“person reading book” by Tbel Abuseridze on Unsplash

Why I Hated Reading in High School

And how I overcame the misconception that adult books are boring

I developed an allergy to all things book. From the age of 14 to 18, I would break out with a severe case of boredom. The only thing that eased my suffering were boys and — more boys.

I started with the standard fare of Curious George and Clifford. By the age of twelve I had progressed to queen of tweens Miss Judy Blume. Then it happened. I’m not sure which came first, the tragedy that is Macbeth or Hester Prynne and her A. My eyes rolled back in my head as Old English pronouns rolled around in my brain. Where was J.K. when I needed her?

Nothing is wrong with the 1984’s and the Animal Farm’s, I don’t think I was ready for such magnificence, such deep cleverness. It all went over my head and landed somewhere in my distant future.

High school ended and boys became men, and they weren’t nearly as interesting. I reintroduced myself to books. I started slowly, with things that would go down easy. I had two passions, music from the ‘70’s and serial killers. My reading alternated between the exploits of rock gods and David Berkowitz’s talking dog. Then I met her, Edith and her house full of mirth. She introduced me to Thornton and his bridge who in turn introduced me to Mr. Dickens and his carol.

I can’t imagine I’d be a writer today if I didn’t pick up a book and try again. High school English almost put a nail in that coffin. I assumed adult books had nothing to offer except a good night’s sleep. Why were we tortured with books we weren’t ready to appreciate? Did they think forcing us to read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich would make us world leaders?

Today high school kids are blessed with the likes of Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and Ransom Riggs. I suppose they should thank the surge of Young Adult fiction flooding the market. There is now a plethora of fantastic material to choose from. Lucky devils. Although I suppose if I really looked hard enough, I would have found plenty of books that I would’ve enjoyed. But like I said — boys!

High school was many years ago, and I’ve been a steady reader since then. I’ve read wide and deep and I’m not ready to slow down. It is off putting to me when adults freely admit that they don’t read, and if this person is a writer it really goes beyond comprehension. How does one write if one doesn’t read? Non-writers don’t see this as a problem, but reading improves writing in many ways. Everyone from Faulkner to King have commented on the importance of reading in a writer’s life. Judging!

I’m sure I sound pompous, but I cannot imagine a life without well written stories. Stories that can be obtained for low cost or free. One of the most common excuses I hear is, “I don’t have time to read.” To that I say, “But you have time to spend on social media.” “But you have time to watch The Housewives of Who Cares.” I have the benefit using mass transit daily. My ride ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour each way. I tell those who drive to work there is always a way to get a book in. That’s what Audible is for. If that’s too rich for your wallet, many public libraries offer e-audiobooks. Or why not wind down with a physical book before bed — 15 minutes a day is better than 0 minutes a day.

Then there is that excuse — the same one I had in high school. “Reading is boring.” This comment I understand, but it isn’t true. I had to find that out for myself. A person just has to find something that interests him or her. It is not written that we have to read Joyce’s Ulysses to be considered a reader. Read whatever turns you on. Everyone has an interest, and there is a book out there for everyone. Look harder.

Essayist, Poet, and Fiction writer from New York City. Unglamorous superhero by day. Part-time English Professor by night.

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