I’ve had a lot of hobbies throughout my life, and I’ve tried a variety of self care activities, but reading is the one that has remained the most constant. My parents claim I started reading when I was three years old. I read in the car, at the dinner table, on vacation, holed away in my bedroom, in my tree house, and anywhere I could find an extra minute to flip through just a few more pages.
I devoured series like The Babysitter’s Club, Dear America, and The Saddle Club in elementary school. I obsessed over Harry Potter in high school, as well as classics like Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice. In college I read more historical fiction than you probably even knew existed. I’ve identified with different characters depending on what I was going through in my own life, and I remember them like old friends.
Now as a parent whose spare time is more precious than ever, I’ll still read almost anything. Psychological thrillers, fantasy, and yes, even guilty-pleasure chick lit from time to time. (Who among us didn’t thoroughly enjoy Big Little Lies?) Mama needs an escape, even from this life that I feel so lucky to have that is mostly lovely most of the time, and there is no escapism like immersing yourself in a book.
Could I use this time to exercise or sleep or finally attack some project I’ve had pinned for months? Yes. Could my house be cleaner? Absolutely. But do I also spend too much time browsing social media and re-watching old episodes of The Office? Also yes. Most of us do have time to read, at some point throughout the day. We have to carve it out for ourselves, but it is so worth it.
There is plenty of research that explains why reading is helpful for your children’s development, and you set a great example for your kids by reading yourself. But I’m not asking you to do it for them; I’m asking you to do it for you.
We’re already reading constantly throughout the day: skimming e-mails, texts, Facebook posts, Twitter, online news articles, reciting children’s books over and over again. But at night when the house is quiet, it is a kind of therapy to feel the weight of a book in your hands, to watch your bookmark progress across the binding, to invest hours into something and feel rewarded by its conclusion.
I want to live in a world where we discuss good books like we discuss good TV. I love an intriguing Game of Thrones theory as much as (or more than) the next person, but I also want to talk about the cliffhanger at the end of the most recent Robert Galbraith novel and whether or not you predicted the twist in the latest Gillian Flynn-style thriller.
Join Goodreads. Ask your friends what they’re reading, and pass a few books along to them. Start a book club. And tell me in the comments what you’ve been reading lately that you can’t put down. George R. R. Martin wrote, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Life is too short to not live it a thousand times.