Writing is hard. Writing is not passive, it’s passionate and gut-wrenching and difficult and sometimes I just don’t want to do it. Some days I just want to read and relax and not think about putting words to paper and mentally vomit out the thoughts I’ve been collecting all week. In fact, that’s why I decided to look up WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge in the first place — I was stumped this week. I could make excuses about how I’ve been working 44 hours per week for the last two weeks and how I worked a 17 hour shift on Monday, rendering me useless and slightly insane, but I won’t. I will accept the challenge.
There is a certain romance involved when it comes to books. As a lifelong reader, I can assure you I was rarely seen at the dinner table without a book propped up against the ketchup bottle, much to my mother’s dismay. I was an extreme introvert for many of my formative years, and books afforded me the luxuries of escape and adventure.
I was four years old when I started kindergarten, and I had already been reading for quite a while. Both parents were on welfare and therefore they spent quite a lot of time with me as a child. I had learned how to write my name long before I ever entered a classroom, and my mother had taken great pains to teach me to read.
Books were my life, plain and simple.
Around the age of five, I taught my sister how to read a simple story from one of my workbooks. I can no longer recall the title of the story but I do remember the sound of my sister’s laughter as I imitated the owl in the book, saying “WHOOOOOOO LIKES TO READ?”
My mother was impressed when Ashley read the story to her.
In spite of my sparkling personality, I was painfully shy in school. I didn’t have many friends, preferring to spend most of my time alone with my books. I would read almost anything, and discovering Stephen King when I was eight years old pointed my life in a whole new direction.
My cousin Melissa had been reading IT, and she came to a passage in the book she told me I had to read. If you haven’t read the book yet, SPOILER ALERT: It was the part of the book where the old lady suddenly turns into Pennywise/the father and chases Beverley out of her childhood home. I was deliciously horrified and immediately read the book from the beginning, developing a taste for horror in the process.
(Side note: IT was published in 1986 — if you haven’t read it yet, what the hell are you waiting for?)
All through school, I read The Babysitter’s Club series (the characters were substitutes for real life friends), Goosebumps, the Fear Street series, more Stephen King novels, Judy Blume, you name it. In second grade I read Tiger Eyes on the recommendation of my teacher, Miss Emberley. While the spark of a lifelong reader was always there, Miss Emberley was the one who fanned it into a flame.
She would bring books to my house over the summer. I would ask to borrow the books she read aloud to the class so I could read them myself. She gave me her copy of The Secret Garden because I loved it so much.
She taught me how to spell properly, speak properly, and alphabetize. In short, I owe her everything. My Newfie accent was so thick when I transferred to her class that the other students could barely understand me. She would make me repeat myself until I was understood. I spent countless recesses inside her classroom redoing spelling tests and practicing alphabetizing. Occasionally, I hated her, but without her I wouldn’t be capable of writing at all. Without her I wouldn’t love books the way I do.
As an adult, I continue to devour books on a regular basis. I consumed two books last month, How I Became Stupid by Martin Page and Atomised by Michel Houellebecq. I’m currently making my way through Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake. I scarf down as many articles and blog posts as I can before my eyes flutter shut at night. Reading is a daily activity for many of us, and writing seems to go hand in hand with it in most cases.
With the advent of technology, books are more widely available than ever. With one piece of technology, endless titles are available and you can carry all your books with you all the time. This is exciting, especially now as kids tend to choose movies and videogames over the art of the written word at an alarming rate.
But what about the romance of holding a thick, heavy book in your hands? What about the feel of pages in your fingers, the smell of a freshly opened book? In spite of the wonders of technology, I feel there’s still a place in this futuristic world for the ways of the past. All throughout my childhood I would lug books with me wherever I went, never caring that my backpack was slightly heavier as I toted around the unabridged, unedited, one-thousand-plus page copy of King’s The Stand. That being said, I’m hardly a technophobe. I giggled aloud when I discovered the Toronto Public Library lends e-books over the internet and immediately checked out a few titles to read on my computer.
So while I always prefer paperback over digital when it comes to the novels I read, my opinion is this:
ANY WAY WE CAN GET PEOPLE READING IS GOOD. As long as you’re reading, the medium is unimportant. As digital continues to gain popularity, we can be sure of one thing: At least people are still devouring the written word.
And all the unwanted paperbacks are welcome to come live with me.
Featured Image taken by Black Coffee Poet.