Reading.

So easy to do yet we forget the process of having learnt it. We take it for granted that we can make sense of characters and words yet being able to read is a gift. It is a gift to explore other peoples minds, experiences, and views on the world.

As a child I read voraciously. The library had a limit of six books per person allowed to be checked out against your name and I frequented the library often in my spare time. Throughout school, reading the prescribed four novels a year was a breeze. In fact, I found it quite poor that we only had to read four books a year but like I said, being able to read is a gift. I only learned later on in life that your reading culture is largely influenced by your family and community.

So I am thankful that my family had no shortage of books available, my mom took me to the library often and I was encouraged to read.

Getting older though, different priorities begin to emerge. Studying required a lot of reading of textbooks and note taking and I found myself reading for enjoyment far less than I used to. This cycle repeated over time and with the advent of technology and the attention economy growing each year, I realised I had not read a proper book in over a year. Yes I read news articles online and some short stories from websites like Medium but as life gets more and more “busy” it seems it is harder to find time to read. 

Like everything in life though, where we focus our priorities our time inevitably follows. Having realised that I was spending “just 5 minutes” on Facebook, only to close the app 30 minutes later, I decided to make sure I didn’t waste any more time aimlessly scrolling on my phone

With that time now available I found myself falling back on old habits – picking up an actual book and reading. I purchased a Kindle a couple of years ago to take travelling and while convenient, it just isn’t the same as a good ol’ printed book.

The feel, the smell, the sound of the pages turning. There is something to be said of the tangible experience a physical book offers that a Kindle simply can’t. As I found myself with more time to read, I ended up in a cycle I knew well: the more I read, the more I want to read.

We are all very busy, extremely distracted and struggle to find time for ourselves. In a world that generates so much noise, the simple act of reading can turn down the volume greatly. But you need to make a concerted effort to carve out time  in your schedule to get the benefit. Just take half an hour of your day and read. Put your phone on silent, pick up a book and voila. Some relaxation right there.

It doesn’t really matter what you read, as long as you read. Books allow you to access almost limitless knowledge, to fuel your imagination or get inside the minds of people we will never meet but who can teach us more than we know. Reading really can be magical.

Rediscovering the joy of reading has allowed me to identify why I let it go in the first place – the biggest obstacle to reading regularly is ensuring my environment supports it. So I put books in places I can access easily – on the bedroom table, my desk, in my laptop bag. The constant reminder that if I want to take a break, or need some time for myself, a book is always there. 

Having recently read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I was reminded of the power of books, of stories, to put things in perspective. The book follows several characters lives pre, during, and post World War II in Europe and all the experiences that come with such extreme situations. It is, in my opinion, a “nice” story that takes place during a horrific time in history, one that some people are quick to pass over and forget what the lessons learned by the world at that time. 

As I read the epilogue I found a deep sense of sadness well up in me, knowing that the suffering those characters experienced was felt a million times over by real people and that in some places, people still experience this today. The novel put some things in perspective for me, which more and more I believe is the true power of books and storytelling. The lessons books contain are invaluable, yet we are quick to dismiss them because it takes time to discover.

So read a book, read something that allows you to pour yourself into the experience, so that you extract all the richness the experience has to offer. Put books everywhere, encourage people to read, give books as presents, share books, whatever you do, make time for books and reading. You won’t regret it.

I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so.