Saturday, May 14, 2011

Essay 2: One Thing I Wish I was Smart Enough to Understand

I don’t enjoy reading.

Try as I might, I never found that “love of reading” that everyone else seems to be smitten with. This may sound ridiculous considering that my aspirations have taken a literary turn. How can you enjoy writing if you don’t enjoy reading? Logically, the two should be an inseparable couple. However, for me, my tolerance of reading has long since been divorced from my obsession with writing.

During the school year, I can barely find time to get through all of my assigned readings so any recreational practice is out of the question. After months of enriching my mind with education, when I get to the summer, all I want to do is let my brain return to mush. In this pursuit, I seem to stand alone. While I spend my breaks working on making a permanent butt print in my couch, everyone else devotes their time towards putting a dent in their endless summer reading lists. I have been surrounded by these people for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, it was the kids ambitiously reading all of the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Sweet Valley High books. Meanwhile, I kept equally busy with Archie Comics, a series of comparable entertainment value and much easier to read in the bathroom. As I progressed through high school and then university, it became increasingly clear that by not reading for “fun” I was excluding myself from an entire social experience.

People took my lack of interest in reading as a challenge and attempted harder than Jehovah’s to convert me. Try as I might, no amount of effort or peer pressure could get me to find the fun in reading. When I tried to hit the books, it resulted in a fight between my overextended brain and the page. I lost, every time. But I guess, it’s a law of nature; the more people talk about something, the more you want it. Just like iPod syndrome, it doesn’t matter if you actually want products, eventually it will get enough buzz that you’ll find yourself lining up at the Apple store for their next iGadget. The hype made me want to figure it out. I wanted to learn to enjoy reading.

When I met subjects I didn’t understand in school, I was instructed to devote more time and effort to them. Work at it, and eventually things will click. So that’s what I did. Fresh from my last exam of undergrad, I went to my local library. Surrounded by stacks of multicolored books, I wandered the shelves looking completely overwhelmed. I had planned on contradicting the adage and choosing a book by its cover, but having seen the beautiful cover art on the Shopoholic III, I realized this strategy flawed. As an expert on literature, the librarian must’ve read the confusion on my face because it wasn’t long before he offered to help.

He asked which genre I liked. I had no idea since I had never read enough of any one to have a preference. He showed me a database of authors that would recommend works based on your favorite writers. I equated it to iTunes Genius and seeking his blank stare, I began to realize that I was in deeper than I had originally thought. I could feel my cheeks getting warm, like when a teacher calls you up to the board and you don’t know the answer to the problem in front of you.

With the whole summer in front of me, I am determined to get through Recreational Reading 101. Those who are familiar with my past struggles have eagerly put aside books for my perusal in the hopes that they will cure my aversion. I just have to work at it, and eventually everything will click. I just can’t help wishing there was a Sparksnotes solution.


  1. I suppose it's typical that my first thought upon reading this essay is wanting to recommend a book, but I'll shelve (haha) that notion.

    Though I am curious - is it the reading itself? You have trouble conjuring up the images to go with the text? And thus, have trouble getting into the story? Or is it something else?

  2. I have found books that I couldn't put down and fell in love with a series (despite what the essay says, I too was sucked into the Harry Potter). I think the reason I don't read for pleasure is just because it is not the first thing I turn to for entertainment, not because of any particular aspect of my reading experience.