What is joy, really?
Google it and out spits out this answer. Very helpful.
I’ve had to ask this to myself if there is joy in reading more and more since being busy with school, the blog, and work. Why am I pushing myself to read 2-3 books a week? Is it really bringing me joy in life or is it just creating more stress?
Reading is cathartic, it releases the pent up emotions that are held inside of us, begging for release when there really isn’t one at all times in real life. It is an intensely emotional process that readers go over, again and again, begging for more each time they pick up a new book.
It’s like a drug or adrenalin for a junkie who would rather sit at home under a blanket with a warm drink. It’s not surprising that even the best readers get a case of reader’s block from time to time. After our emotions are frayed, there is nothing left for us to pour into a new story.
Is there really joy to be had in reading?
When first considering this question, I wondered why I was asking myself this, because of course there is. But really, why are the books and stories that hurt me the most the books that I hold closest in my heart and on my shelves. Why don’t I actually fling them out the window, set them on fire, and vow to never read again?
It’s the stories. They stick with us. Forever.
I’m sure that there is at least one book that you read as a child and loved. Now, try to remember your favorite aspects of that story, what attracted little you to it, the ending, the main characters, what they looked like in your mind, and what setting you read that book in.
I didn’t take you down memory just for nostalgia. In the midst of adult life where all of our calendars are overflowing with bills and due dates, you could still remember a story that was impactful on your life.
Why do we decide to journey into the story?
When a reader decides to step into the world of the story they are putting their heart into the author’s hands. It’s a trust exercise and one that should not be taken lightly. When a reader steps into the story, they don’t know what is going to happen, how much they will come to love the villain, which characters will die or change into something that they can no longer respect, what the ending will be.
Readers don’t ever know if at that by the end of the book when they close the back cover and breathe a sigh of relief if it will be heavy with sorrow, if they will have been personally changed, or if they now have empathy for another’s views of the world.
Readers go on this journey to feel.
The first time a reader finds that they enjoy reading is simple: there is a book that is absorbing them, changing them, making them into what they needed to be. For me, this happened when I was in fourth grade and I found the books Holes and Olive’s Ocean. That’s when I knew that reading was not a thing a did for school or just to pass time. That was the first time reading really changed me and left me with ideas, viewpoints, and more questions than answers.
Through reading, we, as readers, uncover the parts of us that otherwise would not have been found. With each book that a person reads, there is more and more that they are discovering about themselves, about the world around them, about other people. “Readers are leaders” as the old quote goes.
Reading changes us.
One story that has always stuck with me is Sarah’s Key, a horrifyingly dark story about WW2 and the Jewish children in France. Another that had a better ending was Sweetbitter.
I will always carry these stories with me, my heart will always feel the heaviness of the emotions that these stories stirred in me, they will always be a part of my life. The memories of these stories, in and when I was reading the book, will always be with me as well. I can not imagine myself without the stories.
Readers walk around with memories of lives that they have not actually lived, heartbreaks that did not happen in real life, hopes for a world that only exists within pages.
Reading is a refuge for the mind.
Mental illness is on the rise, and it’s really no wonder why when you take a look at the world right now. I personally struggle from depression and anxiety, which is something that I do not talk about often. Books have always offered me a place to put those struggles aside and give me a place to sit for minutes to hours without the world or my own mind giving me grief.
It can easily be said that reading can help with mental illness, not only because of my experience but from other book bloggers who tell their story of struggling with mental illness and the one thing they always fall back on is reading.
Books offer shelter from the worries of the mind, a safe space for the reader to travel to another world until they feel that they can handle the one they are in.
How to find joy in reading.
It can be as simple as trying out a genre that you would not typically read, going to your public library, or donating the books that you no longer get satisfaction from.
A way that you can create a space where you can find joy in reading is by going to a quiet and comfortable area, light a few candles maybe, get a nice drink (coffee, lemonade, wine, etc.) and maybe a few snacks, nice blanket if it happens to be a bit chilly, and a book that you’re interested in.
Despite there being so much going on in the realm of my life, one way that I find a lot of joy in reading is going to the once a month book club that my public library does.
A few guidelines for reading in a way where joy will come naturally is to get out of your comfort zone every now and then, you don’t have to finish a book if you aren’t into the story, you don’t have to read mainstream books, and don’t read the reviews on Goodreads before you start the book! Really, just let reading be from you, not from the world.
Go rediscover the joy of reading and create your own path for a more joyful 2019!
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