Books have almost always played a part in my life. Not necessarily at the forefront of my mind, but they’ve managed to keep a devoted place in my heart nonetheless. I remember doing the reading program at school with the dedicated booklet where I’d be set a book every week, most likely a ‘Biff, Chip and Kipper’ book (throwback anyone?), eager to progress through the agonising stages to when I could finally read a “proper, big kid’s” book. Which, looking back, probably belonged to the ‘Rainbow Magic’ series, the classic “girly fairy” kind of novels that seemed to apply to every kid my age and gender.
Several years later I progressed onto novels compromising of two or three hundred words, with the font size ever diminishing to the point where I thought it’d be impossible for it to get smaller (turns out that was a very real possibility that I now blame my poor vision on) but I loved books all the same. In hindsight, my primary school was quite good in terms of English. We had a school magazine, which we clumsily wrote articles for, a small but decent book selection and teachers who genuinely wanted us to enjoy learning. I was also lucky in that I escaped the onslaught of an Ofsted (British School Inspectors) and exam driven school environment, however, younger children, such as my brother weren’t so fortunate.
In secondary school I was blessed with a library which I thoroughly enjoyed, spending my lunchtimes scanning through the shelves, but somehow, at some point during my second year, my love for reading (partially) died. Instead of reading novels I’d devote my time to watching TV shows (embarrassingly this comprised of a lot of anime), and when I did bother to read it’d consist of poor novels (if you can even call them that) on Wattpad, mainly written teenage girls a year or two older than me. (I want to put out there that not everything written on that site is bad, in fact there are quite a few good finds if you look hard enough, I merely want to highlight that the quality language wise isn’t at all of that of published novels.)
My love of reading was re-kindled right before my fourth year (and the delightful start of my GCSEs) when I came across and attended YALC (Young Adult’s Literature Convention) with one of my good friends. I had spent a lot of my time, on music tour the week prior, reading, due to being surrounded by other book lovers, and when I returned I hurriedly went out to my local Waterstones and bought a wonderful, but slightly ridiculous, number of books.
The first YALC I went to, in 2016, was an experience that I think I’ll always look back on fondly. The building anticipation beforehand as I tried to decide which day to go that weekend (it turned out the only day I could make was the Friday), scanning through the author list, researching who had the best rated books on Goodreads and which I liked the look of. Then trying to cram in reading as many as I could before the event, so in the unlikely event of them answering a question about what I liked I would be able to actually answer.
The day was just as magical as I thought it’d be. I woke up, put on the Slytherin robes I had bought (YALC takes place during London Film and Comic Con) and grabbed the wand that I hand-made two days before. As we got closer and closer to the venue our orienteering skills were confirmed as we saw more and more fellow convention goers, recognisable for their costumes until anyone wearing normal clothes became an oddity. The authors at the convention were lovely, I got to meet Melinda Salisbury, V.E. Schwab and Patrick Ness (whose talk I also went to and admitted slept through), who were all lovely. I distinctively remember how long the queues were, waiting from at least an hour to over two, but that’s what added to the experience, along with all the stalls from publishers giving free gifts with the occasional free ARC (advanced reader’s copy) providing that you signed up to their newsletter.
So, what does this all add up to?
With reading being ever present in my life I want to devote more time to it and integrate it into my schedule. The times when I’m reading don’t necessarily correlate to better times in my life but I’ve noticed that I’ve always been considerably happier in the few moments when my nose is stuck in a book.
For 2018 I want to put a goal on all this and aim to read 52 books this year. This isn’t a shocking number by any means, and is definitely within reach, but it’s a goal nonetheless and it’ll be interesting to see if I meet it. Possibly this time next year I’ll be reflecting on how I only kept it up for a few weeks but hopefully I’d have learnt something from it, however little.
Regardless, here’s to 2018 and what it brings, and I hope that includes many a book.