Roald Dahl, JK Rowling, Lemony Snicket, Paul Jennings, Darren Shan, C.S. Lewis.
These are but some of the names of my favourite authors as a child. As you can likely tell, I was born in the 90’s. The Internet too was in its youth (though not in its infancy) and was beginning to blossom into what it is today.
And as many people as they unfortunately grow into their teens and early twenties, I stopped reading almost completely. I thought myself completely independent from the confines of hard covers and thick pages.
Too many things were going on in my pseudo-busy life. I was meeting new people, making new friends. I had no time to read!
You could say it was a hint of youthful foolishness and arrogance.
To my honest credit, the only reading I did during this time was of news articles, websites and Wikipedia.
I remember a few years back listening to Will Smith (yes, the Fresh Prince) as he gave a speech to some young adults. He mentioned two things that he found essential to living a fulfilling life.
Running and Reading.
Note: Running is another very important aspect that I hope to implement in my life, but that will perhaps be the topic of another blog entry.
He mentioned his reasons for reading. He said (and I paraphrase) that every single problem we have in our lives, every issue we experience, it has most certainly happened to someone else before in history.
Someone else has felt this pain. Someone else has experienced this struggle, and someone else has written their experiences to include the world and let you know how they overcame it.
Now I don’t have to agree with Will Smith on everything (his last few films haven’t been that great in my opinion), but I do agree with his stance on this. Usually when we have an issue in our lives, we confide in another. What better resource in addition to your close ones than the innumerable amount of books and writings available to the world?
And so it began. But as an aspiring minimalist, was I supposed to collect every single book that I wanted to read? Surely a no brainer for some, but I wanted to keep my physical footprint as low as possible. eBooks turned out to be the perfect match for how I wanted to start this new chapter in my life. I could take any book I wanted with me wherever I went – my whole collection in fact!
Travelling While Still
And thus earlier this year I started reading again. I initially asked myself what I was interested in and found it suiting to immerse myself in the classic ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ by renowned author Jules Verne.
I encountered the all familiar initial struggle, seeing if the book was really for me or not, forcing my way through a page or two to convince myself that I really did give it a try at least. I wasn’t going to give up on reading that easily, after all – not everything is always exactly how you want it right? Isn’t that simply life?
Eventually I found myself physically still, but mentally submerged and drowning in the world the author had drawn with his mind. One moment I was the steel-chinned, noble Phileas Fogg, the next his brave and unwavering assistant Passepartout.
I travelled with these characters every moment of downtime I had. Travelling to work in the mornings on the tube suddenly became a dangerous, tumultuous journey on Elephant-back through the Indian Jungle. Taking the bus to visit someone suddenly became travelling on a sled across the snowy plains of the USA being pulled along by snow dogs.
I was a silent spectator, present at every step of the fantastic voyage across the world. And I loved every moment of it. My heart jumped in excitement as I turned every page, but it fell slightly each time, knowing that the end grew nearer.
To cut a long story short, I finished the book (which was both a happy and sad event) and realised that I had been depriving myself of an entire Universe for most of my adult life.
No matter how dull my life had ever been – there were times where I was stuck in joyless routines for weeks and months – there were always books there. Waiting to be read and waiting to draw me in. Waiting to take me away from the normal grind and for that brief time, replace it with something out of this world.
I realise now in hindsight (which is now 20/20 mind you), that the hole left in me from reading as a child could never have been filled with news articles, social media or Wikipedia. While beneficial, these things are purely informational and do not satisfy the cravings of adventure and bravery for which the souls of Men may yearn.
I am glad to have learnt my lesson and I look forward to humbly continuing my old pastime.