Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Joys of Reading by Caitlin McColl

I don’t know when I first started reading books for enjoyment. And I mean picking up a book to read myself, not being read to by my parents or grandparents as a small child (though I have seen photos of this, so I know it happened. I had a giant book of fairytales I loved to read when I was a young girl).

But for as long as I can remember, there has been little else that I’ve enjoyed so much as stretching out on the couch with a book, getting all comfy with a blanket, and reading – letting it transport me, watching the images in my head like a movie, hearing the characters talk to each other, seeing the fantastical worlds and landscapes.

I inherited my love of reading from my dad – who, whenever I go home, always has a novel of some sort (usually sci-fi or fantasy) on the go, in various rooms of the house. The rest of my family have never been big readers. So I thank my dad for my love of reading and the joy and comfort I find in it. And not only joy, but you learn things from reading. Books change you. Books don’t ask questions of you, they just impart their words from their pages into your mind; and even light, fun, escapist novels you can learn from. You learn about the human condition, from the characters and their interactions, and motivations.

I feel kind of silly when I cry while reading – when a beloved character, that you’ve come to love and care for dies, or something tragic happens to them. I think to myself ‘why I am crying and blubbering and making a mess so that I have to run for the Kleenex? They’re just characters in a book!’ But I know that they are more than that. More than just black words on a white page. Books move us because we relate to them. We see ourselves in the characters – some of them anyways – and hopefully the hero. And are surprised at the actions of other characters – hearing, seeing and learning things we might have never thought before! And sometimes we see in characters parts of ourselves we don’t want to admit – the darker parts of us. And we realize that it’s not just us, alone that have these darker parts – other people do too, otherwise the author of the book wouldn’t have written about it! Reading books help us realize that we aren’t alone in our thoughts, feelings, experiences. That other people have gone through the same (or similar) things, and that is nice to know.

My husband doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand how I can sit with my head in a book all day. He thinks it’s a waste of time – what am I getting out of it? He doesn’t understand the enjoyment of it. He’s not a reader. He reads magazines (and sports ones at that!). He’s read books – not many, but some. But I wonder if he sees the same wonderful, amazing movie going on in his head when he reads as I do? I wonder if the book comes to life for him like it does for me. Can he smell the freshly baked bread described in a book? Or the acrid, tangy, comforting smell of smoke from a bonfire that a good book can make me do? Does he read the words and that is all they are? Words that float through his head and disappear without leaving behind the wonderful, internal movie? If reading was like that, I probably would enjoy it either. I guess it is different for all of us, but for me it’s always been a great place to escape to. Well, not really escape but just to enjoy, because the characters in books become like friends and I want to see what my friends are up to.

I feel a bit sorry for people like my husband, who don’t enjoy reading. They’re missing out on a million different worlds and universes. People have been writing books (and therefore people have been reading them) for thousands of years – so obviously there’s a reason for it!

I love when I see other people reading – on the bus, in the airport, waiting to go somewhere. And I always try and sneak a peek at the cover of the book, to see what they are reading, and if it’s something I’ve read before. If it isn’t, I try (and usually fail) to remember the title and author so I can look it up later. And I always wonder: are they enjoying it? What is happening in their book right now? Are they being made to read the book (like for school) or is it something they’re reading for enjoyment? I look at strangers’ books and then I look up at the reader and wonder about that person. What does the book they’re reading say about them? Are they reading classic Greek mythology, or perhaps Shakespeare or Ayn Rand? Or the latest Stephen King or Charlaine Harris? Do people do the same thing when they see me reading in public?  Do they look at the book I am holding and wonder about who I am? Do they look at me and think, ‘she doesn’t seem like the type of person to read that’.

I think each book I’ve read has become a part of me and helped me grow in some small, unnoticeable way. And that is one of the reasons why I love reading. But mainly, I do it because it’s fun!

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