Some say there is a magic to reading books. Maybe you know what it’s like to have a real page-turner in your hands. Like eating a bag of chips, you can’t put the book down – just one more page, one more chapter! I enjoy such books, but that hasn’t always been the case.
When I was a kid, I didn’t like reading, fiction or otherwise. Growing up in school, I only read when and what I was assigned, which was usually just a textbook. Regardless of the subject, it was about as magical as reading a car repair manual. Books seemed laboriously long and monotonous. Page after page of black text on beige paper: words, words, words. Reading was like getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist: beneficial yet unpleasant.
Unlike those who did find pleasure in books, I had never identified as a ‘reader’. So I sometimes felt a degree of low self-esteem or shame, thinking I didn’t measure up, as if something was deficient with my intellect. Why didn’t my brain like to “book it”? When it came to reading, I had the skill but not the will.
But all that started to change a few years ago. Along the way in life, I began to get little tastes of reading.
The first thing I’d say started to turn me on to reading was the influence of a voracious consumer of books in my life who absolutely couldn’t get enough of them. He had a high view of reading that was remarkable and kind of infectious. To him, the Gutenberg press was a gift from heaven to mankind (and I’d agree). His impact on me to see the value in books was as if a neon Vegas sign constanly flashed in my face, “Read!” So the seed was planted, yet there were more tastes needed to whet my appetite for books.
About that same time period was the advent of eBooks, which had special appeal to me because I had always been sort of a tech-nerd. So I ended up getting a novel to read on my iPod touch (before it had a “retina” screen).
There was an attractive simplicity to a full-length book I could easily hold in the palm of my hand. It eliminated the bulk and daunting thickness of hundreds of pages. I only had to read one little page at a time. And one small swipe of my thumb “turned” the page.
So to some degree, digital reading helped me get into books just like digital photography helped many get into photos. Yet eReading on such a tiny device was still too much of a novelty to me. I was surprised that I read a whole work of fiction just for fun. But like sneezed out vapor, inspiration to read quickly wore off.
It took the influence, rather the silent witness, of another avid reader, my wife, to really push me towards the appeal of reading. When she got a book, I would see her constantly staring at it, quietly flipping one page after another. She must have been engrossed in a captivating story. And the next thing I knew, she had finished the book fast! I’d be impressed and wonder how good the book must really be. Curiosity peaked my interest in reading as a cat turns an intense wide-eyed gaze towards a nearby scratching sound.
Then something unusual happened. My wife, who is decidedly not a tech-nerd, got an electronic gadget that I did not own: the Amazon kindle. And that dedicated eReader using eInk was the catalyst to push me over the edge.
Thanks to that device, with its just-right-size eInk screen and battery that lasted forever on a single charge, I could easily hold any sized book in one hand and read it for long stretches without straining my eyes. Plus it had a built-in library/bookstore! So I borrowed my wife’s kindle and had a good trilogy to test it out: The Hunger Games. After that, I soon bought my own kindle, and over the next few years I grew as a reader.
That’s how I went from, “I’ll just watch the movie” to, “I’d rather read the book!” My disdain for books turned to delight. So it was well into adulthood when I finally started to experience the pleasure of reading!
These days, I like to walk into my local Books-a-Million and wonder what my next good read might be while I wander up and down the aisles in a sea of books. Surely I can find that proverbial one I’d take if stranded on a desert island. Even the scent of books is attractive. I enjoy the website called goodreads. And to top it off, I actually have my own public library card.
Reading engages my mind in a way that movies never did. I know firsthand there’s something compelling about a good story written well. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to watch movies and don’t claim to be a bookworm. But I went from not reading at all to actually having an annual reading goal! I’m just glad that I finally discovered the magic of reading!
As a kid, I learned to read. As an adult, I learned to enjoy reading.
I’ll leave you with this quote I like from Stephen King,
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
So what’s your reading experience been like?