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Shameless Reading

Shameless Reading

November 10, 2021

Can you remember a time before reading felt like a luxury? When I was a kid, listening to stories and following along while my mom read to me was the best. When I learned to read on my own, there was no prying that book out of my hands. I’m very lucky that there were frequent trips to the library (the old MCPL branch located on Noland Road beside the B & D skating rink!), and I could come home with an armload of anything I wanted, from the kids or adult sections.

I would browse lazily among the shelves, and if the cover looked intriguing enough, I would choose it. I found Andre Norton, Isaac Azimov, Robert Heinlein, and Anne McCaffrey. Reading was an adventure—easy and fun! Reading was also a guilt-free experience. But these days, I’m so busy that when I do read, I experience several kinds of guilt. As a librarian, there’s guilt about not reading enough because recommending books is an important work skill that must be cultivated both at and outside of work. And when I do find time to read, there is the other kind of guilt—guilt for not accomplishing other tasks.

For some of us, listening to audiobooks during our commute is the only time we have without distractions. Plus, reading between tasks feels less guilt-inducing than appropriating an entire block of time to it. When was the last time you unashamedly sat down to a glut of reading—the kind that gives you eyestrain? Reading the kind of book that you can’t put down, that brings you to tears, or makes you so angry or annoyed that you threw the book across the room? I suspect it’s been too long!

Consider a few things before you disregard, de-prioritize, or shame yourself for reading. Reading has many benefits:

  • Gaining knowledge: Even if you are reading fiction, you are learning! For example, by reading a historical fiction novel, you might learn what people ate, wore, etc.
  • Mental rest and stress release: There is automatic mindfulness training involved in reading. You forget yourself and your problems for a while, and by putting them on the back burner, you free up your subconscious mind to do a bit of the work.
  • Reading as self-care: Sometimes I’m too tired to do anything BUT read, in which case there is no guilt, only a relief that my mind is my own again. Jealously guard your mental space and make reading YOUR time!
  • Brain health: This is a big one. Studies show reading improves communication between parts of the brain, which enhances creativity, verbal skills, vocabulary, and memory, and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Readers also develop empathy as they learn about different experiences and cultures.
  • Reading as an act of rebellion: To seek out information is to reject that which oppresses, keeps us ignorant, or that which wants to maintain the status quo.

Whether it’s shame about the content (feeling that something is too silly, not intellectual enough, or the opposite—reading books with controversial content), or shame about the act of reading itself, I encourage you to put those feelings aside! Carve out a reading nook, block some time, pour yourself a favorite beverage, and get busy wasting time! For inspiration on the act of reading for the sake of reading, check out Heather Cass White’s book Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life.

As John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

Michelle C.
Library-By-Mail Reader’s Advisor

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