Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why I Gave up Reading and Started to Read

I fear I’ve been thinking again. As it turns out, sitting on an airplane gives you a lot of time to think. Especially those 15 minutes of takeoff and landing. The only options then are to think or to sleep because they don’t let you do anything else.

Anyway, the other day I found myself gearing up for a quick power nap while my plane took off, when a Facebook friend of mine invited me to Goodreads. I accepted the invitation since it sounded like an interesting app and because I like good reads.

Little did I know what a mistake I just made. I had to power off my phone for takeoff, but as soon as I landed and switched on the phone, there the app was, waiting for me to start rating books. I figured I’d give it a shot. I eagerly hunted down my favorite books to give them good ratings. But that was not enough for my bibliophilic heart. I had to give bad ratings to the books I most hated (I took especially great pleasure in giving 1 star to the Hunchback of Notre Dame and to the Last of the Mohicans).

That night, not only was I jet lagged, but I also had a hard time falling asleep because whenever I would shut my eyes, I would remember a book that I should rate on Goodreads. Needless to say, I didn't rest much that night.

Now, all of this may have been a little unhealthy. It did, however, make me think of what it is that I love about books. I read books for two reasons:

1. To make me smarter
2. To provide me entertainment

Because of this, I have a personal policy that I rotate the kind of books I read. I take turns reading serious and fun books. Not to say that serious books can’t be fun or that fun books can’t be serious, but I look at a book and make a snap decision as to what category it fits in. This allows me to have a wide variety of books in my reading queue, giving me the ability both to  cover a topics in-depth over-time and to explore new topical areas that I am not well-versed in.

I remember when I was a kid that I was not very good at reading at all. But Pizza Hut had a program where you could get pizza for reading during the summer. I remember the dread I felt when my mom told me that I had to read if I wanted to join the rest of the kids at the pizza party. But she encouraged me to not focus on the size of the book or the seriousness of it, but rather to find what I wanted to read (thick or thin) and enjoy it.

By the end of the year I had read more than I thought I could; and I was surprised and impressed with myself for completing the project.

Pizza was a temporary prize (although I remember that I certainly enjoyed it). The real prize, however, for my summer reading drive was those words my mom implanted in me when she encouraged me to focus on enjoying myself while I read. That has opened far-off lands, complex economic ideas, fun adventures, rich symbolism, theologies, biographies, historical tales, legends, et al. Even when I am busy and only able to read 15 minutes a day, I find it to be rewarding.

In the end, I gave up the painful process of reading of reading without a purpose that could capture my heart and mind and allowed myself to read books that I enjoy. I no longer dread the next book, but look forward to it with excitement because I have learned to enjoy reading. In short, I gave up reading because I had to and started to read because I love to.

So, if you are on Goodreads, look me up, friend me, and start commenting on my reviews. That way we can share with each other both benefits of reading: to become smarter and to have fun. 

Posted By Jeremiah Lorrig
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