Sunday, July 7, 2013

Books! Books! Books! The Love of Reading and How It Relates to Writing

I had a great moment this week. It was the moment I officially knew that I loved reading again. You see, grad school was hard. And reading 5 to 8 books a week really took a toll on me. Even though my second year was relatively light on reading, the first year had done its damage. Reading had lost its urgency for me. At least for a little while.

It's not that I loved books any less or that I didn't read. But that desire, that need to pick up a book and spend my free time in the pages of a story just wasn't there. Perhaps heightened by my own story telling efforts, I felt like I needed to do something different. Be with friends. Watch TV. Go outside. Anything. And while books floated into my routine sometimes, most of the time I felt the need for space; time for my mind to distance itself from the hours and hours spent cramming book after book into my brain.

But this week, things changed. Or shall we say, they returned to normal. This summer, I've been reading regularly, but at a slower pace. I felt no need to rush through one book and hurry to the next, but instead enjoyed a leisurely stroll through chapters and stories, loving picturebooks for their short, visual nature, and gravitating toward adult non-fiction. Last week I ventured to the library, however, picking up Sara Pennypacker's Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy. I finished the first last week and began Stead's fantastic book. And when I came to the end of Liar and Spy, when I turned the last page and closed the cover, I knew the moment. I finished the book around nine thirty at night, and instead of turning to TV or deciding to turn in early or call a friend, I instantly wanted to read another book. It wasn't just that I wanted to read another book. I needed to read one immediately. Right now. So I pulled my awaiting library borrow, Just Kids by Patti Smith, and plunged into the pages.

To some, this may sound normal, and to others perhaps strange. But it was the urgency with which I needed to read that got me. It wasn't my interest, for books have never and will never not interest me. But it was that I needed to read. I had to start another book, as if being in the middle of a story would lessen the quality of life.

This feeling isn't new to me. But it was a welcome return. I remember late in middle school and early high school always having the desire to read. And although books have never left my side, that feeling ebbs and flows, changing, coming and going with the seasons of life. And I don't know what it is — perhaps my hiatus from books, my need to have stories swirling in my mind as I pursue my own, these particualr titles, or maybe something else — but I was happy to pick up the torch again, blazing through books and looking forward to the next one.

Carrying a book around in my purse, planning reading into my day, staying up later than I should repeatedly telling myself, "Just a few more pages." I know I'm not the only one who does this. But my new zeal for reading is a good reminder of why I want to create books myself. To imagine someone else reading my book the way I might read another; to know that my pages could be the reason a kid feelings this love of reading for the first time; to think that my work could sit alongside so many of the books I loved and have yet to discover — this is why I write. Because I love reading. And to provide someone with a book they can love; to contribute to the body of literature that betters my days and provides heart and knowledge and growth; to contribute to the reading experience. There's nothing better than that. Nothing at all.

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