How I Became an Avid Reader

My history with books is a long and colourful one

How I Became an Avid Reader
Anangsha Alammyan Instagram

My history with books is a long and colourful one

My very first memories are of my father seating my younger brother and me on his lap and reading out Tintin comics to us. My first language is Assamese. English was a legacy of India’s colonialism, and I barely understood it. My father, however, didn’t let that be a barrier.

He would patiently point to the pictures and translate whatever was happening so his young children could understand the story.

I remember being fascinated by the colourful illustrations, though most of the story was too complex for me to comprehend. To the six-year-old Anangsha, books were like a treasure I couldn’t wait to devour on my own once I was of age to be able to appreciate their magic.

I finished reading my first book when I was seven. It was a book of fairy tales about a princess who kisses a frog which turns to a prince. It has been more than twenty years, but I still remember that feeling of accomplishment, that intense pride of being so grown up, I could complete an entire book on my own.

The First Novel

The first novel happened to me when I least expected it. I was ten-years-old, happily spending the summer vacation at my grandparents’ home, when I found a book in my cousin’s collection. It was a part of the Five Find Outers and Dog series by Enid Blyton. The back blurb promised children of my age going on breath-taking adventures, and I was so intrigued, I dropped everything and started reading.

I had never read such a long story before, but the writing was so captivating, that I finished the whole book in three days.

I remember running to my father, my round cheeks flushed with excitement, exclaiming how I was a big girl now and I could complete an entire book without his help.

That was only the beginning. I read every book by Enid Blyton I could lay my hands on. The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Faraway Tree, Mallory Towers, St. Clares, The Adventures of Noddy — I read them all and found myself falling deeper and deeper in love.

More than the stories, it was the sense of freedom books gave me that captivated my young heart. Through the pages, I could travel into lands I hadn’t ever heard about and experience emotions I had never experienced. This was a priceless feeling and I couldn’t wait to discover more of it.

The Wonders of the School Library

Growing up, my school had a rule that every student had to borrow one book each week from the library. We were given seven days to complete reading it and were expected to be back the next week to borrow a new book.

To me, this wasn’t enough. I remember begging and pleading with the librarian to let me borrow a few extra books each week, but she would have none of it. “Rules are rules,” she insisted.

And so, nurturing the unquenchable thirst for more books that I had, I found a workaround.

I noticed that there were several students in my class who didn’t enjoy reading and considered it a chore. While I spent long minutes carefully pondering over which book I should issue next, these students randomly picked a book, issued it because the rules said so, and returned it the next week without even turning a single page.

I was horrified at first because the twelve-year-old Anangsha hadn’t yet understood the concept that different people have different tastes. However, I saw a loophole in the system I could utilise as I wished.

And so, I got three girls who had no interest in what books to be issued and got them to agree that they would wait until I had picked a book, and issue that one.

Even with the rules my strict librarian had imposed, I found a way to issue four books each week. And because we had to return the books the next week, I started reading as fast as I could, fitting reading into all the free time that I had, so I could complete all four books before the deadline.

That was the start of my journey of being an avid reader.

The strict rules made me appreciate the importance of reading in whatever short bursts of time I could afford, and also forced me to develop the necessary skills I needed to retain as much information as I could within the short time I had.

My Books and I Now

As an adult, I am immersed in much more work than my twelve-year-old self would have ever thought was possible. I am still an avid reader, but it is not possible for me to read every single day.

2016–2018 was the worst time in my life, in terms of reading. I barely managed to finish ten books each year, and that too because I forced myself to read. I derived very little, if any, pleasure from reading.

I made numerous excuses to myself: that I was busy, that I didn’t have any energy left, that I had more important work to do — the list went on and on.

On the surface, it was alright. But deep down, I was miserable.

I missed reading.

I missed losing myself in the familiar comfort of words written by someone else. I missed the flutter of excitement in my heart at the mention of the word “adventure”, and the fierce love one can only feel for a fictional character.

And so, in 2019, I made conscious efforts to bring reading back into my life. It was hard at first, but with time and practise, I managed to read 81 books in the whole year. Here’s the post I wrote about my experiences:

What It Takes To Read 1 Book Every 4 Days
The habits that helped me read 81 books in one year

This wasn’t much compared to the reading productivity of my childhood, but given how bad things were two years prior, this was a start.

Final Thoughts

Reading more is not only a life skill but also a valuable gift. Once I clawed my way back to being an avid reader, I found my life changing in numerous ways, namely:

  • I wrote a detailed review of each book as soon as I was done with them. This not only kept my Goodreads profile updated but also helped me record the key points I enjoyed in the book for future reference.
  • I discovered new writers and made friends with several indie authors whose books I enjoyed.
  • My head feels like a constant buzz of new and interesting ideas, a feeling I was used to back in school but had long since forgotten.
  • The reviews were an excuse to write more. Several of my blog ideas were inspired by the books I had read. I also wrote short stories and poems based on the emotions this bunch of new books made me feel. This was my fringe benefit, but you’ll find your own when you read more books.

More by Anangsha Alammyan in Books Are Our Superpower:

Why We Need More Books With Queer Protagonists
Not everyone is biased. Not everyone is aware either.
Each Book Tells Two Stories
Which story do you read when you re-read a favourite book
Are You A Dreamer Or A Cynic (Why Not Let Your Books Decide?)
What your taste in books reveals about you

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