My love for reading and collecting books has remained a constant for longer than I can remember. Approaching this article, I thought to ask my parents, who fondly recalled how this excitement came about. They read plenty of Julia Donaldson stories to my sister and I as toddlers; we loved both the stories themselves and the silly voices my parents would use to read them.
When I was a bit older, my mum was excited to introduce me to the stories of Roald Dahl. However, I— Little Miss Independent apparently— had decided that it was time for me to read by myself. So off I went, discovering the stories of Roald Dahl, closely followed by Jacqueline Wilson. Poignant stories for me were The Witches, George’s Marvellous Medicine, and Hetty Feather.
I cannot recall many specifics or reading habits from my childhood, however I distinctly remember when my curiosity and love for reading really flourished. I was gifted the collection of Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, and I devoured the entire book. The world-building and characters were all so endearing to my six-year-old self; it was the first time I couldn’t put down a book.
All I know is that I’m relieved to have reading as an outlet, where there is a plethora of possibilities for both enjoyment and for broadening my horizons
Inevitably, there was a time where I could always be found in my local library trying to decide what book to borrow, or curled up at home exploring the world of Blyton’s Malory Towers book series. Once I got to high school, this became less frequent, however I still usually had a book in my bag “just in case”. Even to this day, although I often won’t read it, I never go out without one.
Reflecting now on my early reading adventures, I cannot pinpoint exactly what intrigued me and why I love reading so much; trying to come up with reasoning would be disingenuous. All I know is that I’m relieved to have reading as an outlet, where there is a plethora of possibilities for both enjoyment and for broadening my horizons, even though as I’m getting older I don’t have nearly as much time to indulge.
I’ve always appreciated the world of literature as a way of connecting with loved ones. The origins of my independent reading stemmed from my mum’s recommendations; my curiosity for whimsical stories started with a gift from a cousin; and as my tastes and interests changed once I reached my teens, I created and developed friendships by discussing the stories we had read and exchanging recommendations. Whilst many of those stories I no longer read, they’re a big form of nostalgia for me, and they have shaped my current reading habits, both of which I am grateful for.
Deciding on a preference for genre is difficult. There’s the pattern of literary essay collections— preferably Ephron or Didion— and the occasional murder mystery, however I am yet to discover the ins and outs of what literature has to offer. I continue to demonstrate an expanding curiosity for what is out there, such as developing a tolerance for classic literature (risky business with my current attempt at Middlemarch). As my writing here unfolds, I am realising that my reading habits are rooted in how I read, rather than specific preferences.
For me, part of the joy in reading is being able to pick apart a book and critically analyse what makes it good or bad
Regardless of how little I like a book I’m reading, I can almost never fully part ways with it; I may give it a few months before trying again, but I am too stubborn to give it up. For me, part of the joy in reading is being able to pick apart a book and critically analyse what makes it good or bad. It is very rare for me to find a book that I find boring, and I cannot recall the last time I was adamant on giving up a book.
My stubbornness with reading has extended to my collection of books and the difficulty with deciding what to give away. Borrowing books from the library shifted to buying more books than I had the space for. I am incredibly reluctant to give up even books I disliked or have not picked up in years. Perhaps it was a book I was recommended, or one I recommended to friends when I was younger; or perhaps it was a book gifted to me.
The books on my shelf entangled with past friends are ones I hold most dearly; though we grow apart, the books they leave behind are reminders of how we shaped each other. And then there are my copies of Wilson, Dahl, Blyton. Though I am way past the age of reading them, they’re ready for the distant future where I can pass them down to my children. This might all sound ludicrous, however I believe the exchanging and intertwining of literary habits to be one of the many indicators of love.