Notes from a recovering English major
Nelisha Silva | Monday, August 30, 2021
I love to read. It’s my favorite form of entertainment, over watching TV or movies, or listening to podcasts. I’ve always loved to read. My mom loves to tell me that I was an easy kid because all I did was read books quietly in the corner. I was definitely that weird kid in elementary school that would read during all classes and get in trouble for not paying attention in science class. I would read absolutely anything and everything — from reading ahead in the short stories textbook to the “Goosebumps” books I not-so-stealthily borrowed from the class library. I read so much that when I got in trouble, my parents would punish me by taking my books out of my bedroom. It was truly a devastating punishment for a bookworm like me.
But things changed when I got older. For most of high school and the first two and a half years of college, I basically stopped reading. It had gotten so tied to homework and school that I just couldn’t do it for fun anymore. The idea of reading a book for fun after reading for school just didn’t make sense in my brain anymore, and I only read a couple books a year. I was just too tired of reading to do any more.
And then I went to college and became an English major, where I had to read more books for class. What a wonderful idea for a girl who loved to read! I wanted to be an English major because I loved books, but I hadn’t realized that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to turn my favorite pastime into required work for my college major.
Anyways, college kicked off two and a half years of only reading for class. Not to say that reading for class wasn’t fun, because I did enjoy it most of the time, but it wasn’t the same as reading for fun. Outside of class, I tried to read a couple books a year, and liked those, but it was a slog to get through even my favorite ongoing series. I felt so much pressure to analyze all of the books I was reading that even when I read a non-school related book, I felt like I had to read “correctly,” keeping my eyes open for underlying messages and potential analytical subtext. It was exhausting.
But when my pandemic-ridden junior year rolled around, and suddenly I was stuck inside my apartment all day, I decided to give leisure reading another shot. I bought a random sci-fi mystery that seemed interesting, and I just started reading. I didn’t think about if the characters were trying to tell me something deeper, I didn’t think about how exactly gender roles were prescribed or rejected and I definitely did not think about whether or not the author meant to convey a certain message. I took what I was reading at face value, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished that book in one sitting (Or one laying? Is it different if I was on my bedroom floor?). I loved it so much that I picked up another book as soon as I finished the first book, and I finished that one too.
And so started my journey to recover from the damage high school and college English classes had unleashed upon me. I would love to say that I started slowly, that I eased my way back into reading for pleasure, but in reality, I just jumped right in. I got a digital library card (shoutout St. Joseph County Public Library and the Libby app; I love you) and I just started reading. I started by just reading whatever was at the top of the charts and Reese’s Book Club picks, but then found my own niches that I loved. Now, I read a mix of fantasy, thriller, literary fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries and young adult dystopia (yes, I am too old for that, I know, and no, I don’t care, it’s my comfort genre). I love every minute of it. I read every single day, and I’ve realized that it’s enough to just like a book without having to analyze every sentence in it. I had to convince myself that it was okay to read non-intellectual books and just enjoy a teenage detective solving a crime in her hometown.
Long story short, I love reading. I love reading analytically for class and using critical lenses to create a larger story, but I also love reading YA dystopian novels that follow the exact same plot formula as all “The Hunger Games”-wannabe novels. And both kinds of reading are equally important. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve realized that there wasn’t really a point to this column — just that I love to read and figured out how to do that again after reading for school massively burned me out. But, if you also love to read or if you’re ever looking for book recommendations, my email is at the bottom of this column — feel free to use it.
You can contact Nelisha at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.