I’ve always enjoyed reading and have been through phases of reading little, or a lot. Recently, I notice that I’m reading a lot more than usual, which is evident by the fact that I manage to read extra books on top of those agreed on at my book group. This has been unheard of since the arrival of daughters.
Now I have to admit that this reading spurt is partly due to this. Two of my close friends were harping on about this so much that I had to try it and I find it very difficult to put it down. My partner is now sick of me saying “This is soooo good”, or, “I wish I had a direwolf!”.
However, my sudden reading impulse did cause me to reflect on how my reading experiences have changed over time. So here are a few thoughts:
Early years and childhood
One of my earliest memories is of reading aloud to myself in bed, from a big, hardcover picture book, and suddenly realising that my parents were stood at the door watching me, marvelling (probably thinking “Hey! We must have done something right!”). I must have been around three or four. Books to me then were like another magical world – it was about learning, stories, pictures and imagination.
I’d say that my reading experiences remained so throughout my childhood. I wanted to learn and books gave me this so freely. Stories were brilliant for feeding a developing imagination. Of course we were made to read particular books at school but, on the whole, I enjoyed all of them. I honestly can’t remember hating reading a book during this time (I had not yet tried to read Fifty Shades of Grey of course, and nearly vomited).
Late teens and University
I’d say that this is when my reading experiences began to change. I enjoyed studying GCSE English Lit, and still continued to read my own stuff for pleasure (cue The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer– remember that?!).
A Levels were different entirely. Of course I chose English Lit as an option, as it was the subject I enjoyed most. But this is when the “READ TWO BOOKS EVERY WEEK OR YOU’RE DEAD!!” phase kicked in.
Which was surmounted by “READ FIVE BOOKS EVERY WEEK OR YOU’RE DEAD!!” when studying English Literature at University. There was no time for ‘additional reading’ whilst at University. I loved many of the books I read, and hated some of them. The Tin Drum by Günter Grass, for example, read in German, which didn’t make it any better. Awful, awful book about a very short boy and his drum, with a particular scene involving a woman eating potatoes in a field whilst he crawled under her skirt. Imagine my elation on arriving at my German Literature seminar to find that we also had to watch a film of this book (with a cider-induced hangover).
I read some fantastic books whilst at University, but the pressured environment must have taken some of the enjoyment out of it for me, as I subsequently had a phase of NO reading during my early twenties. Absolutely nothing. Perhaps a copy of Now magazine every now and then. A terrible turn of events, but then my life was taken up at the time by nights out and…well more nights out.
My thirst for reading returned during my mid to late twenties. I just wanted to enjoy reading for pleasure again, putting myself in a different world, experiencing the world from other perspectives, enjoying a good story. It’s actually only just dawned on me that this occurred at around the same time that two friends and I had an amazing adventurous holiday around America’s Deep South. This was such a fantastic experience – we visited Graceland, an old Cotton Plantation, famous bars in Nashville, New Orleans, Savannah. Maybe these new experiences reignited my thirst for reading.
Reading as a Mum
Just before I became a Mum, I was privileged enough to be asked to join a book group of which my friend was a member. This was yet a new reading experience – reading books I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself and having the opportunity to discuss thoughts in a friendly environment (involving wine and good food!) with no academic pressure. Recent examples include Moranthology by Caitlin Moran. This was a hilarious read – particularly her thoughts on the funeral of Michael Jackson. Or Doppler by Erland Loe. A totally bonkers read about a man who loses his Father and decides to go and live in the forest, befriending an Elk along the way, yet strangely enjoyable!
When I became a mum for the first time, I loved continuing to go to the book group, but did find it a struggle to complete all the books on time, although I really wanted to. Now I read them all, and more.
Reading as a Mum of two
Relaxation. Feeling calm. Mind-settling. Getting my mind back on an even keel. Would I have used these words before in connection to reading? I don’t think I would, so much. I’ve always found reading a relaxing pleasure, but suddenly it’s more than that. After an enjoyable, rewarding and yet relentless day, reading somehow ‘resets’ my mind. It’s almost a form of meditation. Currently, I can’t wait for my next book group, or book recommendation (or the next instalment of Game of Thrones). I can’t recommend reading enough for busy Mums, or in fact anyone with a busy life.
…and I can’t resist ending this post with a gratuitous image of a direwolf.