Rediscovering the magic of reading books

Photo by Tyler Meuter

When I was a little girl, I read all the time. Everywhere I went, I had a book tucked under my arm. I distinctly remember getting in trouble for reading ahead during English class in elementary school, but in my defense, people were just too slow when they read out loud. For me, books were a safety blanket and close companions; my family and I moved around a lot when I was younger, and as an only child, it was pretty lonely. Not much would stay constant from place to place, but my books were always there. Like many kids out there, I would pretend I actually went to Hogwarts or rode into battle at Helms Deep, and it was a wonderfully immersive experience.

But as I grew older, reading started to lose some of its magic. It was getting harder to get into the narrative and actually delve into the characters. I found the books I was reading in class interesting but in a deep and very introspective way, not in that indulgent, easy to understand way that I had been going through rapidly as a kid. When I tried to find a new book to read, I wanted it to be somewhere in between those two, which was a very hard balance to strike. As it became harder to find something satisfying to read, I turned to TV shows, which were easy to understand and not really pay attention to, which was perfect.

So I made do with television for years, watching the terrible choices executives made and somehow got money to produce until this last winter break, when I finally went to the library with my mother. There was nothing to do at home; TV wasn’t tempting, cooking wasn’t as fulfilling and staring up at the ceiling and napping had lost its novelty a week into break. So I decided to turn to my childhood friends, books. I decided to start with books that had been critically acclaimed and won prizes. If so many people loved them, surely I would as well and maybe be on the right path to the sort of book I would enjoy reading.

So I settled down with one of the books I’d found, curled up next to a window, and read. I found the magic of reading again that night. I couldn’t fall asleep until I’d finished and afterwards, I sat there, rereading passages and thinking about the characters. It felt good to find that interest again and to feel that excited while I read.

There’s something purely wonderful about being completely immersed in a book and imagining the characters coming to life. You join them through their story, relate to them a little and root for them all while escaping your own life. Television offers that sort of escape, but there’s a level of freedom and creative choice you cannot control. But when you’re reading, you’re in charge of imagining everything, and in that freedom you can find escape from pretty much everything else in the world.