It seems to often be the case today that we have to “find time” for everything: to think, to meet with friends, to phone family members. And to read. Internet statistics will show you that the use of online media is booming everywhere in all sorts of different directions, but exciting as it is, I don’t want to forget the book.
I can’t imagine my world without reading or without knowing there’s a good book out there waiting to be discovered. But lately I’ve forgotten. The predictable stress of being a young graduate and looking for a job got to me. I was too exhausted to physically pick up a book and read, instead of scanning and laying the book aside for later, which was a marked change from the way I was before. I remember very clearly how as a child I would have to be reminded to turn out the lights at bedtime, because I was engrossed in a book…And I wanted that that experience back.
I was always drawn to books. I liked having them in my hands, I liked studying the cover, I read everything from the foreword to the author’s acknowledgements. Parts that many people skip, by the way, but which often contain interesting information or thought-provoking remarks. Reading took me away. The written world and all that it evoked enthralled me.
And then I forgot. I got caught up in the day-to-day. I never thought it would happen, but suddenly I found myself doing other things after a long day, and those hours commuting were spent with the same music mix blaring in my ears while I leaned my head against the window. And after a while of going on like this my head literally felt emptier. Something was missing. I felt like I was floating on the surface instead of really experiencing satisfying mental activity. And then I realized – I missed reading. Real reading. Proper reading.
I don’t really like the “find time” argument, as for me it immediately internally implies that I’m not good at time-management. But as we become older and have to increasingly manage our lives on our own, it becomes a valid argument indeed.
But I went for it again, and I found a way to get back to really reading. There was a time when I got used to reading on my daily commute, and about 90 percent of the books standing on my bookshelves were read on the subway. So I just went back to the tried and tested method, and I also took up some books that I though I’d enjoy reading again, before starting something completely new. The good thing about this strategy is that the familiarity of the narrative makes you remember reading the book for the first time. And those memories are very motivating in continuing to read. I’m very lucky that most of my subway route runs above ground, so on sunny days it’s a real pleasure to read on the train.
Getting back to it was like getting back to the gym after a long absence. It wasn’t easy and it needed some perseverance. I got on the subway, sat down, took a look around me and saw many people with their noses buried in books. Not newspapers, not magazines. There was maybe one person who was looking at an iPad. They were reading and they were all totally absorbed. So I cracked out my choice of read – currently “Full Moon” by P.G. Wodehouse. Nothing like some slightly old-fashioned, but quintessentially English and very funny, wise prose to get you going. As I read, really read, taking the time to drink in each and every line, think about the words and how the phrasing made me feel, laughing at the characters and giving myself away to the sheer pleasure of losing myself in a book, I just felt happy.
Reading provides comfort. It’s an escape that we all need sometimes. And the kind of concentration it sometimes requires is good for you. It may soothe a frustrated mood, quiet your breathing, it calms you down enough so you can think about anything you need to think about later.
All you need is a book. It’s easy to take with you, and once you get used to it, it becomes a habit. I think it’s not even a question of finding time, it’s using the time slots you have for something worthwhile. There are plenty of suitable situations where reading can be nicely fitted in. Mine is the subway. For a while there’s only this capsule transporting you somewhere, and the half hour I have for the trip is my little bubble, with the book taking me to another world.
I wish I could read while walking, but I’m afraid that’s a little dangerous and then I’ll miss saying hello to people — with whom I want to chat about the latest great book I’m reading!
Guest contributor Stephanie Kopf has lived in Siberia, New York City and Germany. She is passionate about writing for an audience. Her subject areas include anything related to the human psyche, education, communication in all its forms, entertainment, travel and lifestyle, as well as the interaction of all of these with each other.