Like for many, my college experience was filled with endless reading. My first two years were spent reading things I didn’t particularly care about…thanks General Ed (aka breadth requirements). However, my last year and a half was filled with countless novels and short stories. I literally read, at least three novels a week (I guess they aren’t so countless). In college, I read with a purpose: themes, characters, literary devices…endless highlighting, endless chicken scratch in the margins. I didn’t read a single book of my choosing during my last year and a half of school. I told myself once graduation came I was going to overdose on books that had been collecting dust on my bookshelves.
Well, graduation came and went and the first book I picked up was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. After fifty pages, I threw in the towel. People told me to stick with it because it would get good but I had to walk away. The thing was putting me to sleep every time I tried to read it. I even have a super cool version with glossy pages and pictures. (Side note: pictures in books are NOT just for kids.) It’s not easy for me to walk away from a book I’ve started. The act induces feelings of failure and guilt. I take books that seriously.
My next pick was Saturday by Ian McEwan. I felt confident in my decision because it’s from the same author who wrote Atonement and that book totally gave me the feels and still haunts me. Truly gifted writers pen those types of books. It took two months to get through 100 pages. That was ridiculous. I can normally get through that amount of pages in a matter of hours. The book is basically about a doctor and the way he spends one particular day: Saturday. Titillating, I know. It’s not a bad book. It’s beautiful but very slow. I didn’t find myself dying to reach for it. It was a time filler when I had nothing else to do. That is NOT how I read. I began to worry because I bought a ton of McEwan books based on the fact that I was obsessed with how amazing Atonement was. To be honest, I’m still worried about my McEwan collection.
I finally put the book away when a friend of mine let me borrow Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I had seen the book in stores, thought it had a cute cover (YES I judge books by their covers), and made a mental note to read it at some point.
Now let me just say, it was hard to put away yet another unfinished book. When I was younger I used to feel sad for all the unread books. I thought I could hurt their feelings by not finishing them or that they’d come to life and go against me à la Sid’s toys in Toy Story. Then I grew up and realized life is too short not to be madly in love with what you’re reading.
Before I opened Eleanor & Park I felt broken, as if I had lost the ability to read for fun. I was reading these books looking for themes and motifs and waiting to tear them apart both literally and literarily. Would I never again be able to read for pleasure? Would my yearly reading of the Harry Potter series die with my ability to enjoy books?
So, I put Saturday away (on a Monday) and cracked open this new book. I finished it in three days. I felt like me again. The book made me laugh, cry, hope, cheer, it made me feel things I hadn’t felt at the hands of a book in such a long time. It resuscitated my reading life. It saved me from an ocean of mediocre texts.
I no longer feel broken or dead inside. Through my crisis of reader-identity, I learned that it’s ok to not finish reading a book. It’s ok to embrace YA fiction. It’s ok to read just for the feels and not for the footnotes. I feel like someone who has discovered the magic of books for the first time. I feel bright, and colorful and new…just like that cover.
Have you ever found yourself in a reading slump?