I love reading. I know that it’s cliché to use the phrase, “for as long as I can remember”, and that it’s the sort of thing that your teachers advise against you including in a personal statement, but this isn’t a personal statement, and for as long as I can remember I have loved to read.
I love reading the Biff and Chip books they’d send us home with whilst in the infants; I loved reading Kipper the Dog; I loved listening to my mum read The Chronicles of Narnia to my sisters and I before bed. The first book series I fell head over heels in love with was A Series of Unfortunate Events and it’s still one of my all-time favourite series and the books which have had the most influence over my own writing style to this day. I read The Secret Garden every year from the ages of seven to fifteen. I read every book I could get my hands on – children’s books and middle-grade books and young adult and adult books. If it had words in it, I wanted to read it.
I loved reading so much that I ended up doing a mainly literature-focused English degree (although I did take some language modules because language is actually really interesting). For three years straight, I read book after book after book, and managed to even squeeze in a few books I read just because I wanted to.
Then, I graduated.
Since graduation, I haven’t been able to sit down and read like I used to. I’ve tried countless times to crack open a new book and get absorbed in it, but even when I am enjoying the story I can feel my brain shutting down. It gets tired so easily now, and for a while I was terrified that maybe I wouldn’t enjoy reading any more. That was a terrifying thought and it played on my mind and kept me awake when I’d rather be sleeping. However, a friend of mine that also studied English alongside me told me a couple of weeks ago that she was talking to a colleague of hers who studied English and told her that, yes, it took him a while to be able to enjoy reading for fun again.
When she said that, the wave of relief that washed over me was so strong that it could have sent me straight into a peaceful sleep right there and then.
I still haven’t been able to really kick myself back into reading like I used to, but there are so many books that I want to read, and so many books that I want to write. I’m trying to be patient and not to force myself (because I know that will only make the situation worse), but ‘reader’ has been such a defining part of my personality for as long as I can remember that I’m terrified to let go of that label, even for the tiniest moment.
My current theory is that my brain is still so exhausted from the last three years of nonstop reading, much of which I did not enjoy (which wasn’t bad for a degree – it meant I had a lot to say in my essays) that when I open a new book it’s too tired to wait and see if it gets good. I think my brain isn’t done relaxing yet, but I’m tired of not reading. My new plan? To read an old favourite. Something I know inside and out; something I know that I enjoy and don’t have to put too much effort into comprehending the story because I’ve already done the work. I’m thinking maybe Good Omens.
My bookshelf is still my favourite part of my room, even though it only holds a fraction of the books I actually own. I hope that if I can find that part of my brain that loves the effort of digging into new stories, we can begin to work our way through all of the untouched books currently glaring at me from their place at the foot of my bed.
Have you had a similar experience with Book Burnout? Have you studied a degree and found yourself tired of something you once loved? Could you even imagine not wanting to read? Or do you not really enjoy it in the first place? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time, stay cool.