September 17, 2021
2 Minutes

Why I Love Reading (But Didn't Use To)

I love reading, but I didn't use to. To think that everything we will ever want to know is buried within a book, somewhere, is both motivating and humbling.

I would be lying to you, and worse still myself, if I described how reading books under the bedsheets, with a torch, was part of my childhood. It wasn't.

That's not to say I didn't read. I did.

In the corner of my older brother's bedroom were piles of magazines from Dennis Publishing: Auto Express, if I remember correctly. Impatient me would read the first few paragraphs of an article, then skip to the last few. What do they think of this car? I'm sure we were the only house on the terraced lined street to have Auto Express copies going back several years.

At school, I was never encouraged to foster a love for reading. I vividly remember replying to my English teacher, telling her that I wanted to become a motoring journalist. (The endless copies of Auto Express had their effect.) Her reply, consider a different career. There go my dreams.

A place that did encourage me to foster a love for reading was my local library. It sat opposite the Job Centre on the High Street, next door to the Masonic Hall. It was a grand building. The type of building you wouldn't want to get locked inside of alone at night as a child.

Image by Julian Osley

As soon as the clock struck three at school, I would walk home via the library. I would present my green and white plastic card with the emblem of the council plastered across it, then the gates to this club would open.

I would charge towards the computers. Get my allocated hour. And spend it playing games on the hottest website of the week. Once my time was up, I was never ready to leave the surroundings and go home.

I weaved around the tall, dark oak-panelled bookshelves, looking like Michael Jackson doing his anti-gravity lean, with my head at a forty-five-degree angle. What stands out? Other than me, not much. I don't know what I was seeking. 

I remember picking up titles by Roald Dahl. It must've been the colourful covers that mesmerised me. With my book in hand, I would exit the library. But not before getting the return date stamped. Not that I minded. It gave me a reason to return. I would clasp the book in its plastic jacket on the walk home. It would then sit on my bedside table, waiting for me to skim through when curiosity or boredom struck.

It's easy to take reading for granted. On the surface, it seems like the easiest thing in the world to do. Get a book. Sit there. Read. But for someone who had the now joyful activity of reading schooled out of them, it wasn't easy.

To think that everything we will ever want to know is buried within a book, somewhere, is motivating. And it's humbling to be able to have the collected works of someone's life for nominal amounts of money.

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