An Ex-Bibliophile’s Guide to Relish Reading

Do you remember the last time you held a book and refused to come up for air? I am talking: heart-hammering away kind of love here. The kind of love we like to read about. You know, love where you vow no one will take away your focus. And, if they do: they’d have to pry away the pages from your dead hands. In other words: do you recall a time when you breathlessly moved through pages? How long have you thought, “God, I love reading so much”? Because, my readers, I have not delighted in stories for a long, long time.  This passion is coming back and I want to share how. 

Chances are, if you are reading this, you are a fan of reading. Maybe you’ve always been a reader. You have read everything around you but still, you wanted to read more. I was like you, then (cue fake gasps). Reading was a central part of my daily routine. I was annoyingly passionate about reading that I read shampoo bottles. When words weren’t around, I breathed them on windows. Needless to say, reading has been a defining aspect of my character. Do you know that moment in books when the cliched held-breath is released? That’s me now. For someone who likes a good romance, I’m startled by the disconnect. How did I not notice my reading love story dwindle into vacant fragments?  

In this post, I am sharing my current relationship with reading stories. I will discuss purchasing books, consuming stories, number crunching, and releasing fun-zapping habits.

Image courtesy of Cdd20 on Pixabay (link to the image here)

Celebrate A Reading Perk: Travel By Page

Regardless of my circumstances, reading has continuously reigned as a transportation method. Without fail, I remain been eager to go on a journey through pages. Before you mistake me for an adventurer, I confess that I am frequently anxious. Somehow, this doesn’t translate in my reading habits, I have gone places far beyond my reach. Through books, I dove past barriers to alternate universes.

As a result of reading, skies don’t look plain to me, because I have read stories propelling me beyond this galaxy. I’ve skipped straight into gravity-free space. It’s been one of the biggest surprises for me: Claustrophobic, asthmatic, and uncoordinated, nothing about space travel would seem like my cup of tea. Yet, some of my absolute favorite stories take place in galaxies far beyond me.

Image of a frustrated cartoon character with percentages taunting them. The purpose of the picture is to signal a new section where I talk about the negative effects of adding numerical values to my reading.
Images courtesy of Cdd20 and athree23 on Pixabay

Reclaim Reading: Ditching the Numbers

My early reading experiences had little to do with reaching quantifiable goals. I read when I felt like it. At first, it was efficient enough. I read and reread the books given to me as presents. Then, school happened. School complicated my relationship with reading. As a student, I had assigned readings with rigid deadlines. On the upside, I developed a tolerance for reading multiple stories at a time. With each story, I realized that books are often in dialogue with one another. didn’t notice the obsession with numbers for a while. Numbers are like fairies. Once you have the Sight, you are no longer the same. By resisting the siren song of numbers, you can return to livelier reading experiences. Imagine it. You reading and savoring each story? Reading with no rush. You don’t have to divvy up pages. It’s just you and the pages.

If you take in stories through purchases, read the next section. I came up with questions to ask before deciding to buy a book.

An illustration of a person in deep contemplation with the words "Set a Mindful Book Purchase System" signaling the next section of the post.

Book Purchasing Checklist

  • How many unread books do I have on my shelves? To get a clearer reading plan: I ask if other books are higher on my list of priorities.
  • Do I need to purchase this book full price or can I wait for its price to drop?
  • What’s an approximate timeframe that I’ll need to read this book? Be realistic and match your reading goals to your schedule.
  • Does the story contain any triggers that could make the story more taxing emotionally, mentally, or in other ways?
  • If it’s a demanding read, do I have tonally lighter stories to read along with this book?
  • How certain am I of my enjoyment, satisfaction, or engagement with the story?
  • Is it a book by a favorite author?
  • In case t’s a new-to-me author, is the story recommended by a trusted source?
  • Lastly: how interested and invested am I in the story? Can I easily recount elements from the book’s synopsis?

A Reading Advantage: An Education

One of the reasons I love reading is that it usually facilitates plenty of learning opportunities. As much as I like the idea of empathizing with unconventional characters, I have to confront the erasure of marginalized groups from reading lists. I have a master’s degree in literature and I have had one person of color teach a course. Reading about Arab American people like me isn’t something I have experienced in an academic setting. Besides, if I were to have discussions around Arab American literature, it would have been with a white, straight, cis-gender person. I cannot imagine it going well, not based on my experiences anyway.

