I am blessed with a lot of love in my life — love of family, friends, a significant other, the world's most affable Chow Chow-Shar Pei mix — but there is one love that holds a special place in my heart unlike any other: the love of reading.
I picked up my first chapter book (Baby-Sitter's Club #9: The Ghost at Dawn's House) at age 8, and ever since, I've been hooked. Even though the story wasn't particularly inventive or fantastical (there was a perfectly logical explanation for the creepy noises Dawn heard coming from the secret passageway in her house), I loved the way it transported me out of my own life's familiar narrative and into something completely new and different. Suddenly, I was no longer confined to the boundaries of my small, blighted northeastern Pennsylvania hometown somewhere between coal country and the asshole of the universe. I could go anywhere, do anything, be anything. I could be a young patriot during the American Revolution. I could be a pioneer crossing the Great Plains in a covered wagon. I could be a society girl who becomes a mutineer and ship captain while crossing the Atlantic. It was like being handed a passport that not only got you into other countries, but other worlds and time periods. And I fucking loved it.
Today, reading is as reflexive to me as breathing or sleeping. It's simply something I do to stay alive. And I'm not the only one — in a survey of American's favorite pastimes, reading ranked No. 1. The reasons we love to read may be as diverse as the types of books that exist, but for book-lovers, one thing is consistent: The initial journey of discovering the joy of reading is a special, exciting experience we always remember.
Somehow, it begins. You get a book as a gift. Your teacher gives you a reading assignment. A book on a shelf catches your eye, and for whatever reason, it seems to whisper, "Read me." Whatever the cause, your interest in reading has been piqued.
Somewhere along the line — maybe it's chapter two, maybe it's chapter 12 — the story stops being just a story, and becomes something more real. There are things riding on this now. Your feelings, for one. You want — no, you need — to know what's going to happen, how this is all going to end. Will the main character, who you have now come to regard as a close, personal friend, triumph or fail? What is the answer to the riddle that has puzzled everyone throughout the book? It's all you can think about. You've fallen down the storytelling rabbit hole, and you don't even care.
You reach the end, and it's beyond even what your feverish, Pixie Stick-fueled brain could have imagined. How did the author do it? This book didn't just contain words on a page; it contained life. Everything felt so real, from the characters to the locations to the emotions — especially the emotions. You are now convinced that authors are straight-up wizards.
Clearly, reading that book was the best decision of your life. You are so excited right now, it's like Christmas morning, the last day of school, your birthday, ice cream, rainbows, and puppies all rolled up into one. You have just discovered a new font of happiness.
It's been a few days (or maybe a few hours) since you finished your book, and you're feeling kind of... funny. The high you were on when you reached the last page has worn off, and you're jumpy. You can't concentrate. Your mind keeps wandering back to the sweet release of endorphins you experienced when reading, and you want it — you want it bad. It's official: You're addicted to books, and you're fiending.
You're ready to beg, borrow and steal your way to more reading material, worried that you'll never be able to get enough, when you find out...
Cue the BEST. DAY. EVER.
You are set for life. Or until you lose your eyesight from overuse. In which case, thank our lucky stars for audiobooks!