Surprised by Reading
by Laila Archer
Like all voracious, life-long readers, my reading life has taken some twists and turns. Certain things have remained consistent throughout the years. For instance, I’ve loved mysteries since discovering Nancy Drew, Cam Jansen, and Encyclopedia Brown as a child. I’ve also kept a record for years of what I read, both in a paper book journal and on Goodreads.
Other things about my reading life have changed over time. There was the time in my early 20s when I had mono and couldn’t read for weeks because it was simply too taxing. (Simply staring at the wall was too taxing.) Like many Gen X-ers, I had my “chick-lit” phase in my mid-twenties. (Those Red Dress Ink books were favorites of mine.) Then, in what shouldn’t have been surprising but was, reading my first book after my son was born took me six weeks. Finishing it felt like a victory, as if my identity (which was obliterated by new motherhood) was slowly returning.
In the past couple of years, however, I’ve found that my reading life has zigged and zagged into uncharted territory, and I couldn’t be more pleased. For basically my whole life I told myself that I didn’t read fantasy or science fiction, with the exception of the Harry Potter series. And then everyone at my favorite bookish website, Book Riot, started talking about Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X Trilogy. I was intrigued. It sounded like a cross between The X-Files and Lost, two of my all-time favorite television shows. I started reading the first book, Annihilation, and was utterly enthralled. I devoured the other two in the series as soon as they were published, and just like that, I was a self-proclaimed fantasy/sci-fi reader.
I just started listening to podcasts late last year. I had just assumed that I didn’t have time for podcasts. Why would I take time to listen to something when I could be reading, right? Then I heard that two of my favorite authors, Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie, were hosting their own podcast called A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment. I decided to give it a try. It was funny, moving, and just plain interesting, and BAM! I was a podcast person. I discovered that I could find time to listen to them while I was doing mundane tasks, like laundry, or dishes, or getting ready for work – time I wouldn’t have been reading anyway. It’s been so much fun to continue to explore the infinite world of podcasts – mostly bookish ones, of course!
But by far the biggest change in my reading life has been becoming a book blogger. A few years ago I never would have envisioned myself writing about books, and having other people regularly read what I write about books! What started as a way for me to have an outlet for expressing my love of reading has evolved into a beautiful connection with other passionate readers. I had no idea when I began just over 18 months ago that there were so many book blogs out there, and that you people were all so darn nice! I love building relationships with other readers. That has definitely been the most pleasant surprise of my reading life journey.
So now I’m a fantasy-reading, podcast-listening book blogger. I can’t even begin to predict how my reading tastes will change in the future, and this really excites me. The past two years have shown me that I am a dynamic individual, capable of far more than I previously thought. They’ve shown me the value of curiosity, of following that little nudge inside that says, “Now that’s interesting.” I’ve realized that we are often held back only by the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. It’s time to start testing some more of my half-baked notions, like, “I can’t cook,” or “I don’t ride bikes.” As reading has reminded me over and over, it’s time to tell some new stories.
Laila Archer is the wife of a strictly nonfiction reader husband, mom to a very active five year old boy, and works as a Senior Branch Assistant at a small public library in Knoxville, Tennessee. She loves Bruce Springsteen, the What Should I Read Next? podcast, and obsessively fiddling with her Goodreads TBR. You can find her bookish thoughts at bigreadinglife.wordpress.com and on Twitter @rosewatercandy.
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