It’s funny how things we did as children can slip away inexplicably, only to return with a vengeance later. As a kid, I could devour 500-page books within in a day or two. Reading came as easy as breathing—a trait that I can thank my mom for. I practically lived in the shelves of my local library, and I can remember walking in the warmth of summer afternoons to go pick out a new book or two.
Reading always felt like a safe space for me.
You get to slip away into the worlds and lives of others without ever needing to leave the comfort of your favorite couch spot. One day, you can be stolen away into a world of faeries and princes, and another be plopped down in a forest with a vampire who graduated high school who knows how many times. But then came school and an assortment of other responsibilities and interests.
I don’t think I could say that I totally lost my love for reading even in my years of lull. After all, I did read tons for classes in middle school, high school, college—but it’s not always the same, right? Sure, I could read The Catcher in the Rye or Othello, but did it really feel like pleasure reading? Not really. This might be a controversial opinion, but I didn’t like The Catcher in the Rye much.
I’ll take Gatsby or Dorian Gray any day.
Beyond my reading assignments, I didn’t read too much for myself. I would occasionally dabble in some comfort reads like the Harry Potter series, just to feel a book in my hands and re-explore the world I grew up in. And while I love the movies, I am somewhat of a book purist—the movies totally skipped over S.P.E.W. and loads of other stuff. And who else could argue that Ginny in the books totally outshines Ginny in the movies? But then again, they seem like a different entity all together, like Jaws. The difference between that book and movie quite literally will make your jaw drop.
Fast forward to March 2020: I am abruptly locked in my house, terrified of the virus. I already lost one person to COVID-19. The transition from seeing my friends every day in class and munching on some fries in the cafeteria on campus to Zoom and isolation totally spun my head. By summer, I needed something to do—and desperately. My best friend never lost her touch with reading constantly, and she kindly told me to read the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.
And by kindly, I mean she spammed messaged me until I gave in.
But I really need to give it to her. I got sucked into Celaena’s story, and suddenly I felt like I returned to my childhood: I started reading consistently for pleasure. I moved steadily through each book, sending my friends my predictions and thoughts (which I maintain my somewhat uncanny ability to detect major plot events, as much as they hate to admit it). Then I reached Empire of Storms and felt so distraught by the end that I didn’t pick up the next book…Until now, really. I promise I will finish Tower of Dawn soon, bestie. But the medieval cityscape of Adarlan reopened the world of pleasure reading that I lost for years.
From there, I dabbled in all sorts of fantasy novels with BookTok and my English squad guiding me. What I found? Tons of people experienced the same phenomenon. The same thing that harnessed true fear in our minds also gave us the opportunity to rediscover what things made us happy. So, while the world seemed to collapse around me—losing family and friends to the virus, watching the country tear itself apart, the climate crisis constantly reminding the world it would exercise its voice—I got to slip away for a while.
Books remain the perfect form of escapism when everything feels wrong.
It felt strange, and it still does—like I can’t believe I made my way back to truly putting time aside to read and to thoroughly enjoy myself while doing it. I read about 40 books over the course of a year from my personal library; a big leap from zero. Don’t get me wrong: I like my school readings. But everyone can feel the difference when you need to read something versus when you desire to read something. My only hope is that I can continue to dive into books as I adjust to my new in-person schedule. I feel like I changed over the course of quarantine, and I think it’s due to my rekindled pleasure reading. I feel calmer, and a bit more grounded.
But if we do wind up back online due to the Delta variant, you can count on my nose being in a book.