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  • Abigail Woodruff

Reading: Why you should do it.

When I was in high school there was a stir fry place we used to go to. There was a buffet of every kind of meat, a selection of noodles, a plethora of veggies, and every sauce that you can imagine. Whenever someone said they didn’t like this restaurant I would look at them in shock and always would say ‘you must be doing it wrong, then’. It didn’t stand to reason that in a place where you were literally in charge of everything that was going on your plate, you could still dislike the outcome.

I still stand by my prognosis and it spills over into more things than just stir fry, believe it or not. This is also the viewpoint that I have on reading. If you really and truly believe that you are not a reader, then it is my firm belief that you have not found the right book for you. There are literally stories about every single thing in the world out there. So what if you did not like the 2 books that you forced yourself to read in high school because you couldn’t find a SparkNotes version online? That is literally 2 books out of the almost 130 million books that have been published.

Think about other things in your life that you enjoy. Do you like video games? Have you liked every single video game that you have ever played? What about movies? I would bet money on the fact that you would not have given a 5 star rating to every movie you have ever seen in your life. To be fair to you, most books that are picked to read in educational settings are bound to not tickle your fancy. I don’t know many 15/16 year old kids that are like… ‘oh, yeah, I really want to read a book about a pair of young lovers in fair Verona’. In fact, it’s been said that a lot of the classics that are plucked for high schoolers come down to the fact that they are an author’s shortest work (not exactly a glowing review).

So, if you are one of the upsettingly large percentage of people that have not picked up a book since you graduated from high school or college, or if you do pick up a book but it’s only every 5 years and it’s because your wife is forcing you to read it for her wine bookclub, then I am here to try and convince you why you might want to reconsider.

Here is a little factoid for you. People who regularly read novels are said to live longer. Like medically. Alright, well I think my work here is done. Is that not enough to convince you? You can literally do something to help you live longer by just picking up a little square made out of decomposed tree and consuming it with your eyeballs. Okay, not enough to convince you, got it. What about the fact that it improves vocabulary? Increases empathy and emotional intelligence? It reduces anxiety and is very beneficial for mental health? What about the fact that if it is listed as a ‘hobby’ on your resume you will look really smart?

Do a lot of these sound familiar?... That is probably because a lot of the benefits that come from reading are very similar to those that you get from working out… except you don’t need to put on lycra and sweat it out. (Please keep in mind that I am not telling you to stop working out, reading unfortunately does not keep you at a healthy weight especially if you like to snack while hitting the books, this is just a super extra bonus!)

I can already hear you yelling at me ‘Okay we get it! Reading is good for you, but I still don’t like it!’

Let me point you back up to the little phrase called ‘you’re doing it wrong’. I can’t even stress this enough, I bet you there is a book out there that is your dream book. As someone who would love to be an author, I can assure you that pretty much anything you can think of is out there. I often will think, ‘oh! I have come up with this genius and completely original idea’ only to Google it and realise there are already 100 books that follow a very similar plot line. You want a book where death has been conquered and people have kill each other to keep the population down? I got a book for you. You want a book narrated by a Greek goddess? No problemo amigo. How about a book where there are alternate realities that make you second guess every decision you have ever made? Yep, meet Blake Crouch. You want a cute fluffy book that makes your stomach feel like goo because it’s just so adorable… I feel ya sister and I got you covered.

Just because you have only been handed classics in the past does not mean that is all you have to pick up! (That being said, if you really enjoyed a classic that you have read I highly encourage you to continue down that path!). One of the biggest hurdles that I see people trying to overcome is book shame or the idea that because they don’t choose Tolstoy as their favourite author, they must somehow be a fraud. I am here to tell you this is so untrue. Tolstoy is an incredible author and there is a reason he has some beloved novels, but there are plenty of incredible authors to choose from whose language might not be so difficult for you to sort through. Audiobooks are a great option for people that love the idea of story-telling or who really don’t have any time to pick up a book, but have a decent commute to work. What about you art-lovers? Graphic novels are picking up speed at the minute! There are so many different kinds of stories you can pick up in pictorial form right now.

My biggest hint for you is to reach out to someone! Be real and honest about what you are looking for. You want a non-fiction book on re-igniting creativity, but you want it to be abstract. You want a book about a forbidden romance, but you don’t want there to be very explicit sex scenes. You want a fantasy that is reminiscent of your childhood, but you want there to be something really dangerous that will keep you up at night! You want to try your hand at classics, but it’s been years since you have attempted one and you are nervous. Librarians are an incredible resource. They know books, but they also have a cool database to help you find exactly what you are looking for. If you don’t want to go that route, I am pretty sure that most book lovers I know would be happy to help you pick out a great read for you, or at the very least you know you can always ask me.

If you have no clue where to start or what you are even looking for in a book, I highly highly recommend checking out YouTube or other social media where people are reviewing books regularly. See a cover you like? Check out Goodreads (basically Facebook for books) and see if the reviews are positive. Watch a few videos or read some blogs where people talk about the last 20 books that they read… I bet you’ll find one that sounds at least a bit interesting to you. The best thing that you can do for yourself while getting into the reading game is doing a bit of research to make sure you are picking up something that will most likely work for you. If you just randomly go around and pick up a book you have heard about hoping you will like it, it’s very possible that you could really dislike it and it will put you off books for even longer. Also, reach out to others and see if they will read with you. One of the best things about reading is the way that it connects people. I can almost guarantee that if you chat and gossip about the plot and characters of the book regularly, you will automatically form a connection with the book even if it isn’t as amazing as you’d hoped.

The biggest thing is to not give up. I do a lot of research going into books and I am very aware of what it is that I like in a novel, but I still come across duds frequently. If a book is really dragging you down and you are not enjoying it, then put it down! There are no rules that say you have to finish a book that you pick up. Don’t let yourself get into a rut. If you read a really good book you don’t think you can top or you can feel yourself going into a slump, just pick up a fluffy read that odds are you will enjoy or reread a favourite that you haven’t revisited in awhile. The worst thing that you can do is to put off reading.

Allow your reading tastes to change! As I have gotten older, I find myself veering away from fantasy and into historical fiction more and that is okay! You change and your reading tastes change! Don’t be surprised if the books you read in high school just don’t do it for you any more, branch out and try something new. The best place to start is the library (or your library’s app if you don’t want to venture out during all of this Covid stuff!) because it’s completely free and gives you the flexibility to easily try out different books without wasting any money. Reach out to your library (or me!) if you need help finding your library’s app.

Reading is a rewarding hobby that can be so enjoyable. It can connect you with people, it can help form lasting memories, and it can help you in terms of your health. I think a lot of people laugh at the fact that ‘I am the book girl’ or that I am so good at finding the best book deals, etc. but it’s what I do for fun! I have never found something so fulfilling and rewarding and if I can help a few people find that outlet as well, then I have done my job!

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