When I was a child/teenager, I read. A lot. R.L. Stein and Gary Paulsen were two of my best friends, and the big series books at the time–The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley are probably still to blame for why I stay up far later than I should. I was not snobbish in what I read, though I was not as voracious as many other readers I know. I was (because I know the term for it now) a complete fangirl. I latched onto things and read and re-read, and it took me awhile to really get into reading adult literature for pleasure. I think, in a backwards sort of way, because my mom was (and still is) a voracious reader, and it gave me a false sense of needing to wait “until I grow up” to read certain authors.
In college, my pretension really reared up, and I read mostly non-fiction (when I wasn’t reading fanfiction on the internet). I enjoyed comparative religion, and bought a LOT of books that I would go on to only read a few chapters each on mythology, philosophy, and social psychology. I enjoyed them, I just couldn’t sit still–every time I started reading something, a new interest would spring up and I would read something else. Or I’d buy a new book. Or I’d hear about something else in class and decided that was my true passion. (I also read a LOT of dramatic literature, being a theatre major.)
I didn’t realize it at the time (or didn’t have a word for it), but by the time I graduated from college, I was in a reading slump. I didn’t know what books I wanted to read. I still loved books, but there were so many I had missed, and I was spending so much of my free time (and oh, how that felt so infrequent in those days!) either working on cosplay, or spending time in fandom circles online. I wanted to read, but when I did, I could never get past the antsiness over not doing all the other things I wanted to do as well, or the worry that I was reading the “wrong” book. That there was another book I should be reading first, before this one. It was perpetual procrastination.
When I started working at Barnes & Noble a couple months after moving back home, that feeling intensified, but working with other readers, there was more motivation to Just Read. One of the women I worked with (who is now the executive director of Riot Media / Book Riot) was incredible at book recommendations. She would ask me if I’d read something and the way she lit up while talking about it made it impossible to NOT buy or borrow it, just so I could tell her if I loved it as much as she did. I didn’t read nearly as fast as I should have (Billy and I started dating during this time, and the addiction of new love tends to overpower all other ways of spending your time), but I did work my way through a few of her recommendations, and it paid off, as I discovered Audrey Niffeneggar, whom I now consider one of my top three favorite authors.
But the TBR pile grew and grew, constantly surrounded by books that called to me, asking to be read, and customers, so eager to ask questions and talk about new releases and old favorites alike.
There are a couple of things that, over the last few years, have finally helped me out of that reading slump that lasted far too long.
One of which, is having kids. Which is kind of a double-edged sword, since having kids also means I have less time to do ANYTHING for myself, and have to cram an entire day’s worth of Adulting into an hour or so (if I’m lucky) after they go to bed–but it also means I’m far more aware of how much time I spend on social media instead of with a book. They’re watching, after all, and I want to make sure I’m setting the right example.
Another, is the rise of reading sites like goodreads. Having a site where other people can see my activity also makes me aware of how much time I could be reading when I’m not, and I like being able to set my own reading challenges. I’m motivated by goals, and seeing what should be a reasonable number of books per year also reminds me that I Should Be Reading.
But more than anything it’s the realization that I have stories to tell that has helped me find my Reading Voice again. Reading for inspiration. Reading for motivation. Reading to realize what I hope to achieve as a writer, and reading to see what I hope to never replicate. Reading for that amazing moment when a book takes your breath away and you have to lay it down for a minute–when you remember to inhale again, and on your exhale you murmur a low, “fuck,” because using only words someone has reached through time to seize you by the throat.
As a young reader, I read because I bonded to certain characters, landscapes, tropes, and wanted to experience them again and again.
As an adult, I have bonded to the art of storytelling. And I have come out of a reading slump renewed, and ready to experience as many new stories as I can.