How I lost my joy for reading and how I found it again

One of my favorite hobbies is reading. But that wasn’t always the case. For years I refused to pick up a book unless I had to and it took a long time before I started believing reading is one of my hobbies. I thought it would be time to explain how I went from reader to non-reader and back.

Let me paint the picture for you: I was that type of girl who would be almost always stuck with her nose in a book when I was little. Language and books have fascinated me as long as I can remember and reading came with the territory. Add in my mom, who has always been a heavy influence on my reading habits, as she is an avid reader herself and I was all set for becoming a downright booknerd. I spent summer holidays reading indoors, while my mom tried to get me to play outside with my friends. But then I went to highschool.

By the time I went to highschool I had developed a very particular taste for books. I wouldn’t touch anything if it wasn’t about magic, fantasy, horror or a little bit of sci-fi. Especially children’s gothic stories by especially Dutch author Paul van Loon were my favorite books to read. There was only one problem: they were children’s stories. A fact which, according to my Dutch teacher in highschool, made these books inapplicable reading material for any 12 year old who would potentially go off to university. My Dutch teacher hence forced me to read books that he did deem appropriate and I hated every single one of them.

The result? I stopped reading. I remember still making an effort to try and find books within my preferred genre that would appeal to my teacher, but alas this was before the days of Harry Potter and young adult books. Plus my teacher was terribly old-fashioned and pretty much only approved book that were as old as I was: written in the 80s, and written from a perspective I could not find interesting no matter how hard I tried.

For years I struggled and read just the bare minimum I had to read for my classes. Then my mom (she seems quite the essential person in this story doesn’t she?) gifted me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in English one Christmas. Not knowing it was part of a series, just that it was popular and it might be something I enjoyed, she had bought it to see if I might like it. Not long after the remaining books in the series (1, 3 and 4) were on sale for mere pennies at a local drugstore, also in English. I bought all of them and started reading and fell in love.

You could say I owe my joy for reading to those moment in my final years of highschool when I discovered English language books. I started with Harry Potter, was the only student in my class to enjoy reading The Great Gatsby and then I knew: here was a huge territory of undiscovered goodness that I could delve into. Then I went to uni and took up many literature courses which already had so much required reading that any reading for ‘fun’ never amounted to much, but for some reason that was the first time in my life that reading no longer felt like a chore. Even though there was a set reading list, I looked forward to what came next and I eagerly read my way to piles of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Austen during my Bachelor’s.

It wasn’t until well after my studies that I actually picked up a book again. I had tried it a few times and I would occasionally finish one, but I didn’t really get into it until I started teaching higher education. The fact that I can read again anything I like, whether it’s a complicated literary ordeal or a fluffy young adult page turner, seems to be my deal breaker and now that I spending quite a lot of time on trains, I find it so much easier to squeeze in some reading time again. After all, there is nothing more enjoyable then escaping to a different reality after a long day at work.

Do you enjoy reading? Why or why not?

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