As a kid, the most exciting week in the school year for me was always the week of the Book Fair. I’ve never been very on top of schedules or aware of basically anything that went on outside my bubble of everyday life, so one day every year, I would walk into the school library to an unexpected surprise. The rows of bland, grayish books lining kid-height shelves would be covered by flimsy cardboard fixtures filled with novels containing worlds of adventure and fantasy. Instead of being labeled by numbers delineating reading level and scratched from careless use by grubby hands, books were pristine and untarnished.
There would be no time restraint on my reading without a due date, there would be no test on my knowledge and there would be no one dictating how long or difficult or educational my book needed to be. I could choose anything. So obviously I went ham and always chose way too many gargantuan hard covers, a number of thin paperbacks and some mindless picture books — shout out to “Dragonology.” But alas, only one or two could make the final cut before I went home feeling like I struck gold.
Your main takeaway might be that I was a giant nerd. The point, however, is that reading hasn’t always felt like a chore. I used to be able to read for hours on end without breaks for food or a glimpse of the outside world. An earthquake could shake my participation trophies off their shelf and displace all the beanie babies at the end of my bed, and I wouldn’t bat an eye.
Now, I’m so disinterested in reading that my distracted ears can hear one of my housemates sneeze from across the house through four closed doors, and I’ll convince myself that it is completely necessary to get up and bless them. I will go to the kitchen to refill my water bottle after every sip because it must be absolutely full. I will delay reading until after I’ve amassed 70 different snacks on my desk — just in case. Any disturbance is a welcome disturbance, you see? Then, after I finally sit down determinedly, I tend to fall asleep after a good 20 minutes of pretending to read, my eyes lazily travelling across tedious pages.
But after a few years of believing that I would never be able to read an entire book again, I received a novel in the mail from my aunt and uncle. While I unwrapped my new book from its packaging, “Oroonoko,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” and “The Merchant of Venice” stared at me from my neglected bookshelf, asking me silently how I’ll ever succeed as a human after I fail all my English classes. But in true irresponsible fashion, I ignored my required reading and spent the rest of the night and the next morning finishing this totally unnecessary novel.
That’s when I realized I haven’t fallen out of love with reading, I’ve just become wearied by the idea that reading is a responsibility that needs to be completed. After having a break from the long-winded monologues of Shakespeare and the convoluted language of Aphra Behn by reading this fiction adventure book, I wish I could say I found a renewed love for the English major and all of a sudden was able to finish all my assigned reading. But that really wasn’t the case. Instead, I dropped the major and decided to not hate reading anymore.
Not everyone that claims they like to read has to be into John Milton and Edmund Spenser. If Shakespeare isn’t your cup of tea, don’t read his work. If contemplating why an author decided to include red curtains instead of blue or green in their main character’s house doesn’t sound remotely interesting or even mildly relevant, don’t bother. If Katniss Everdeen and Harry Potter are more interesting to you than Huckleberry Finn, read about them shamelessly and let someone else ponder Huck’s advertised adventures.
Even if I’m a fail of an English major, it doesn’t mean that I’m a failed book fanatic. In fact, I’m about to start reading “A Game of Thrones” and am totally stoked. Moral of the story: Every book is cool, unless you don’t think it is, in which case, not even the impending end of the world can motivate you to read it.
Kayla Kettmann is an assistant night editor. Contact her at [email protected].