Neither of my parents are big readers. While growing up, Mum dabbled with the odd mindless romance whereas Dad was more a non-fiction fan. If you were having a problem with essay writing or having trouble understanding quantum physics, or you’d decided to take up watercolour painting – Dad had it covered. As far as he was concerned, all problems could be solved and all lessons could be taught with books and I can practically track my life’s troubles, interests and education just by lining up the books Dad’s gifted me over the years.
My parents instilled a desire to preserve all things and they nurtured my instinct to respect the written word. I couldn’t deface my lecturers’ handouts at university let alone write in books. I cannot bookmark pages by folding a corner, I hate creasing the spine, I can’t cut out articles or pictures from magazines. I used to watch game shows and secretly covet the pièce de résistance of non-fiction – the complete set of The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Who wants a jet ski holiday in Vanuatu? In this technical age with resources at our fingertips it is strange to look back at how times have shifted.
I loved everything about books. I happily soaked up the smell of paper and found sanctuary in libraries (barring the days when the scary librarian worked). I wrote poetry and stories, my closest friends were bookworms and I enjoyed nothing more (with the exception of art and crafts) than our class teacher reading to us.
That’s me. I revere books but I tend not to read them.
At this point, I usually confuse people. You can find a fuller back-story within this post here, but it would be similar to becoming a lifetime member of the Sky Diving Appreciation Society while afraid of heights and planes. In some ways, I marvel at this contradiction and feel a little chuffed that I could see books with a clarity beyond the confines of my fear.
With help, my reading finally kicked off in the same year I turned fourteen. I couldn’t be called an Olympic reader but that year I attempted to make up for lost time and read a couple of books a week. I’m not talking epic Lord of the Rings-esque tomes, (although I read The Hobbit during this time) like most teenagers I gravitated towards the latest trend. My book consumption then rapidly diminished and by the time I hit university I’d ceased reading for leisure and solely read non-fiction for my studies.
To this day I’m a slow reader and the prospect of pulling back that first page of a book niggles at a deep and old anxiety I will never tame. When I do read, I’m fussy. I’ve had two attempts at His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman but I cannot engage with it. Why not? I like the world he’s created, the characters are intriguing and mysterious yet I don’t care enough to know what happens next. Unfortunately with me, if I’m willing to let a book sit, I won’t finish it.
Geez, I’m rambling. You’ll be relieved to know that this all has a point. My internet, blogging and writing schedule has gone a bit skew-whiff lately and while I’m getting my act together I’m hoping to allocate myself some reading time and work myself up to reading a book a month.
My brain needs bookercise.