Reading Is Different Now

I love a lot of the books I read for my classes. I really do. The Sound and the Fury and The Sun Also Rises and Dracula and The Brothers Karamazov…I mean, I’m lucky that I can at least sort of understand such complicated and important literature, you know? I’m confused a lot, but I always end up taking at least something from each book. Learning history, understanding society. I like feeling intelligent when I read; I like that it’s sometimes a challenge.

But sometimes, I miss the simplicity of reading. I miss the honesty. I miss being able to relate to the characters, to look for pieces of myself in them. Those books that I read through my childhood, the ones with no “literary merit” whatsoever, those are the books closest to my heart. Sometimes, before I go to bed, even if it’s late, I take one of them off the shelf, open the crinkled, worn out spine, and start to read.

Sara Nickerson’s How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found is one of my favorite books on the planet, and it’s about a twelve-year-old. The book doesn’t criticize society or have some important philosophical message behind it; there isn’t any symbolism or really any rhetorical devices at all. It’s just a twelve-year-old girl, on a quest to discover the truth about the death of her father and her complicated family history. She doesn’t fall in love, although she does realize the enormity of possibility. The writing is simple but clever, and the story is sad but hopeful. I remember being twelve, all that horrible confusion, and reading this book is kind of a moment of clarity, a tribute to the past.

This is the kind of thing I feel like the big-time classics I’m reading now don’t offer me. I’m not transplanted there anymore, I don’t begin to feel as the characters do. Opening a book is like trying to understand a foreign language instead of meeting a new friend. It’s different now, I’m older, I should be able to handle more. But I still hold onto those midnight readings of children’s books, waiting for the day I’ll find the same truths in something else.

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10 comments

  1. Eventually you’ll be done with classes and you can return to reading for the pure pleasure of it. I remember feeling the same way in college. I had so much required reading or reading that needed to be done in order to help me with my studies. I thought I would never be able to sit down with a good mystery or fluff book ever again. But it passes.
    Man, I feel like an old fart writing this comment.

  2. The older I get, and the more books I read, the more I realize how important and valuable my favorite books from childhood and adolescence are. It’s like they only get better with time, and I still really enjoy reading them every now and then. The last time I went home to visit my mom, I pulled out my old picture books and read a lot of them, and it made me ridiculously happy. I think it’s good to hang onto a love of your childhood favorites, because (at least for me) they bring back good memories and remind me of when and why I first began to love stories and reading so very much–way back before I knew anything about metaphors or irony. 🙂

  3. For me it’s Enid Blyton books. Simple stories can have a lot of meaning behind them too…but it’s easy to read. I love books which uses simple words…and yet can convey such meaning to the stories

  4. Sounds lovely! I love reading but feel I just don’t have time for it, then I feel guilty if I do because I could be doing something else, cleaning or food shopping or something. I read a lot in my uni days, sometimes in English, French and Spanish, literature and articles and other non-fiction books, since then – not so much. I’m alternating at the moment, a fiction book followed by a serious book followed by fiction again. I just finished Labyrinth of Solitude, so next is going to be Dan Brown’s Inferno or something!

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