There are so many good reasons to read. They say it broadens the mind, which is undeniably true. Not to mention your vocabulary. It’s educational, of course, but who ever did anything because of that? It’s fun? Well, of course, I think so. But you might not, and that’s OK. None of these things are good enough reasons to read. At least not every day. Not prolifically. Not until 3am because you just can’t stop.
I read because, quite simply, I love it. And so do you, actually. No, really. Even if you don’t know it yet. Do I sound as if I’m patronising you? Sorry. It’s true though. If you’re one of those people who “doesn’t like books”, you may have felt judged from time to time, by bookworms like me, and for that I’m sorry. No judgement from me.
I have a confession though: I don’t believe you. Well, that’s not quite right. It’s not that I don’t think you think you don’t like reading. I’m sure you’ve given it a go — been forced through Of Mice & Men or The Catcher in the Rye at school, maybe? Both great books in their own way, of course, but I can see why they tend to make 15-year-olds yawn.
No, what I mean is this: if you “don’t like reading”, if you think it’s just not for you, then you’re reading the wrong thing. If you’re reading a book and it feels like a chore, if you can’t get past a few pages without your eyes drooping, or you can’t wait to get to the end just so the damn thing will be over, do yourself a favour and just put it down.
There are too many books in the world to waste your time on one that doesn’t excite you, terrify you or otherwise make your very soul come out in goosebumps. Throw it out. Seriously — I won’t be offended, even if it’s my favourite book. Even if we’re in some distant, alternate future and I wrote the bloody thing, throw it in the bin. Well, OK, maybe donate it — just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean no one will. Hopefully. But you get the idea.
And once you’ve done that — and this is the most important part — you get to start the search for the right book. Or the right author, or even the right genre. You probably won’t find it straight away, and you probably won’t be looking for it when you do. I spend hours reading book reviews, trawling through lists of newly published gems, but most of the books that I have really fallen in love with, in that “holy fuck, did I just get punched in the stomach” way, I stumbled across by accident.
You may get a recommendation from a friend or a colleague or a stranger, and decide to give it a go. You might be drawn to an interesting cover while bored waiting for a delayed flight. You might finish watching Game of Thrones, feel lost and decide you can’t wait until 2019 to go back to Westeros (seriously HBO, wtf?).
The point is, when you find it, it’s going to be amazing. I envy you, dear reader, for the journey you are beginning. I lied a little, earlier, when I said I read because I love it. The best books — the ones which stay with us — are usually not all that enjoyable while you’re reading them. They get inside your mind, your dreams and your conversations, colouring the way you view the world while you read them, and if they’re really exceptional, for years afterwards.
I think Ian McEwan put it best when he said, “Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist.”
And isn’t that just what we need? After all, existing all the time is exhausting.
Welcome to the club, dear friend. You’re gonna love it.