Amanda Remembers Why She Loves to Read

For a long time, I forgot how much I loved to read.

Reading is supposed to be… recreational. It’s fun. It’s an escape. You can relax, disappear into other people’s stories, and learn about things you didn’t know before.

I used to read all the time on my own when I was a kid. I tore through series, hungrily read non fiction books, devoured literary magazines and fiction anthologies… I read at the dinner table, in the bathtub (this usually didn’t work out too well for the book), while walking to school, during lunch, while taking breaks when I was in dance class, literally whenever I could.

And then I got to high school, and all that changed.

In high school it’s necessary to read a lot, whether it’s literary fiction for English class or long chapters in history textbooks. Sometimes it’s stuff that we don’t necessarily want to read. Most of the time we are required to digest and reflect on what we read by writing academic papers or by outlining and taking notes or by doing projects or having intense class discussions about what we’ve read.

All of which are fine, and definitely helped further my understanding of what I read. But reading comprehension has never been my strong suit, which has made writing academic essays not all that fun for me. (I also kind of hate group projects, because I hate depending on other people for work and grades.)

I think that all of this made me kind of resent reading. I associated reading with the work that I had to do along with it at school, so I kind of stopped doing it on my own. It didn’t seem fun anymore, because the majority of reading I was doing went along with a lot of work.

I replaced reading with something that required much less effort– watching prerecorded television. I managed to get one of my friend’s Netflix account passwords (this was like 4 years ago and I’m still using her account… oops) and just mindlessly watched shows whenever I had a little bit of downtime. I downloaded the app on my phone so I could watch wherever I was, too. Instead of carrying a book or a magazine with me in my backpack or my dance bag, I just kept my phone with me and a pair of headphones. My first question when I went somewhere new was usually: “Do you have wifi?”

Even at college my recreational reading slowed to a halt. I was doing so much work for class and reading so much for school (usually anywhere from 50 pages to an entire book a night). Not only did it stress me out, it tired me out. Whatever small amount of energy and motivation I had to read on my own in the first place completely disappeared. Rather than read, I mindlessly watched Netflix to calm my brain down from whatever I’d done that day and take a step back from school work, clubs, and my social life.

Then, last summer I interned at Random House in a children’s imprint called Delacorte. I was handed manuscripts and told to go through them and see if they were any good, to compare them to other middle grade/young adult books I’d read, to evaluate character development and pacing, and to read fast. I read anywhere from one to four books a day. Because it was my job to read, I tried to get as much done as possible, and I was reading more than I’d read in years.

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This might sound terrible, and extremely similar to my academic reading experiences in high school and college, but it was unbelievably different.

Last summer helped me remember why I loved to read, because I actually had to sit down all day and just concentrate on reading. Rather than focus on symbolism and setting, I had to focus on what made a book good and enjoyable for myself and what might be enjoyable for other young readers. I was reading again, more than before, remembering books that I’d read in the past that I’d loved, disappearing into new stories. And it made me want to read more.

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This summer, I’ve read over 12 books, each of them for me and my own enjoyment. I read when I get home from work, or at my job at the library when things get slow. I rediscovered my love for literary fiction, for young adult romance novels, for psychologically-stimulating non-fiction. And I love it.

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4 Responses to Amanda Remembers Why She Loves to Read

  1. Danny Livingston says:

    Terrific as usual

    Danny Livingston dannyl2@optonline.net 914.661.8505 Cell 914.470.9881 Fax @shoemandanny

    From: Amanda Under Construction | ✍✺♡ Reply-To: Amanda Under Construction | ✍✺♡ Date: Thursday, August 6, 2015 at 9:26 PM To: Danny Livingston Subject: [New post] Amanda Remembers Why She Loves to Read

    WordPress.com Amanda Livingston posted: “For a long time, I forgot how much I loved to read. Reading is supposed to be… recreational. It’s fun. It’s an escape. You can relax, disappear into other people’s stories, and learn about things you didn’t know before. I used to read all the time”

    Like

  2. Amelia says:

    This is a great post, Amanda!
    Coming off four years of intensive literature classes, resulting in a hard-won English degree, I completely understand the pains of assigned reading. It strips away the simple pleasures that come with opening a book. As much as I love mindless, entertaining reads (which I now frequently indulge in), I’ve found, though, that all the the skills developed in lit classes–character analysis, symbolism, themes, etc.–have sharpened my insight and helped me notice things in books that have only made them more enjoyable. They’ve given me a tenacity that I never had before to not only read challenging books, but understand and appreciate them. Now that I’m done with college, I’ve LOVED the pure freedom to read recreationally, which has been made so much sweeter due to all the assigned books. I hope you’re able to keep delighting in more books this summer before school starts again!

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  3. Sabina says:

    I didn’t start reading for fun again until Gone Girl came out. And here we are now. My issue is not choosing Netflix, it’s choosing reading blogs vs. reading books. But if I blog about books, well, then reading is suddenly part of the blog project. That’s why even though my book review posts aren’t popular, I continue to write/post them.

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  4. MJ Robbana says:

    Yes! Great post. I also forget sometimes how much I love to read. Sometimes I convince myself that I have to be reading more important things, more serious or relevant or intelligent things, and then it feels like something I have to do instead of something I love to do! So then I make myself pick up a fun novel, and get carried away.

    An internship at Random House sounds like a great experience!

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