When I was in college I used to think that the coolest part of graduating and getting a job would be that I finally had weeknights and weekends to myself. No more homework, no more study groups, and no more exams; just me and my books getting cozy after a productive day of helping people and making bank.

After three months at my post-grad job, I realized that when I came home all I really wanted to do was eat, shower, and sleep. Sometimes I would catch a show or a movie on Netflix (while I cooked and cleaned of course…if college taught me anything it was how to be a bomb multi-tasker) but rarely did I feel the urge to pick up a book. For someone who used to squeeze in a chapter or two any way that she could–walking from one class to the next, waiting at the crosswalk for the light to change, standing in line at the supermarket–the feeling of not wanting to read made me uneasy.

So whenever I felt that way, I used my go-to excuse: I was mentally and emotionally drained from the day and what I needed at home was something I didn’t get at work: mindless entertainment. Reading for me takes time and focus. I read for fun, but the kind of reading I find exciting is the kind that involves analyzing and critiquing and lots of penciling-in-the-margins (and Post-Its. Many Post-Its. It’s a very involved process, my reading). It was less work for me to binge-watch Twin Peaks on Netflix than it was to start (and finish) a book, which is why I continually opted for the former.

Then one evening as I numbly hit “next” on every recommendation Netflix was throwing at me–I mean Gigli, seriously? I’ve given you six hours of my life today Netflix and it’s like you don’t even know me!–the fog in my brain cleared for one miraculous second, and I sat up so quickly that my MacBook toppled out of my lap and snapped shut. For the first time in what felt like forever, I wanted to read. And like, not in the it’s-a-foreign-movie-so-I-gotta-read-the-subtitles kind of way, but like really read. I wanted to read about dragons and far-off galaxies, about children detectives and animals that could talk. I wanted to read essays and research papers and textbooks. I wanted to read all the things! I can’t explain where the overwhelming desire to cram as many pieces of print media in my brain came from–was it my mind finally rebelling after all the trash I made it watch? Was it my eyes telling me that they don’t really like staring at a glaring screen as much as I think they do? I’ll never know!–but I’m glad it came.

That was when I picked up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, a wonderful novel that I would recommend to all the misfits and oddballs out there, and just the kick in the pants I needed to get into reading again. For those of you in a similar reading rut, I dare you–nay, I double-dog dare you–to join me as I make my way through a Reading Challenge. Happy Reading!

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