How I Stopped Reading


It was a winter quarter back in my college days. In my haste to wrap up my major level classes, I eagerly signed up for all three courses offered without fully examining the description of each class. The subject matter alone was simple enough – Americana, 19th Century British Literature, and a course examining the “hard-boiled” novels of the American detective genre.

Had I dared to, oh, I don’t know, exercise my ability to read English, I would have quickly realized I signed away every single cell in my brain for the winter quarter.

When I showed up for registration, it still didn’t hit me. In fact, it didn’t hit me until I made it to the bookstore. I handed my class list to the student helper behind the counter and assumed the “I’ll just wait here forever” stance. The student looked at my classes then back at me then back at my class list. Her eyes grew large. She stepped away from the counter and whispered to someone, pointing at my list.

Shit.

They both scurried into action, grabbing books from all over the place, glancing at me in the midst of the insanity.

At the end of the mad rush amidst the books stocked for the quarter, they handed me no less than 18 novels.

I’m going to type that again so it sinks into your brain.

They handed me no less than 18 novels.

EIGHTEEN NOVELS.

EIGHTEEN.

FOR NINE WEEKS OF SCHOOL.

These were not light novels, not the romantic sweep you off your feet beach books you schlepp along with you to the doctor’s office or somewhere else you can quickly catch a glimpse of heaving bosoms.

No. These were books like Sister Carrie by Dreiser, The Rise of Silas Lapham by Howells, David Copperfield by Dickens, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Radcliffe, The Maltese Falcon by Hammett, Night Train by Amis, Child of God by McCarthy, and McTeague by Norris among others I’m sure I’ve long forgotten for a number of reasons.

I read two novels a week for the first four weeks. Then, my brain, in the middle of the night, turned off. It refused to send signals to my fingers to enable me to open a book. I tried, desperately, to crack open another book but all that happened was me, sitting there, holding the book, words swirling about in my head as my brain constantly signaled it was filled to capacity with knowledge.

I managed to scan the required sections of the remaining books but couldn’t bring myself to read the entire novels for the remainder of the quarter. In fact, I did not read a complete reputable book for over five years. That’s right. Me. The girl with a degree in English Literature, did not touch a single book for over five years.

Talk about being completely out of my element. I started writing when I was six. I devoured books as if they were smarties while growing up. But there was something about being forced to read 18 hardcore novels in such a short span time which killed a breaker in the “I love books” part of my brain.

In the past couple of weeks, I have devoured two books. One of them was only 87 pages long but it was by far the most difficult of all the books. It is both exhilarating and wonderful to be reading at this pace again. I find myself looking forward to opening books again, which is a pleasant surprise.

There’s only one caveat to this rediscovered love of reading – I will only read books made from dead trees. No ebooks for this gal, no sir. 100% dead tree for me or no words at all. That’s my dedication to books and I’m sticking to it.

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