I used to read a lot. I lived for library trips when I was growing up and would read almost anything I could get my hands on. I was lucky in that my mom was also an avid reader and had a good sense of what I would enjoy, so she would stretch me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up on my own. Then I went to college, and reading “good” books became a chore that it had never been before. I still enjoyed it immensely, but didn’t often do it on my own (at least, not during the school year). I was majoring in literature, though, so it’s not like I was starved for reading material. This continued through grad school, but there, again, I was studying literature, so I didn’t really notice. But I did notice that after I graduated, I had to train myself to enjoy unassigned reading again.
Unfortunately, I had just finished my re-training when I moved here and suddenly found that I couldn’t sit down and read. I was too stressed, lonely, and generally unsettled to concentrate on the flow of language, to let my mind wander into the prose and see the scenes presented to me, or to open myself up to feel what the characters were feeling. Reducing my strict control over my imagination made me vulnerable to too much that I wished not to think and feel in my daily life.
But now I look back over the last year and a half and realize that I’ve only made it through a handful of books since I moved. 11, to be exact, 6 of which were required by my participation in campus activities. I don’t think I’ve ever read so little in my life, and I’ve never read so little fiction (my preferred pleasure reading). I’ve heard many more books than that because I listen to books on tape whenever I’m in the car, which is a lot. But this is an entirely different kind of reading experience. I have to listen to books that don’t require complex thought because, well, I’m supposed be concentrating on the road, and I also have to stop listening whenever I arrive at my destination.
But now that I’m more stable, I’m trying to retrain myself. I’ve started playing with Library Thing (which I’ve been avoiding because I’d heard it was addictive…. which it is), and in doing so I’ve come across all the books I’ve read and loved, and all the books I expect to love when I get around to reading them. I’ve reacquainted myself with the smell of books, the feel of their paper, and the taste of the air around me when they are open in my lap. Now I just have to convince myself that I won’t fall apart if I let go and let my imagination play over intricate scenes and in and out of people’s lives.
I’ll probably have to start easy, with a fast-paced thriller or mystery. No sense in making this hard. And I’ll definitely have to persuade my cat that he really doesn’t have to continue with his habit of putting one fang neatly through the upper right-hand corner of each page as I read.