Life Skills Unlocked

Life Skills Unlocked: Reading for Enjoyment

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage thr.png

When I was a child, I would read books to teleport out of my life. One moment I would be lying in bed staring at the white ceiling, anxiety clawing at my throat, and the next I would be visiting prickly Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, or laughing at Dogmatix and his fondness for trees. My introduction to reading was a steady and consistent diet of Beatrix Potter, Goscinny and Uderzo, Hergé, Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Enid Blyton. I read compulsively, almost obsessively.

As soon as I was able to read by myself, it became a fixation; whether we were out for a walk or it was after dark, I would have a book in my hand. I became adept at reading while also watching where I was going. I would fall asleep with my cheek pressed against the page.

My mother made us members of the public library and each week she would drive there and let me check out seven books, since that was the most that was allowed at the time. I still remember carrying my wobbly pile to the counter and watching the lady methodically stamp each one before handing them back to me with a smile. If I close my eyes I can still smell the ink and paper.

For a time, Enid Blyton was my crack; Wikipedia tells me Enid Blyton published 762 books and I’d say I’ve read the vast majority. My addiction was so intense that my mother actually forbade me to borrow any more of them. There were multiple trips to the library where I would have to engage in serious subterfuge to get my fix. I would pick out my books, wait patiently for my mother to go out of the room, and then rush the counter in a blind panic to get them stamped before she returned. I would hide them under my jumper or tuck them into the waistband of my highly fashionable corduroy trousers. I could carefully conceal two Enid Blytons (three if I was wearing a jacket). Of course, to avoid suspicion, I would have to then borrow four or five books just for show. When my mother inevitably wondered why I hadn’t checked out the usual seven, I would have to pretend I couldn’t find anything else that interested me.

In hindsight, I wonder what the librarian made of us…

After Enid Blyton I got hooked on Nina Bawden, R.L. Stine, Bill Watterson, K.A. Applegate, Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Garth Nix and eventually just a broad scope of authors from all different genres. As I grew up, I continued to see books as an escape route to other worlds. Anytime I was feeling too much stress or anxiety or discomfort or worry, I would open a book and disappear into it head-first. It was like a wormhole to another life; a sort of body-swap, if you will. I would slip into the shoes of the main character and do what they were doing, feel what they were feeling. I was Sabriel learning to ring the bells, I was Lyra leaving Pantalaimon on the shore. When I finished a book I always felt bereft, like I’d been kicked out of a temporary home.

I think that all of my time spent inside stories – looking through the eyes of different characters and experiencing their adventures, loves, heartbreaks, successes and betrayals – has made me a more empathetic person. I think it taught me so much more about life than what I could ever learn from my own experiences. I won’t say reading makes someone a better person but I do think it makes them a more rounded one. Books have taught me so much more about people than I could ever have learned otherwise. It gave and still gives me insight into lives completely different to my own, motivations I could never share, and realities I could never imagine. In a way, reading other people’s blogs is an extension of that. Reading other people’s blog posts lets me share in their feelings and inhabit their world for a minute or two.

I have a clear and vivid memory of sitting on the windowsill in my 4th class classroom, reading during lunch hour, when a friend saw me and said, “Quinn, when you grow up you’re probably going to marry a book!” At the time I was upset by the comment because I wasn’t an overly sociable child and my interests were pretty much restricted to hanging upside-down from trees and reading. Sometimes I combined the two and hung upside-down from trees while reading. I remember wondering if that would be my life as an adult; just me and my books. I wondered if I would die crushed under a tower of heavy hardbacks that had just been a little too precariously placed.

Now that I am an adult, I am in a much better place. I live a happier, less stressful life. I no longer feel the need to body-swap with fictional characters. These days I read because I enjoy it, not because I need it. I no longer desperately try to make out words by the light of the moon (terrible for your eyes, by the way), or escape into stories like I’m using them as a hiding place. I’m glad to say that now that I am a bona fide grown-up, it’s not just me and my books, and my heavy hardbacks are tidily stacked on a sturdy bookcase where they pose no danger to anyone.

[Just a quick note to say that (astonishingly) I am getting closer to 1000 readers and if I do reach that number I will be doing a weird but fun little giveaway! 

… Well. Even if I don’t ever reach that number I’ll probably do the giveaway. Basically, I am planning a giveaway and writing it here so I don’t forget because although I’m excellent at compiling things I always slack on actually going to the post office! I mean, I have three things that I’ve been meaning to post out for about a month now, so might as well add this to the list. It’s happening! Don’t let me forget!]

0 thoughts on “Life Skills Unlocked: Reading for Enjoyment

  1. Enjoyed this post ! I love reading too , books magazines , blogs anything but there’s nothing like a good book!

    I think every child had a Enid Blyton phase , wasn’t she great . I still have some of her books, hopefully my two will gain interest.

