I have been losing myself in stories since the moment that I learnt to read. Words have embraced me through all my years of growing up and my second home has always been in-between the pages of a book. Through all these years reading has been a constant reminder that I am not alone and that at least someone gets me, even if that someone is an author who lived a hundred years ago. I guess we do not read book. Books read us.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this journey started and honestly it is futile for me to attempt to remember seeing how I cannot even recall what I had for dinner yesterday! However, my earliest memories always take me back to my grandparent’s kitchen on a typical Sunday evening. I can distinctly remember my grandfather at the kitchen table, with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other and it seems like this image imprinted itself on my mind for years to come. He always encouraged me read and to pursue knowledge, not merely for a successful future but also to help me grow as a person.
Throughout the years I’ve had the pleasure of reading books from every possible genre and it has been a journey of discovery both of my sense of self and also of the world around me. I grew up with the characters of Enid Blyton, the adventures of Nancy Drew and the vivid imagination of Roald Dahl. I remember one Christmas reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and becoming so enamoured with the story that even today I still associate this book with the festive holidays. During my years in secondary school I was lucky enough to have access to the school’s extensive library and that is were my friends and I spent most of our free time. Basically, those 5 years were true bliss. Through daily scouring of the library’s bookshelves, I discovered Jacqueline Wilson, Meg Cabot and all the wonderful Harry Potter characters. Jacqueline Wilson’s books helped me in so many ways, but mostly in the way they revealed to me the harsh gritty reality of so many people that I, in my sheltered upbringing could not even begin to fathom. I could see myself in all of her characters despite never experiencing their problems and in this way I started to learn to put myself in other people’s shoes and show empathy. This is why books are important. They nurture our characters and make us better people by making us explore themes and issues that for many unfortunately are not fictional. Meg Cabot’s books were also a joy to read, mostly for their wit and humour. The Princess Diaries series and The Mediator series were both a favourite of mine, most especially the latter, probably because that is where I met my first fictional crush! (Jesse de Silva…) Another series I adored as a teenager was The Sleepover Club series by Rose Impey. The books were extremely hilarious and I reread them countless times without ever getting bored of them.
My college years were quite hectic and stressful and while books were still an integral part of my life, time for reading was limited. I do however remember that infamous Twilight phase that everyone seemed to go through, especially after the first film was released. But…we really do not need to talk about this. Thinking about it is embarrassing enough!! I also had a distinct fascination with Stephen King even though horror was never a genre I cared very much for. I didn’t read his most famous work but I did enjoy the ones I read, especially The Dead Zone and Lisey’s Story.
Reading became an even bigger part of my life when I discovered Tumblr about six years ago. The book community on Tumblr has been a huge inspiration and has also cultivated in me a love for photography, music and writing. Friendships blossomed through a shared love of stories and it is thanks to their many recommendations that I reaffirmed my love for reading in general. Back then I read mostly Young Adult, and while nowadays I avoid such category, I am still forever thankful for providing a stepping stone that has led me to what I love today. Some of the books I read back then are still current favourites, like the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I read countless fantasy and romance books, bought too many hardbacks and had way too many fictional crushes. Morgan Matson, V.E. Schwab, Marissa Meyer, Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Clare were some of the authors I discovered throughout the following years.
Tumblr eventually led me to Bookstagram and it was there that I slowly overcame my illogical fear of classics. I came to the understanding that classics should not be approached with apprehension and this need to over analyse every single detail. Analysis, I’ve learnt, comes in retrospect. It is only by reading a book slowly and relishing every word that you manage to form a bond with it, become part of it and learn from it. Classics simply became a part of my life, in that I read them both for entertainment but also to experience life itself. I’ve read some incredible classics so far but thankfully there are a thousand more to read! My favourite literary periods and genres to read are The Romantic Period (1790-1830) and the Victorian Period (1832-1901) which also includes Gothic writings, the intellectual movement of Aestheticism and the Naturalist writers. Some of my favourite authors include: the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
One major mistake I’ve been making all these years is cultivating an obsession with numbers and the Goodreads Reading Challenge only helped fuel this problem. There was also the added pressure on social media to buy all the latest releases, to read all the time otherwise you would not be considered a ‘true reader’, and to read as many books as one can. Saying you’ve read over a hundred books in a year may sound more impressive than saying ‘I’ve read a single book and it has changed my life’. The latter however sounds more appealing. Placing a heavier influence of quantity over quality runs the risk of forgetting about every single book you’ve read and that also means missing out on understanding the books on a deeper level. This is what I’ve learnt this year and hence why I will no longer worry over my slow reading pace and panic over a reading challenge. When I read now I tend to notice details, nuances and meanings behind words that would have surely gone over my head had I not dedicated more time and attention to the book.
Reading has truly been an exhilarating and inspiring journey, and I’m looking forward to see where this road will take me. Thankfully, one can never run out of books to read! I am forever thankful for all the books that have shaped my past and the ones that will mould my future x