I also just couldn't read enough. If I was hard pressed for content I would read literally anything with words that I could get my hands on as long as I was reading. During school exams I'd be banned from reading because I was caught one too many times with a novel hidden inside a notebook, pretending to study. So I would get friends to sneak me books at school and dig through old storage boxes and find old books, some even belonging to my granddad and read those covertly. I would go for days on end without sleep, caught up in a story.
But then I grew up. Real life (as well as age) hit me along with its responsibilities. I found that I could no longer get through a day decently enough with next to no sleep. If I was caught asleep at my desk in school I'd just get a scolding, caught asleep at my desk at work could get me fired. More than that, going through a school day half dead is doable, but trying to get work done when you can barely look alive is more difficult. Especially now with the needing more sleep thing.
So I realised that my reading had to adapt. Basically, I no longer had as much time, and energy, as I used to. I absolutely love books and love to read and in order to maintain this love I had to change. These are the things I've come to realise with age and wisdom:
- I don't HAVE to finish a book just because I started it. I used to be so finicky about completing books. I'd start reading a book because the title/synopsis sounded interesting or the cover looked cool (yes, I do judge books by their covers) only to find out it was actually quite boring. But I had this misguided sense of pride in having to finish every book I started. And so I would spend days just trying to get through a paragraph of a book that did nothing for me but put me to sleep. Now that I'm older and have much less time I've realised that I don't have the time to waste reading books that do absolutely nothing for me but give me grey hairs. And I realised that I was the only one judging me for not completing it. Even if others do judge me, so what, I'm reading for me and no one else. So if a book is just utterly boring and I am finding no joy in it whatsoever I no longer force myself to suffer through it. I just close it and move on to the next book.
- It doesn't matter what you read. I used to be so ashamed by the fact that I read (and enjoyed) popular fiction and books intended for age groups so much younger than me. I would shy away from book conversations because I felt I wasn't worthy. Because I didn't love Shakespeare and have never read a single DH Lawrence book in my life. Now I know that I'm not the only one. There are many others who, like me, enjoy children's fantasy novels and those who have never read a classic. At the end of the day what you read doesn't matter (except to snobs). What does matter is that you do read and that you enjoy what you read.
- Following on from point 2, just because I enjoy pop fiction doesn't mean I can't also enjoy classic literature. And I do love my classics, not all of them, but some. One of my favourite books is Middlemarch. However, I usually shy away from saying so because I don't understand the deeper symbolism of the novel. To me I enjoy it on a purely base level, at face value. I'm not good at reading between the lines of stories and I never know whether when someone kills their cat they're actually killing their oppressive mother or if a child denies their parents authority they're actually making a stand against colonialism. I'm extremely dense when it comes to symbolism and interpretation. And this has always made me feel like a complete idiot and like I couldn't truly call myself a book lover because I didn't really get it. I even spent time trying to find underlying meanings in books and it just made reading unpleasant for me. Now, I just don't care. I just read and respond with whatever comes naturally to me. I'm not trying to write a doctorate on any of these books. I just want an escape from reality in the pleasure of a story.
- You do not have to fit into any box. You're allowed to have a vast area of interest. Just because you enjoy horror novels it doesn't mean you can't enjoy a good love story also. As I mentioned earlier, I will personally read almost anything. Don't limit yourself because society told you you need to fall within a specific norm.
- Being a slow reader is okay. It's not a race or a competition. Though, it is kind of a race against time if, like me, you want to read all the books in the world. But essentially, it's okay to be a slow reader. I am an exceptionally slow reader. I'm so slow I feel like I should add a couple more l's to exceptionally just to emphasize how slow. I used to be so embarrassed about this. I still am a little, but now I own it. I even use it as an encouragement to get other people to read - I'm such a slow reader, I don't think anyone reads as slow as I do, so, if even I can read a book, then so can you. Rather a slow reader than a non reader. You read at whatever pace you're comfortable with as long as you enjoy it.
- Numbers don't count. This is a tough one for me. And I'm still trying to convince myself of it. It's really hard because as I mentioned above, I really do want to read all the books (well the ones that appeal to me) in the world. And seeing as I'm a mere mortal, the clock is sort of ticking on that. So the more books I read the better. But, reading is essentially about the pleasure. Yes, its about knowledge too. But if you don't enjoy it how much knowledge are you really going to gain from it now... So, for most, it doesn't matter if you only read one book a year, what counts is that you read a book and you enjoy it. I tend to feel really bad about reading so few books when so many people I know get through five times as many as I do. But, again, we have to take into consideration; time, what we're reading, how fast we read and what not. But most importantly, we have to remember that we're reading for ourselves. So if you read one book and you were happy, who cares how many books anyone else read.
When it comes to reading, like with pretty much everything else in life, the key is to not compare yourself. You read what you want to, when you want to, how you want to and at your own pace. So long as you're reading and happy. Don't let someone else be the measure of your reading life.