The first book I remember truly falling in love with was Matilda by Roald Dahl.
At one point I counted that I had read it front to back over 8 times in the course of a year. As an awkward and somewhat precocious child I remember identifying especially with Matilda– feeling helpless (“I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re small, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”) but also learning to be resilient and positive (“These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”). Before I had any perspective and experience to truly understand the things I was ‘smart’ enough to learn quickly, books let me have a forest to run free in while my brain was still chaotic and developing. This of course is an ongoing process, but one of the benefits of getting older in my case is some much needed mellowing out after an angsty youth.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a highly literate home with family members I still consider to be smarter than me. I still think my mom and I are more dangerous in a book store than a shoe store. In my adult life reading started to wax and wane while I was in college. As a neuroscience major in undergrad and then pursuing my Ph.D. in graduate school, I spent (and still spend) hours each week reading highly technical primary literature, to the point where I got home and did not want to read another thing. In the last 4-5 years though I’ve discovered, somewhat paradoxically, that the more disciplined I am about reading for fun (not an oxymoron), the happier and more focused I am when I go back to my technical reading. In parallel I found the same thing with running and working out in general– I feel more energized, not less, when I get up off the couch and move. Perhaps it should not be such a surprise that taking care of your mind and your body require using them, not an overabundance of leisure (don’t worry I can still Netflix binge with the best of them).
Recently, in addition to reading more I’ve found myself wanting to write more as well. I find I process a book best when I go through the exercise of reviewing it with family and friends. After a few encouraging discussions with friends I decided to start this blog as a way of sharing what I’m reading, starting a discussion, and learning to become a better writer. This year I’ve challenged myself to complete the POPSUGAR Book Challenge (with an extra competitive element of racing against some fellow book nerd friends– you can check out my friend Juli’s blog here, and Elise’s blog here), although the larger goal is to read 40 total books over 2016. Game on.