I’ve always been an avid reader. From a young age I discovered Roald Dahl’s books, the magical worlds he created, the 3 dimensional characters, the funny but poignant tales, took me somewhere far away and inspired me to write my own tales too. As I grew up, I continued to read. From the teenage Goosebumps and point horror stories of the 90’s, to the as undiscovered classics revealed during A level classes and then my English and Creative writing degree which paired reading alongside writing in all genres. Nowadays I try not to stick to favourite authors (Dorothy Koomson, Mark Haddon, Anita Shreve, Jon Mcgregor, Jojo Moyes…) and to find new and exciting authors, to explore literature set in different countries, time zones, eras and genres. Friends and family help with suggesting books too.
Yet as I’ve got older and life has become busier, reading has taken a very small back seat in my priorities. Working full time as well as writing (freelance and working on a second and now third novel) and socialising with friends and loved ones, has made the window for that past love, become much smaller. What literature lover does not daydream about sitting in the window, a worn paperback in hand, letting the hours slip away as they immerse themselves in a world far away from theirs. It’s the idyll. Like reading while the ocean provides the background noise, your bare toes tucked into the warm sand. This idyllic image and the need to provide the perfect space for ‘reading’ seems to have become even more necessary now that I’m older. When the reality is usually fifteen minutes of reading at bedtime, before my tiredness admits defeat and I switch out the bedroom light. It’s almost as if reading has become such a rare luxury that a special moment must be created to enjoy it – to allow it, to not feel guilty about it. How ridiculous!
This past month, I’ve vowed to get to bed early; to make room in my day and evening, wherever I can for reading. To fully commit and dissolve into my latest book. Just like I used to. Aswell as the pleasure of reading, the stillness of just being on my own, in the quiet, sometimes accompanied with a cup of tea, a breakfast pastry or just a bar of chocolate and a few cookies, I would revel in the fulfilment of finishing something. And, once the dust has settled, that spark of joy that comes afterwards, when picking a new adventure, from one of my many populated bookshelves. Whether it be an adventure that I’ve chosen, an old friend like Thomas Hardy or Daphne Du Maurier, or the face of someone new, like my current read, loaned by a friend. Barbara Erskine’s ‘Sleepers Castle’ is set around the book town of Hay on Wye and one of my favourite places in the world. Eskine combines a modern day protagonist with a medieval tale in a location haunted by the ghosts of past and present. The book delves into the real Welsh History of Owain Glyndwr and his revolt against English rule and has taught me a lot about local history while colourfully bringing to life very real characters who are re-imagined in that era. My friends vivid description of the ending bringing her to tears, immediately made me want to read it. For it’s every Author’s dream to write work with such a profound effect and every reader’s to become immersed with such passion.
I’ve found that my desire to finish my day and return to my current literary world has returned. I’ve found myself going to bed early and staying up late, although this time there is no need for my childhood torch, I get to decide when my light goes off. When the last chapter is read, before it gets pushed onto its place on my bedside table, on top of the pile of awaiting friends. I’ve become fully invested again. I’ve made proper time for reading. I’ve fought against the many distractions and won. For now, anyway.
And it’s exciting. It reminds me why I picked up that first book, why I bought my first copy of Tess of the D’urbervilles, why I spend as much spare time as I can writing my own books. To read is to live, to experience, to explore. To learn, to grow, to value, to evolve. It is important, it’s not selfish or unnecessary, to me it’s inspiring and empowering. Everyone has a story to tell, and there are so many stories out there to experience. We’re lucky we’ve got a wide access to them, we shouldn’t waste it. So I’m off to finish a few more chapters. See you on the next page…