Being a Book Lover But Not an Avid Reader

Being a Book Lover But Not an Avid Reader

I knew that I wanted to be an English major by the time I was 14. English was not only a subject that I did well in, but it was also one that actually held my attention. I was an editor and contributor for the school literary magazine, and I even came third in a school-wide poetry recitation contest. But I always had trouble saying, “I like reading.”

Let me first say that I love books. I love holding a book in my hands. Mid-size paperbacks with soft pages and flexible spines−man, they are the best. I like walking around knowing that I have a book in my bag, that I could close out the world and just focus on the piece of work in my hands. If I wanted to. I’m so comfortable in bookstores, and libraries make me feel the kind of excitement you get before you go to see a show. But I wouldn’t be 100% honest if I said, “I like reading.”

book with blanket and cup of tea

How could I say such a thing?

Part of me wants to put on a fancy blazer, sit in an armchair and peer at some observations I’ve made on a clipboard, try to play psychologist and analyze why it is that I don’t like reading when I’ve devoted so much of my life to it. But I won’t jump into a deeply interpretive analysis. Why don’t I like reading? I don’t quite know.

The better question is: “What is it that I don’t like about reading?” Well, I don’t like it when an author’s writing style doesn’t mesh with me right away. I’m not one of those people that says, “I’ll give this book 50 pages and quit if I don’t like it by then,” because instead, I’ll just read 20 pages and then let it sit on my shelf for two years after that. I’ll ignore it like a mistake I made that I don’t want to confront.

I have a hard time picking up a book once I start to dislike the protagonist, whether or not that is an intentional device of the author. I am also easily affected by disturbing or upsetting subject matter, though that usually just keeps me from starting a particular type of book in the first place.

What it really comes down to: I am very picky.

If I’m going to invest hours in reading a book, I want to enjoy it. After years of reading all sorts of books for school, reading became more of an obligation than a pleasure. My mind was trained to view it that way, even if part of me (that book-loving part that I detailed in the second paragraph) wanted so much to figure out how to like reading again. Every once in a while, I’d go to the bookstore or library, pick out a book and think, This is the one. This is the book that will make me like reading again.

Obviously that is way too much pressure to put on a book, especially when you’re someone with such specific taste as me. And naturally, I have not found a perfect book that has made me do a 180 and be a card-carrying, full-fledged avid reader.

tabby cat with blanket and book and tea

My first step on the road to becoming a reader: figuring out what I like.

Being able to identify a niche that fits my taste has been immensely helpful in converting me into a bookworm. In the past 9 months or so, I’ve finally been able to put a box around what I like to read. I like reading books set in other cultures, usually in historical periods, in which relationships (platonic and/or romantic) play a driving role in the plot. Honestly, I really only need two of those characteristics to pique my interest, but all three is probably going to be a winner for me.

An example: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I am currently reading this book, and it’s ticking all the boxes for me. Plus, his prose is some of the most vivid and meticulously crafted that I’ve ever read. Disclaimer: when I say that I’m “currently reading” this book, I mean that I’ve been reading it for over six months and the last time that I touched it was in mid-August. This is what me reading a book that I love looks like.

Don’t get me wrong, when I’m in the act of reading a book that I like, I don’t view it as a chore. It’s just that this view keeps me from picking up the book as often as I should.

My second step: forcing myself to Just. Freaking. Read.

If you read my Work In Progress Wednesday post, you know that the goal I want to set for myself this month is to read two books. I need to retrain myself to not view reading as a chore.

I’m hoping that setting this goal will help me to foster a new perspective that I can eventually turn into a habit. Being a book lover who doesn’t love reading is very weird. I’m ok with being weird in other ways, but this part of me is some weird I’d like to do away with.

If you’d like to see if I can will this weird away, look for my next WIP Wednesday post on the first Wednesday in November.

So, am I alone? Do you ever struggle with wanting to read, even if you’re a book lover? Do you have any tips for making reading a lovable part of my life? Let me know!

7 thoughts on “Being a Book Lover But Not an Avid Reader

  1. Oh god, I feel you. After graduation, I didn’t read anything longer than a tweet or write anything new for almost two years. And then one day I picked up a YA romance series (Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins) and found reading enjoyable again. For me, I’d always put pressure on myself to be reading “literature” and “classics” because I felt I had to, especially as an English major. But no one cares! The only person who did was me. I found getting back into reading by avoiding the bigger, longer, NYT reviewed books. I went straight to YA and picked up everything I could. They’re never a challenge to read, and now there becoming more diverse than ever. For me, it was going back to my pre-college reading and ‘starting over,’ so to speak. Now I’m reading a huge mix of all kinds of books!

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    1. Yes I know what you mean about the pressure to read “literature” instead of lighter things! It’s funny how we make up those kinds of expectations sometimes. I’ve haven’t read any YA since I was in high school, and I’ve thought about going back to it, but I don’t really know where to start. I’ll definitely look into Anna and the French Kiss! I’d love to hear if you have any other must-read YA recommendations!

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      1. If you’re looking for light-hearted ones I’d recommend the Stephanie Perkins’ “Anna and the French Kiss” series, Jenny Han’s “To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before” Series (recently adapted into a great Netflix film), “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy (soon-to-be a Netflix film) and anything by Morgan Matson, Jenn Bennett, Sandhya Menon or Maurene Goo. They don’t have the serious overtones of some other popular ones—like “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas or “The Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi, that both deal with racism and violence. They’re both powerful books but can be emotionally draining to read.

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  2. I’m definitely a book lover, and while most of the time I would consider myself a reader, I can definitely say that there are moments when I’m in a reading slump and don’t read for a very long time. Most of the time this happens when I’m reading something that’s a little mentally exhausting for me. Great Post Christine xx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

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    1. Thank you Melina! And I can definitely relate. I love a powerful story, and I love reading things that will educate me. But sometimes, you just don’t want to put yourself through it at the end of a long day. It’s difficult to find the balance between wanting to grow, wanting to be comfortable, and just wanting to be entertained.

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  3. We were just talking about this over the weekend! How life, (school, work) can take away your childlike wonder and interest in what we once loved to do, and did so effortlessly. But instead, we’ve become this person who thinks EVERYTHING must be done perfectly, as to rise above others and be the best. Doing so causes us to rush through everything just to get to the end result, instead of slowing slow down and savoring each delicious step along the way. Unfortunately I’ve become a person who rushes through reading, among other things I once loved, and decided to make a point of reading every night for at least a half hour, Though it does feel forced and a bit unnatural right now, I know I will eventually find that childlike joy and wonder again. It’s a work in progress, but don’t we owe that to ourselves?

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    1. I know what you mean about striving for perfection. That definitely dictates what I like to read and how quickly I think I should read it. It’s crazy, though, the responses I’ve been getting from people since this post published. It seems like most of the people around me who I thought were avid readers are actually in this same boat, where they have trouble finishing things! It made me realize that other people don’t care about what I’m reading, so why should I feel so insecure about it? I should just do it for my own fulfillment! Do it because you want to! Do it because you know you once loved it, and you’d like to get that back.

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