The stories I’ve read about people of color fixated on a grim history. Most of my understanding of African American people was rooted in their trauma as enslaved people. It’s frustrating how late I am to finally read stories that are about people of color living their lives. Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi is always delightful to me because a hijab-wearing protagonist makes friends. She finds her people and I find solace in that.

However, this is not always the case. Some stories hurt. April Daniels’ Dreadnought was one heartbreak after the other. Even as a superhero, prejudice is an unsurprising fixture in the main character’s life. I got upset to see Danny, the main character, dealing with rejections, even when she feels more like herself. But, I also recognize that this privilege. To me, this is a story. Other people have no choice but to step into this reality. The crucial part of reading books about marginalized groups is to hear how members of that group feel about the book. Reading is an exercise in empathy and education. So, it’s more than just reading words and flipping pages.  By not focusing on numbers sets you on a path to mindfully read and mull things over.

Love Reading, and Remember to Question Classics and Beyond

Image of a person scratching their head. I have written: " Question Your To-Be-Read Piles. Why Do you Read What You Read?"
Image courtesy of OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay

A Tip to Enjoy Reading: Separate Your Value from Your Reading

In school, I read mostly classics. For most of my time in university, I had felt like a fraud. I enjoyed Twilight and I didn’t know how to make sense of it. It takes a while to see the ridiculousness of attaching value to some stories and not others. What makes Moby Dick a better work of fiction than a new adult romance about mermaids? I don’t think there should be an emphasis on all classics. If anything, I think readers should openly question these treasured books.

To clarify, I am not opposed to reading some of the classics. However, I am in favor of varying reading materials. After all, the classics didn’t rise in popularity solely based on merit. Authors of these classical books share more than success: they also share privilege. Many of the classics are written by men who had access to education. To get to these scholarly communities, social class is a given. If you have written anything, you noticed that it takes time. Unless these authors were all working side-hustles, which isn’t the case. Usually, they are relying on some wealth. That’s a privilege. Access to publishing opportunities is tricky, let alone with having an entire discography of published works. Novels that were widely sold had more chances to be read and discussed.

Read what you like because the respectable reads aren’t that respectable. Furthermore, the people who created the literary canon, the classics, and the best-sellers are flawed. They have biases and, chances are, they’ve actively whittled down the publication prospects of many.

Reading Perk: Companionship

As I write this post, a pandemic rages on. Reading once again has come to my aid. I have been reading space-set stories. Dystopias are particularly engaging nowadays. They present dire settings that reframe the pandemic’s impact. Besides, I am comforted by the book’s characters’ victories.

There’s more to it, though. Through books, I can go on road trips, which were my favorite part of Rainbow Rowell’s Wayward Son. I had intense compassion towards a zombie (in Warm Bodies, in case you want to feel this too). The books I have read have given me paper-bound companions, who were not paper thin at all. I love reading books because I met the wildest characters and the most inspiring inquisitive heroic journeys.

An image of two people high-fiving, with the title of the concluding section of the post: bookish buddies, the best reading perk!
Image courtesy of enosawis on Pixabay

The Best Part of Loving Reading: Bookish Buddies

My top way to fall in love with reading again: bookish friends. The joy of seeing someone enjoying a favorite novel is immeasurable. It doesn’t matter where this connection happens. If it’s within the walls of a library or in the vastness of the internet, it’s pure magic.

Finally: reading is an active practice of communication. Pursuing a story, tracing the themes with an arc, is a unique thrill. Some characters or stories stay with us. They cling to us and they color the way we perceive the world. We navigate the world a little differently when we talk to other bookish people. On the one hand, they can present a different reading experience. If that is the case, the most wondrous thing can happen: you discover something new. That’s a joy like no other. Whether you like a trope or a pairing, take time to fully enjoy the experience. Reading is fun. And, if it stops feeling this way, maybe a reshaping of your relationship with it is in order.

In the comments, let me know about your journey to loving reading. Whether it’s set years or days ago, I’m certain it’ll be one heck of a story.

Till my next post, I hope you keep on reading.

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