Did anyone else used to read?
I sure did. In fact, I used to inhale books at a dazzling speed. I read Stephen King’s entire body of work in a single semester during middle school. I finished every Harry Potter book in under three days- yes, even Order of the Phoenix.
I don’t think there was any point between second grade and sophomore year of high school that I didn’t read at least two books in a week- and both of them full-length novels. And that’s not even counting books I was assigned to read for school- no, I used to finish whatever bullshit reading assignment I’d gotten for homework, and then go right into my leisure book without skipping a beat.
I’d spend hours and hours holed up in my room, reading page after page, chapter after chapter, completely failing to notice the passage of time. And if I had a free minute in school, I was either in the library finishing a book or else I was in the library looking for a new book.
Reading wasn’t just my main hobby; it was essentially my only personality trait. I was that kid who loved to read.
But fast-forward to the present day, and I pretty much don’t remember the last time that I actually read a book. I mean, I’m always flipping through books that I own, and thinking that I might read them- but it’s certainly not like in the old days, when I used to pick up a book without a second thought and read it cover to cover in one afternoon without taking a break.
For all intents and purposes, I have become someone that merely used to read.
And I know exactly how it happened, too. I let a writing tip that I read some seven years ago completely poison my mind. “Never read books in the same genre you’re writing,” said the tip. It was the only way to make sure that you didn’t accidentally plagiarize another author, you see. And since at the time I was working on a novel that took place in the Jazz Age, that year I skipped my annual re-read of The Great Gatsby.
And it was all downhill from there, kiddos. First I didn’t re-read The Great Gatsby like I used to every summer, and then I didn’t re-read Lolita like I used to every autumn, and then I pretty much never read another book again.
Not another piece of literature, anyway- I’ve read a bunch of self-help books, and books to help research a project I was writing, and books about writing, sure. But no actual books. No novels. No fiction. Nothing just for pleasure or personal enjoyment.
So I’ve decided that 2021 is the year I start reading again.
But I’ll tell you something- a lot has changed in the world between the days that I used to be a reader and the present. And it turns out that reading is one of those habits that quickly gets replaced by other hobbies if you stop making time for it- most of the time that I would’ve spent reading has been reallocated toward Netflix and social media, and it’s not an easy habit to break.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed myself dicking around on the internet or re-watching The Office when I could’ve been reading a book. And I’ve thought more about how I should stop doing that than the amount of effort I’ve actually made, I admit.
But all is not lost. As I write this article, I’m most of the way through Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens– and yes, I watched the adaptation first, and yes, I’ve been leaving the book in the bathroom and only picking it up sporadically when I’m having tummy troubles- but dammit, I am reading a book again.
And there are going to be more where that one came from. This is the year that I reclaim my identity as a reader. Up first is finishing Good Omens, and then up next is any one of the HUNDREDS of books I’ve bought over the years and not gotten around to cracking open.
I’m back, books. I’ve missed you guys.