When I was little, I read all the time. Everywhere I went, I had a book under my arm. I vividly remember getting in trouble for reading ahead during English class in elementary school, but in my defense people were just too slow when reading out loud. For me, books were a security blanket and close companions; my family and I moved around a lot when I was younger, and as an only child it was quite lonely. Few things remained constant from place to place, but my books were always there. Like many kids there, I would pretend I went to Hogwarts or went into battle at Helms Deep, and it was a wonderfully immersive experience.
But as I got older, reading began to lose some of its magic. It became more and more difficult to get into the story and immerse yourself in the characters. I found the books I read in class interesting, but in a deep and very introspective way, not in that forgiving, easy-to-understand way that I had skimmed through as a kid. When I tried to find a new book to read, I wanted it to be somewhere in between, which was a very difficult balance to find. As it became increasingly difficult to find something satisfying to read, I turned to TV shows, which were easy to understand and didn’t really pay attention to, which was perfect.
So I got by with television for years, watching the terrible choices executives made and somehow got some money to produce until this last winter break when I finally went to the library with my mother. There was nothing to do at home; The TV wasn’t tempting, the cooking wasn’t as fulfilling, and staring at the ceiling and napping had lost their novelty after a week’s hiatus. So I decided to turn to my childhood friends, books. I decided to start with books that had been critically acclaimed and had won awards. If so many people liked them, surely I would too and maybe be on my way to the kind of book I want to read.
So I settled down with one of the books I had found, curled up near a window, and read. I rediscovered the magic of reading that evening. I couldn’t fall asleep until I finished, and afterwards I just stayed there, rereading passages and thinking about the characters. It felt good to regain that interest and feel energized as I read.
There’s something purely wonderful about being completely immersed in a book and imagining the characters come to life. You join them through their story, you relate to them a little and you put down roots while escaping your own life. Television offers that kind of escapism, but there’s a level of freedom and creative choice that you can’t control. But when you read, you’re in charge of imagining everything, and in that freedom you can get away from almost everything else in the world.