I am a recovering hater of reading. Before I get ostracized for this ridiculous statement, I’d like to explain how I grew up reading for fun to hating the idea of picking up a book for leisure.
Throughout elementary school, I read at a reading comprehension that was 3 grades above my own, not because I was more intelligent than my classmates (I definitely was not), but because I was never not reading. I probably read 2–3 books a week in my elementary school days.
In grade 5, I was team captain of, at the time, a “prestigious” competitive book club that competed with other schools. My team made it to the finals, and I’m pretty sure my trophy is somewhere in my parents' boxes.
If I was not working, studying, dancing, or volunteering, I was reading in my spare time throughout all of high school. At the park, in school during breaks, and even at parties! Books were my escape from reality and a safe space.
In my university years, this all changed. I experienced a workload that I had never encountered before at an overwhelming rate while I was going through many life changes. New relationships, responsibilities, independence, to name a few.
All of these combined killed the reading lover in me. The thought of reading for pleasure just turned me off. I had to read for school and even for work; why would I want to read for fun? I could think of a million other things that I would rather be doing than reading a book.
When the pandemic struck, I graduated from university and was left with a feeling of dread, having been thrown into the mess that was the job market and varying social restrictions. Even when there was literally nothing else to do but read, I still didn’t want to. I was still recovering from my 5 years of doing it throughout university.
In late 2020, I went back to my parent’s place an hour away to collect some things and found a collection of books I used to read. Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympian series, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies trilogy were all shoved in a box along with dozens of other books I have read.
It made me feel nostalgic and quite sad, actually. All my childhood memories came rushing back to me, as so many happy moments were because of the books that I read as a child. I kept thinking to myself; I really want to fall back in love with reading.
The Challenge Ahead
When I returned home, I thought about ways I could begin reading consistently again. I looked at my barren bookshelf that only had required books from university on it, including French textbooks to political anthologies. Well, that would not work, I thought.
And then it hit me. I didn’t know what I was interested in reading anymore. Although my fantasy-fiction novels worked very well for me in my elementary and high school days, I highly doubted I would still be interested in reading them now.
And this was the biggest challenge. Because I had not read for pleasure in such a long time, I didn’t know where to start. Then I had a lightbulb moment.
I decided to re-read one of my favourite books from university — one that I knew I would want to read again. I wrote a review of it here if you are interested:
Kim Thúy’s Novel “Ru” Evokes Powerful Imagery of the Female Experience
A rich and vibrant fictional autobiography that presents itself as a love letter to Vietnamese women in the past…
After re-reading it, I wrote down themes that originally drew me to the novel. Once I did that, I also wrote down other themes I was interested in reading about and came to an interesting conclusion.
I was mainly now interested in non-fiction books. Not to say I am not interested in fiction, there are some that are currently on my list, but this is a huge pivot from my high school days since I never used to read non-fiction.
Developing New Reading Habits
Now that I knew what general “genre” I wanted to read, like any activity, consistency is key in making sure that it is done sustainably. I won’t go into excruciating specific details about the steps I took to ensure that I was implementing a reading schedule into my life, but here are some of the things that helped me:
Schedule a time to read every day
I found that on workdays, reading before bed was best for me. This is because it allowed me to decompress and kept me off my phone, which was another goal. My newfound reading habit was killing two birds with one stone.
On the weekends, I actually found that reading when I woke up was more beneficial since it was a relaxed way of starting my days off.
Maintain a reading journal
To keep myself accountable, I needed to ensure that I was tracking my progress in some way. So I created a table on Notion that records the books I am currently reading, have already read, and want to read. I also have a journalling section for each book I read where I leave comments, write down quotes I really liked, and an overall review of the book.
Create a list of topics I wanted to learn about
Since I did not own all the books I wanted to read, I created a list of topics that I wanted to learn about. I keep a simple list on my phone so that I can ask about a book recommendation for a specific topic when I go to a second-hand book store. As an added bonus, this has created some really interesting conversations.
Some topics I have written down include:
- Indigenous relations in Canada
- Racism / Race / Black Diaspora
- Environmental justice
Read for quality, not quantity
I often get overwhelmed very easily, so I wanted to ensure that it was low-pressure when starting this challenge. Instead of giving myself a goal of x amount of books I want to read in a month or a year, I gave myself a reading goal for quality.
For me, this means:
- Actively reading
- Focusing on the content rather than how fast or slow I am reading
- Reading without any distractions.
This makes certain that I continue reading without pressuring myself to become a full-fledged bookworm again. In time, it will happen, but not if I give myself too high of expectations.
The Big Question: Do I Love to Read Again?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, but I’m not sure if this love is everlasting.
I say this because, in October, I will be going back to school to pursue a Master’s degree. Although I am reading quite a bit right now, I am sceptical if my newfound love of reading for pleasure will continue.
Knowing myself quite well, I know that I can get caught up with my main priority, which will be my academics. However, this is a mistake I made during my undergraduate degree. Therefore, I am hopeful that I can make sure that I live a more balanced life that includes reading for pleasure alongside my school commitments.
Since January of 2021, I have read two whole books for pleasure, with a total page count of 552 pages. That is 552 pages more than I have read in the last few years for fun.
It is a privilege to acquire knowledge, express emotion, and learn from reading a fantastic book. Falling back in love with reading reminded me that the written word is one of humanity’s greatest gifts that I should not take for granted.