pick a book you will really enjoy.
Find a topic you really enjoy (historical fiction, poetry, mystery) and search out the top-rated books in that genre. If you are reading about something you are interested in, then you are much more likely to want to read and to finish the book.
Join a book club.
My best friends and I started a book club together after college, with each of us taking turns picking a book for the month. The only rules are that anyone can opt out for whatever reason in a given month and no one is allowed to send spoilers in the group text. We all enjoy choosing what we are going to read and discussing it when we are finished.
If you don’t like a book, then you don’t have to finish it.
This was hard for me to commit to because I like to see things through, but I had to learn to put down a book I wasn’t enjoying. There are too many wonderful things to read for me to push through a book that I am not enjoying.
I had to learn to put down a book I wasn’t enjoying.
Set a goal.
When I started a Goodreads account, I committed to a reading challenge. I set a low-balling goal that I was certain I could reach: 15 books in one year. Of course, I failed miserably. When the next year rolled around, I set a much more realistic goal (eight books), and I reached it as of the last day of the year. Today, I am up to a much higher number, and it seems more attainable when I am reading books I enjoy.
Pick a series and commit to finishing.
I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series toward the end of last year. I had read most of the books once before when I was in elementary and middle school, but I had never finished the whole series. I did the same thing with The Hunger Games and The Chronicles of Narnia. Something about a series of books makes you want to keep going to get the whole story and helps you to finish.
One of my favorite authors Madeleine L’Engle once said, “A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” I am convinced that books are for everyone to love, not just the select few, and that a good book can change one’s life.