Remember when you first learned to read? That heady pride that came along with holding a big, glossy book in your tiny lap and reading all by yourself – not just dully sounding out the words, but actually telling yourself a story? Until then, stories were just a bedtime performance that you could only enjoy as long as you could keep your eyes open. Suddenly, your little world spun out about a thousand times bigger, because it wasn’t just your world anymore; with a stack of books by your side you had the power to leap between worlds!
Do you remember craving new stories? It became a natural extension of your basic human needs – food, rest, shelter, love, Harry Potter. You adopted characters as loved ones, worried about their fates, maybe even channelled them. You stayed up well after bedtime to finish just one more chapter. You read at the dinner table. You spent long summers revelling in the worlds you found on paper. You read while walking down the road, so engrossed in the plot that your mum had to steer you out of oncoming traffic. (That last one was me. I did this.)
Now ask yourself honestly – how long has it been since you felt that rush; the one that seemed to glue both your eyes and your heart to the page, that still utterly laid claim to your mind days after you’d turned the last page?
Do you read like this anymore?
I doubt many of us can read like that as adults. We can’t always throw ourselves so whole-heartedly into fictional worlds when we have so much going on in our real, grown-up lives. There comes a time for many of us when we have to start making more and more room on our reading list for educational, vocational, compulsory and obligatory reads. Besides, after a certain age you’d be hard-pressed to convince someone to guide you down the street while you bury your nose in a book (thanks Mum!) But this doesn’t mean you’ll never get even a little of that honeymoon-reader magic back. There’s actually a very simple solution: re-read your childhood favourites.
The books you read as a kid painted a world that was fresh and unpredictable, brimming and dazzling with possibility. They were about characters who were savvy, honourable, strong, and smart – and how they found the tools to navigate their own stories. Re-reading these books is one of the closest things you can get to time travel. You can reunite with the heroes and heroines of your youth, and suddenly remember who you were when you first fell for them. You can rediscover the magic and detail that built your childhood happy place. You can pick up on the subtle ways that these books influenced the person you are today.
And if you’re really lucky, you might just remember how to lose yourself entirely in a story.