Conversations is a weekly post that’s goal is to go beyond book reviews, and discuss what’s on the other side of a blogger’s screen.
I often think about how I became the reader I am today.
At 26, I have only been seriously reading for about six years now. It’s such a small fraction of my life, and it’s strictly my adulthood. I didn’t own tons of books as a kid or beg my mom for books on my birthday. In fact, I remember asking my mom for only books one year for Christmas (I wanted every Anne Rice and Nicholas Sparks book that existed, for some random reason) and I was so disappointed when all I got for Christmas was books. I never read them, I don’t even know where they are now.
Sure, I read Harry Potter with my stepdad, and every once in a while I would pick up random books and love them (The Giver, Gathering Blue, Shattering Glass, The Princess Bride). But I couldn’t call myself an avid reader if I read a total of 11 books in twenty years.
Assigned readings in school certainly didn’t help. I loved Fahrenheit 451 and The Catcher in the Rye but I basically passed high school on SparkNotes. I thought that I wasn’t a reader because I didn’t want to sit and read these books, or because I wasn’t enjoying them at all.
It wasn’t until I was overseas and downloading every free book my Kindle offered that I started to find myself getting closer to becoming a reader. I tried to read Christian books recommended to me, but I was only really enjoying the fiction ones, or ones with a touch of the fantastical (The Shack and Redeeming Love).
Then I started reading different fiction books. I found The Perks of Being a Wallflower and read it three times in a row. Ted Dekker’s Thr3e was a thriller I still love. I read Beautiful Disaster twice, and although I find it highly problematic now, I loved it then for its tension.
And then, my dear friends, I discovered City of Bones. I have never devoured a book like that before. I loved the ease of a teenage voice, mixed with dangerous magic and a race of Nephilim to fight demons. This book was exactly what I had been looking for.
When I got home I finished the series, but what was next? A dear friend actually did research to find a similar series to what I liked. So, next came The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa, then The Darkest Minds, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Lunar Chronicles. I actually remember going to a bookstore and realizing, “Oh, there’s an entire section with similar books,” and that was the teen fiction section, guys. I had no idea what I had been missing for over twenty years of my existence.
And the reason I had been missing this is that I didn’t know there was an entire world of books that were different and yet similar. I didn’t know how to look. We aren’t taught that in school. It’s just “read this” and “read that.” Honestly, who wants to read a book they were forced to read?
Then teachers and adults complain that this generation doesn’t read enough when the only books they are exposed to are often way out of their league and just not interesting to them. If we took the time to introduce different genres and understand who each person is as a reader, I guarantee more kids and adults would be reading right now.
It took me 20 years to decide that I was a reader and to understand what books I enjoy reading. And that revelation changed my life. If I didn’t discover teen fantasy, I wouldn’t be the reader I am.
How many people aren’t reading simply because they just haven’t found what they enjoy? How many more people would be book lovers if they were given the opportunity and tools to figure that out?
As a vow to myself, I will make sure, at the very least, my future children are exposed to different genres. That it’s not just what they have to read for school, but what do they actually want to read? What do they like about certain books and not like about others? That way, maybe they won’t be in their early 20’s before discovering Percy Jackson like I was.
How did you become the reader you are today?