When I was younger if anyone asked me what was my favourite hobby, or way to pass the time, I would answer reading. I gained the skill early on and made it my mission to consume as many stories as possible through the books I was given, or borrowed from the library. I remember sitting up, late into the night, not caring that I had to get up for school the next day, just so I could finish whatever book or chapter had captured by imagination that evening. Fiction, non-fiction, I did not care, I would try anything. I read for fun, to escape, to combat the nightmares I was prone to, and to have adventures that would otherwise not be possible in the small town in Ireland that lived in.
But once I hit my mid-teens all of this changed. Books at the beside table, stuffed under a pillow, tucked into the pocket of a dressing gown, became books in the school bag, pilled neatly on the desk with carefully highlighted and notes in the margins. My fiction read list was dictated by the English and Irish curricula, my non-fiction reads consisted soley of text books.The Junior Certificate passed, turned into the Leaving Certificate, degrees and postgrads. The books became fatter, journal articles were added along with academic blogs and publications. Never before had I so much reading in my life and I was spending more and more time engaged in the activity.
Over time however, I came to realise, as much as I enjoyed my studies, there was little joy to what I was actually reading. Hours could pass buried in text, exploring topics and subjects but at the end I was exhausted and drained. It was a world away from the late night sessions I had as a child, where despite losing sleep, I was sustained through excitement and enthusiasm for the characters/world I was experiencing. I thought back, to the last time I had read from fun and apart from the odd book which I was recommended or gifted, the books I read for fun were the exceptions rather than the rule.
It was time to take a look at why I had lost my most treasured past-time. I think it came down to a number of little factors, rather than one big one.
1. Guilt when not reading for study:
Why I am reading this science fiction book when I have a reading list for my college course that is seven pages long? This was a constant thought of mine throughout my study time. I believed that if I was to read anything, it should be something that “contributed” to something. TV, listening to music or spending time with friends on the other hand were seen as ways to relax once the reading was done. Not being able to separate academic/professional reading with recreational reading was a big hinderance to getting any actually done.
2. Reading Fatigue:
When you spend your day doing something, it becomes very difficult to go home and continue to do it. I find this no matter how much you love something; it takes a very particular person to be able to do this. At the end of a day with my head in the books, the last thing I wanted to do was go home and pick up some more. Flicking through magazines was about as text heavy as I could go.
3. Forgetting about Libraries:
Saturday morning was library time in my house. My parents brought myself and my sister to the local branch library where we were allowed to pick out our own books. If we wanted more than we were able to borrow they let us use their library accounts. As soon as I was able to registered as an adult to get those coveted extra borrows. When my late teens arrived the library fell completely off my radar. University had a reconnection but this was solely in terms of academia. I lived in the same area of Dublin for three years and could not have told you were the local library is. This may not seem to matter but when you are a student/new professional on a limited budget, books do not come near the top of the list for spending your limited budget. Libraries could have solved this but they were not on my radar.
4. Too many choices:
When I did read for fun it usually happened under particular circumstances. The books were usually given to me, or a had particular “go-to” authors who had huge back catalogues which I relied upon. Walking into bookstores I felt like a panicked kid in a candy store. Not because I was excited but because I felt totally overwhelmed by the amount of choice available. Many of the larger bookstores in Dublin were spread over numerous floors. I had no idea where to even start looking for something outside of my comfort zone. This froze me and I ended up making no decisions at all, leaving empty handed.
5. Moving is not fun:
Like many people in their twenties my current home will only be my home for a maximum of twelve months. I am constantly moving for work and study. These moves are not confined in one geographical area, I was relocating to numerous different cities and countries over the past number of years. Heavy, non-essential items become disposable, especially when you are living over a shop/on the top floor of buildings with no lifts. Heaving crates of books was just not an option. With the next move always on the horizon the space and cost of moving books made them a luxury I did not want to invest in.
From talking to many people who have found their love of reading gone the same way, the situations described above keep coming up time, and time again as the reasons why.
I am happy to report that I have rectified the situation and I am now very much back reading for fun. It took a lot of work to get back into the habit of doing so and this post shares how. Hopefully anyone who is looking to reconnect with recreational reading will find it useful. In terms of why people fall out of love with reading please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments below!