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Growing up, reading was always something we were forced to do. During the school year, we had reading levels and reading goals and book fairs and we read aloud as a class. We did book studies and book reports and analyzed literature and authors’ styles. Reading wasn’t supposed to be fun; it was supposed to help you learn. Those who enjoyed it were deemed nerds or geeks. It wasn’t cool to read recreationally. As we made our way through high school and middle school, at least for those of us who liked to read, our relationship with books became almost shameful so maybe we stopped reading as much.
Books have always been there for me when no one else has, but I forgot about them for a while. We all have felt the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic during these past few months, but the biggest — and maybe the only — positive was rededicating myself to reading. I’ve read almost 50 books this year and I don’t plan on stopping. Reading has been there for me when I need to escape or when I need a friend or when I need to just pass the time.
As an adult, and especially during the past few months, I’ve learned that reading can be necessarily thought-provoking; it can allow you to fill someone else’s shoes and have empathy and educate you on an experience you were blind to. It’s important to recognize and support stories and characters and authors that step out of the “straight cis white Christian able-bodied male” box because reading about these experiences — across all genres — can teach you more than any history book can.
This column isn’t a place for required reading, but a place where I can share what I’m reading and what I’ve learned, whether that be from a contemporary novel or a romance or one of the many books from my Stephen King collection.