    Congrats on reaching 1000 followers , you have a lovely blog & interesting posts for sure. I’m a bit blogged out at the minute but yours has been refreshing

  2. Congrats on the upcoming 1,000 followers! Don’t forget about us little people who knew you before your new found fandom. 🙂

    I was never much of a reader. There were reading competitions in my primary school that would encourage us to read, and I did, but only for the competition aspect. Now, I typically read right before bed as way to calm myself before sleep, or over the summer when I’m hanging outside sun bathing. It’s very rare that I find a good enough book to keep me hooked though. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right genre. Any favorites you can share?

    1. I just read A Man Called Ove and absolutely loved it. The first chapter I was sort of confused and annoyed but once I got into it I loved Ove and I cried twice! Also get away out of that with your “fandom”! 😂

      1. I just read the synopsis of A Man Called Ove. It reminds me of a movie I watched recently on Netflix: St. Vincent. Might have to give it a go! 🙂

        And I’m intrigued by this give away… is it your fascinator? It’s your fascinator, isn’t it??

  3. I was the same way, I’d drive my mom nuts when I was supposed to be getting ready for school and I’d be trying to fit in another 10 or so pages. I was obsessive. Like you, I did love Dahl, Seuss, and Watterson, but I didn’t read much of those others. Add in Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Orson Scott Card, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Patrick O’Brien, and Natalie Babbitt and you have most of my childhood library. I was also weird though, I’d also read technical manuals for stuff I was interested in, computers, software, cameras, watches, video games, anything I could get my hands on. What I can say, I was a strange kid.

    But you are right in how reading is an amazing window into other peoples’ lives. It teaches you a lot about human nature, and gives you access to multiple sides of the story. I believe it does make you more empathetic.

  4. I was the same, always with a book in front of my face. My Mum stopped letting me take books on car journeys because I was travel sick but I’d sneak them in and usually end up ill! Enid Blyton brings back so many memories!!!

  5. First, reading *does* make you a better person. As an adult, I’ve always preferred reading to watching TV, so evenings home always meant with a book. Now I don’t even have TV, I just read. It’s easy to tell that you’ve spent your life reading by the clarity of your writing.

    Now about the followers. Do you mourn the days when you sort of knew everyone who was reading your blog? I’m rapidly approaching… 170 (!) and most of them seem like complete strangers.

    1. For the most part I still have the same commenters, and they are the ones I interact with the most so it actually doesn’t feel much different… Now if I start getting a multitude of commenters I suppose I’ll have to find my feet, but for now it’s just nice to think that many people enjoy my writing!

  6. Congratulations on getting more than 1000 subscribers. You might be astonished, but I am hardly surprised.
    When I was young, I devoured Isaac Asimov books, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser provided a role model, and Gibson’s Cyberpunk Trilogy rocked my world.
    As I grew older, I found the classics and the post modernists.
    As I grow older still, I am looking for everything inbetween.

  7. This sentence….’When I finished a book I always felt bereft, like I’d been kicked out of a temporary home’….this is exactly how I feel each and every time I read a book that ‘gets’ me. Completely perfectly put Quinn <3

  8. I feel like I can completely identify with this post and I want to thank you, Quinn, for putting into words exactly how I feel after stumbling down the rabbit hole into each and every book that I inevitably fall in love with. I love forward to reading more of your wonderful posts!

    1. Hmmm… I last read A Man Called Ove and loved it once I got into it, but am also looking forward to rereading His Dark Materials because I loved them as a child but have a feeling they will read differently now that I am grown! Thanks Rose Elaine!

  9. As a child, whenever I was misbehaving my parents would send me to my room as punishment. I would just go to my bookshelf and read and read. Whilst I was shut in my room I was escaping with Harry Potter or some other bookfriend. It came to a point where I was punished by not being able to read 😂

  10. I loved Enid Blyton! I guess everybody did! In my early teens I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High books because they took me to a different and glamorous world but when I read one a few years ago I realised what horribly unhealthy messages were being put out to teens through those books! I still love reading but mainly read biographies and non fiction now. Got any good fiction recommendations for me?

    1. Hmmm. The one I’m reading at the moment is non-fiction/biography (Cleopatra: A Life) and I’m loving it, but the fiction I read before it was A Man Called Ove and once I understood what was going on (say a chapter in?) I loved it. And then I cried reading it. Twice.

  11. Quinn this is so cool 😉 Fellow reader myself; although I became an avid reader later in life when some tough stuff in my childhood had long vanished. Now I read for 30 minutes before sleeping, every day. Lee Child, James Patterson and George R.R. Martin are my faves. Definitely helps me become a better story teller for my blog. Fab blog, fab post and hey, keep up the great work! I found you via Reddit 😉

    Ryan

    1. Hey, thanks Ryan! I haven’t acctually read any of GRR Martin’s books because I started the TV show of Game of Thrones and told myself I’d read the books after watching the show. YEARS LATER…. Here we still are.

      Love some James Patterson and Lee Child though – can fly through those!

  12. I always thought I was the only who read to escape… To become someone else. I still do it sometimes, I hope that will change and then i too will read more for th enjoyment.

    Buy like you, I too have learned more from books than anything or anyone else. They speak to my heart and mind in a way that only a few people ever have. Thank you for the post, it gives me hope.

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