by Rebecca Boorstin
My life was fueled by reading. Many of my favorite childhood memories consist of the feeling of pages between my fingers, eyes scanning in the same left to right motion. Fonts, typefaces, colorful covers were all the art I needed, and every story and life was just as fulfilling and real as my own.
I read everywhere – on my bed, on my parents’ bed, at my kitchen table, in the park, on my bedroom floor. I read in restaurants waiting for food to arrive, at my best friend’s house waiting for her to wake up the morning after a sleepover, in the bathtub, even while walking in the streets. I read cookbooks, newspapers (as much as I could understand, of course), catalogues, magazines, stories that my friends wrote, stories that I wrote.
I had multiple favorite authors, all of whom I idolized, and whom I swore I would come to write like one day (as did many other avid readers my age, I’m sure.) I went through stages of reader development-J.K. Rowling, Louis Sachar, Roald Dahl, Jerry Spinelli, Judy Blume, those really thin books with pictures that tried retelling historical accounts through the perspective that a child could comprehend. (When I relearned about the Trojan War in high school it was a tad more detailed.) Whenever a movie version of a book came out that my friends would obsess over I would proudly (and obnoxiously) say, “Well it’s nothing compared to the book!”
When traveling, my frustrated parents would tell me that I could only bring five books, and no hardcovers please—if only the kindle existed back in 2005. When I found out a major plot twist in Matilda, I screamed on the airplane and grabbed my mother, a few seats away.
My mom, an editor, would give me copies of the young adult fiction she was given to assess, and I would give her in my most knowledgeable tone my most honest, critiquing opinion. I was grammar and spelling obsessed, and would balk at any mistake one of my childhood heroes called authors would make in their speech.
My family members would always ask what I was reading. My grandmother gave me new books whenever I visited her and by the time I finished them, I had not even left her house yet. I read to everyone.
I read because I was shy and books were filled with components of an amazing friend—character, depth, and leniency no matter what your reading speed. I read when I felt lonely. I read when I was riding the bus to summer camp for the first time. I read when girls would run around me screeching in dresses in elementary school while I would sit comfortably in my boy’s clothing and turn the pages. I read whenever my parents occasionally fought, when I had done badly on a test, when I was bored, sad, happy, angry, jealous, frustrated. I found my first soul mate in books.
In junior year of high school, I stopped reading. I blamed it on college stress, on AP classes, on wanting to spend time with friends, on the Internet, on the lackluster choice of books we were assigned to read for English, but really, I just lost interest. Even when I had time to read, I did not feel the same excitement or anticipation. When one of my favorite authors came out with a new book, I didn’t find the time to get a copy. I didn’t even want to. I wanted to be with friends, to think about college, to devote my time to other things. I fell out of love with reading. And as distracted as I was, I was nagged by the guilt I felt of neglecting my soul mate this way. But the neglect continued and soon enough, I had half-read several books, but had no intention of picking them up again. My book-bucket-list remained untouched. My grammar and spelling skills remained solely for my friends’ and my college essays.
Once I started my freshman year at college, nothing changed. I still found no time to read—I was trying to socialize, to do well in class, to get enough sleep, to get outdoors, to discover new interests and passions. It wasn’t until very recently when I was given a copy of a new book during the summer by my favorite author, Mohsin Hamid, during the summer that I had read a book to its entirety for a shamefully long time. My love of reading did not return instantly—working an internship, traveling, and trying to spend time with my friends from home made reading difficult, but when I turned the final page, the excitement and anticipation I had felt as a child returned-not a full fledged fire, but a flicker.
My goal for this year is to continue reading, to continue to rediscover my childhood adoration. I want to feel just as satisfied when I finish a page, to finish books out of enjoyment rather than fulfillment, to be as passionate about the beloved characters. I want to connect with my childhood, my current self, and I want to never let the soul mate that is books go again, no matter what difficulties or challenges life brings me. However, there is a warm, yet somewhat dangerous, comfort that is knowing no matter how long I leave books, they will always be there to embrace me with open pages and welcome me home.