Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is how getting older has changed the way I read. Maybe it’s the sheer abundance of books I’ve read by now, the critical reading skills I’m constantly required to use at university, writing a lot myself, being older in general, or a combination of all of those. No matter what the cause, I now read very differently than I used to when I was younger.
Or maybe “very differently” is stating it a bit strongly. The process itself hasn’t really changed. I plop down on my bed, grab whatever book I want to read, and lose myself in the story. Or at least, I try to. Lately, it’s been much harder for me to completely immerse myself in a book than it was when I was a younger. As a child, I devoured books. You could hand me pretty much any book in the world, as long as it had words on the page, I’d be hooked. That’s not to say there weren’t books that I liked more than others, because that was definitely the case, but back then, even if I didn’t like the book as much, I’d still be entirely gone, immersed in a fictional world without any outside distractions.
That same feeling is much harder for me to obtain now than it used to be. Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, I guess people would still say I devour books. But devouring a book is a very different experience from savoring it while the devouring is done. Often, I’ll be tempted to put the book down, or it’ll take me a good fifty pages before I’m so far immersed that I forget about everything else around me. I’ll be thinking about how the writing could have improved from cutting a word here or there, how an author overuses hyphens, how the pacing of the story feels inconsistent. Or even if I’m not doing any of that, I’ll still feel detachment from the story, like I can’t fully belong in the fictional world. The books that grab me from page one and leave me completely hooked until the very end have become fewer and fewer.
I worried about this a lot for a time being. If I couldn’t lose myself in each and every story, if I didn’t absolutely love reading most of what I read, if I often counted the pages left until the end of the book – did that make me a bad reader? Had I lost interest in the one thing that I loved more than anything else? I knew I wanted to read, but when I did, I often found that I didn’t get into the wonderful flow I had as a child.
Thankfully, there were still the books that did give me that feeling, or I might have started seriously questioning my identity as a reader. There weren’t as many of them; but they were certainly still there. However, it is still a little bothersome that not every book I read manages to entrance me. I love reading, but it can get tedious when I have to struggle to get into so many books.
Still, reflecting more deeply on this, I guess this is a normal part of becoming a more critical reader. The more you’ve seen, the more you’re required to think critically about things, the more you are going to start automatically doing this while reading. While I might have overlooked certain issues as a child and didn’t have as much experience as to what makes good writing, these things have changed. It’s more than natural than I am going to see more problems with books than I did before; that the more I read, the more books there are going to be that I don’t like. That even if I do think a book is good, I’m going to notice what should be improved.
And part of that is a good thing. It’s important to be critical, to point out the flaws in a work so that we as a society can reflect upon them. For me personally, it is also essential to my journey as a writer. When I was nine, I thought my stories about orphaned Amoret gaining her superpowers were basically good enough to be published. How terrible would it be if I hadn’t learned enough and grown enough as a reader for me to see the flaws in my own writing and improve?
Nonetheless, it’s also sad to see that the period of enjoying everything you read can’t last forever. Being immersed in a good book is a wonderful feeling, and to achieve that feeling of being at absolute unity with the story less and less can hurt. Sometimes, it would be wonderful to read through the eyes of a child again; to forget about the aesthetics of writing, themes, and what makes a good plot and to just enjoy the story for what it is.