It’s safe to say that no matter what I’m doing–working, driving, brushing my teeth,
cooking defrosting a pizza or hanging out at a bar/club–I most often than not would always rather be reading.
I would always rather be reading.
I’m not gonna lie, guys. I kind of wished everyone felt this way, this mad and sometimes obsessive need to read (hey, that rhymed!). And not just so folks would understand not to try and strike up a conversation with yours truly when I’ve got my nose buried knee-deep in a book on the bus. No, I also want people to become manic bookworms such as myself because reading for pleasure is, get this, linked directly to future success in children and teenagers, and increases the level of overall empathy in people of all ages.
I mean, how cool is that?!
And how necessary.
Plus, reading doesn’t only actually make you smarter, it also makes you look smarter, which is helpful if someone is on an interview trying to land that dream job, or perhaps on a date tying to land that dream guy/gal (a great ice breaker is to ask about what your date is reading/has just read/wants to read!)
I’ve noticed in my experiences, both while working at the library and in general interactions with my friends and family, that some people aren’t born with a book in their tiny baby hands like I was. No, some people don’t discover the love of reading until well into their adulthood years. On the other hand, some may have loved books at one point, but switched to streaming live videos of cats when the Internet came along.
If you fall into one of those categories, get excited–YOU HAVE SO MUCH DISCOVERY AHEAD OF YOU!!!!
Starting out on this adventure might seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry–mama’s got your back. Reading is essential, but it’s also A LOT OF FUN! Like, THE MOST FUN! Here are some ways to start reading for pleasure that won’t make you want to tear your hair out. Or worse, the pages of a book!
1. Sample lots of genres.
Start with contemporary fiction–it’s super accessible and unbelievably varied, so no matter who you are, there’s a book out there for you. Don’t worry about what may or may not be “useful” or what may or may not impress people. Read what looks interesting to you. My favorite genres are realistic (sometimes called literary fiction), fantasy and young adult (which, yes, is totally worth reading even if you’re no longer a teenager.) Other types of novels include mystery, science fiction and romance. I’ve pretty much found something to enjoy in every section. Don’t reject an entire genre based on your perception of it. You could be pleasantly surprised if you take a chance.
2. Read what you said you read in high school
Classics are usually classics for a reason: they tap into human experiences, desires and emotions that transcend time and space. If great literature seems daunting, it shouldn’t. At one point, even plays written by the late and great William Shakespeare were just considered entertainment for the masses. Today, the only differences between the Bard and the MTV reality show are rhyme, meter and some depth of feeling. If the idea of reading “older” English intimidates you, start with something from the 20th Century, like The Great Gatsby, or Catcher in the Rye (one of my fav’s) and work your way back.
Have you ever noticed too how many people claim to have read a book (“Oh yeah, I remember reading Huckleberry Finn. Such a great book! What was it about? Well, uh, there was this guy named Huckleberry? And he, uh…..well…it’s been so long since I’ve read it…”) to maybe sound cool or smart but didn’t actually read the darned thing? This is your chance, my friends! Go back and actually read the darned thing!
3. Get some perspective
Read books written by men, and books written by women. Read books written by people of every race and nationality and sexuality and gender identity and any other identifying characteristic you can think of. Don’t do this just to check off items on some diversity itinerary. Do it because all human stories are different from each other, and they are also all the same, and both of those things are vitally important to understand.
4. Go back to basics
The children’s section of any bookstore is home to some of the best stories you’ll find anywhere. As C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia (another one of my fav’s), once said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” Reread your old favorites, and then discover some new ones.
5. Be a rebel.
Banned books are some of the most important books you can read, because if something upsets people, it is likely worth a lot of thought. Some people jump at the chance to read banned books (“CONTROVERSY! ALL RIGHT!”), but others are a little more hesitant. If you’re in the second group, consider that before you disagree with something, you should probably find out exactly what it is you’re disagreeing with—and that involves digging a little deeper than reading a warning label.
Reading banned books gives you the opportunity to decide how you feel about an issue—whether that’s profanity, prejudice or pornography—without having to rely on the opinions of a politician or a PTA member. As you’re reading, see if you can find out why the book got banned. Considering the work as a whole, think about what the author was trying to say with the contested parts of the book. Should the entirety of the novel be lost because a part of it offended someone? If you read it, that becomes your call and not someone else’s.
6. For the love of Dumbledore, read Harry Potter.
In fact, just go ahead and start with that.