How I Learned to Love Reading

One of my messy bookshelves. Photo by me.
12 March 2024

I’m a messy reader. There, I’ve said it.

I did not enjoy reading books as a kid. My reading was slow and easily distracted – it still is. I used to hate myself for it and avoid reading but I’ve found ways to forgive myself for the way I read, and embrace it.

In the past, I thought I had to hang on to every word and think carefully about every sentence before moving on. I thought I had to read every book I started from cover to cover, start to finish. I thought if I didn’t, I was weak, unfocused, stupid. Like many people, my mind would often wander off on wild tangents as my eyes kept moving over the words. I’d realise minutes later that I hadn’t actually absorbed anything. I still do this, too.

Something changed. I think it was when my son was born and I was up in the middle of the night rocking him back to sleep. Bored, exhausted, and restless (but also loving being a Dad). I read two giant books during that period: Shantaram & The Goldfinch. I loved them.

A few years later, while rediscovering my unabashed love of ambient & new age music re-discovered the music of Jonn Serrie (also amazing for tired stressed-out parents). While listening to and reading about his album Thousand Star, I learned it was heavily inspired by the book Revelation Space by Alistair Reynolds. I had a great time reading the book and listening to the music together. It took me to another world while I was home during lockdown.

It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that I’ve stopped berating myself and realised that I can read how I like to read.

Now I love to read.

I pick up books that interest me, read as much as interests me, speed up and skim, or slow down and savour, pause or abandon a book entirely and/or come back and re-read parts or entire books when I’m ready. And this is fine.

Now when I notice when my mind going off on a tangent I can make a conscious decision to either wander or focus. I may embrace the inspiration and take that meandering journey – putting the book down for a while while I daydream, reflect, or take notes. Or I may decide that this is not the time for a mental walkabout and gently remind myself to renew my focus on reading.

Most importantly, I get what I can from each book at this particular moment and forgive myself when I can’t be a “perfect reader”.

To celebrate my growing love of reading books – however slowly and distractedly I do it –  I’ve published a growing list of loved books.

How do you like to read? Tell me!