Essay

How I Started Reading Again: A Born-Again Bibliophile’s Journey

Deepti Thomas

December 08, 2017

I remember, as a child, my favourite pastime was reading books: voraciously devouring them, engulfed in the storyline, becoming the characters I related to until the last page of the book.
I used to wonder why my favourite authors couldn’t segment parts of my life, write my story; I wondered how that would have been. I thought, maybe, my life is one great book in the making where I am the character, being both sculpted and discovered by the reader within me.
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I was often seen leaving the library, carrying a stack of books taller than my frame, gingerly walking down the steps after having borrowed the library cards of half my classmates. My hunger and thirst were satisfied more by the characters I would become, than the cold food and water that lay wasted on the table.

I wouldn’t eat or drink while reading in the fear of tainting my revered collection. I took a long time before I started lending my books, for they contained a part of my soul and I never trusted anyone enough to share my soul with them.

Virtues of patience, trust, compassion, honour, bravery, and to stand up for what’s right were imbibed from universes created by Enid Blyton, Isaac Asimov, Robin Cook, Ruskin Bond, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie, and from classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, To Kill a Mocking Bird, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I was enthralled by comics like Chacha Chaudhary, Tinkle, Chandamama, Phantom, Tintin, Asterix and Obelix, and Archie. I had my personal Google in the form of Childcraft, Young Scientist and Britannica encyclopaedias.

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So what happened? What changed as I grew older; why did I stop reading? With the internet, came the constant need for speed. Books were no longer an experience, rather they became a conduit for fast learning, an activity I pursued only functionally to consciously upgrade myself. I started behaving as if I didn’t have the luxury of time to sink into an alternate world and had to keep moving in real time.

I started reading book summaries to quench my curiosity and skipped living the journey of reading it. With the advent of apps like Blinkist, my lessons were articulated in 10 pages, like a 5-minute education on the go.

As if it’s possible, I placed a cost on the time I spent learning from every word I read, robbing myself of the sheer joy of discovering a whole new perspective, hitherto unknown to me. This is an attitude I see even in the young kids of today.

So what do we do? How do we get our old friends back? As Shubhi suggests: Start with a genre you are familiar with and maybe re-read your favourite series.

I went back to Platform 9 3/4 and boarded the Hogwarts Express, all the way till I waved Albus Severus Potter goodbye. I let Professor Langdon take me back in time as he unravelled one crime scene after the other. Paulo Coelho breathed meaning into even the most mundane pursuits signifying it is the journey that brings us happiness, not the destination.

Another habit I forayed into was signing up for a book subscription box each month. I was enamoured by the idea of a monthly/quarterly subscription surprise box that you look forward to, bringing in a mix of genres you may have never experimented with, along with goodies that a bookworm indulges in like coffee powder and cookies, unique bookmarks, lapel pins, and posters. These boxes made me step into the world of adventure, an ever gripping mystery even before I had read the synopsis on the back cover! With certain social media sites like Quora, Facebook Groups, and Instagram, you have avenues to meet fellow book lovers and discuss, debate and at times co-create fan fiction that lives long past the length of a series.

Irrespective of the genre, read not to get done with it, but to explore a whole new world, find a friend, a mentor or maybe the future version of you, alive in the words you read like Bastian in The Neverending Story. Create a whole new world of possibilities that enchants and beckons you, and in that moment, with no thoughts of past or the future, let the present unravel, merely through the power of words.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books, to find words for what we already know. In Louis L’Amour’s words, “For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.”

Deepti Thomas is a solo traveler and a storyteller at heart. She wonders if there is a Latin version of 'I write therefore I think'. She is often found lost in the passages of either a crime thriller or in the world of Tibetan Energy Medicine with the eternal hope of writing a book she would understand one day.

She works as a freelancer with The Curious Reader and also runs a home bakery for ketogenic desserts. Follow her on Instagram.