It was about five years ago when I really dove head first into becoming a reader. I was just embarking upon studies in English at university and the world of fiction, novels, and storytelling was opening up to me. Before then the amount I read of anything was actually rather limited.
I read the Harry Potter series as they came out, up until Order of the Phoenix. The release of Half-Blood Prince marked a distinct transition in my reading patterns. While many of my friends eagerly picked up their copies, I found myself disinterested, instead picking up a copy of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. This led to me going through a brief fascination with Wells, compelling me to read The Invisible Man and The Time Machine as well. I got a copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, but for some reason did not end up reading it.
As I’ve said, it was still a number of years before I really delved into becoming a reader of various works, but I felt this little instance was an interesting one to share because it was the first time I expanded my horizons when it came to reading.
When I finally did open up to reading across the spectrum of literature it was like opening a flood gate. Not only did an influx of novels find their way into my possession because of the extensive syllabi of my courses, but I began to seek out and buy massive amounts of books on my own, purely for the pleasure of it. I became a collector, slowly building my own library until I had stacks of books and nowhere to put them. Many of these books I’m happy to say I have since read, but many more have been sitting in stacks on my shelf for years waiting for me to crack open their pages.
Even now, as I write this, I can simply look up and count six books before me that I haven’t started reading: Sarah Court, Lullaby, The Penguin Book of Norse Myths, The Princess Bride, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost. Among these are some I intend to get through this year, and some that I may not start for years to come.
This impulse to collect books became such a problem that a couple years ago I imposed a rule upon myself that — with a few exceptions of course — I would only buy the next book in a series if I had read the previous one. Along with this, I force myself to resist buying a new book unless I intend to read it soon after buying it.
Needless to say, I’ve got enough books to keep me consistently reading for a long time. It has actually become a great personal undertaking to get through them all. I make lists of what I want to get through each year, as well as keep a log of what I have actually finished.
While books are the primary culprit, my collection of content extends well beyond books to include comic books, movies, and video games. I have access to more of each than anybody reasonably should, to the point where it sometimes seems insane to buy anything new.
During 2014, however, a dear friend of mine managed to inadvertently change my perspective. As I observed her revel in her love of specific series through fandoms, recounting times she’d re-read an entire series of books, or simply re-watched favourites for the joy of it, I realized that this was something I had not been doing. For all of the stories I’d fallen in love with over the years I’d never revisited them or taken the time to go through them once more and rediscover why I loved them so much. I’d been so caught up in going through all the new content I have that I have neglected what I already love.
I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes from A Storm of Swords: “Old stories are like old friends. You have to visit them from time to time.” I took this to heart recently and I have visited some old friends: I’ve watched Sin City once again, played through an entire file of Ocarina of Time, and just finished reading all eleven volumes of The Sandman comic book series by Neil Gaiman. All of the above turned out to be more comforting and fulfilling than I could have imagined, each offering something new that I hadn’t experience with them before.
My reading journey is far from complete, and I have a lot of new ground to cover before I am done, but sometimes it really is important to just stop and retread some old ground, visit some old friends, and remind yourself why you’re making the journey in the first place.