I could spend hours in a book shop browsing the shelves, breathing in that new book smell and spending the entirety of my bank account. I am a book worm.
So when it came to choosing what I wanted to do at university, it was a no brainer – English Literature.
It was a fantastic experience. We explored so many texts from different eras and social contexts and had the freedom to choose what to specialise in. No surprises that I specialised in Gothic and Dystopian fiction.
This is where “you can never have too much of a good thing” is sadly untrue. After spending 3 years immersed in reading 4+ novels a week (yes, a week!) I am no longer a fan of books.
I still like reading so don’t burn me at the stake just yet. Nowadays I can only read books that can provide some sense of pure escapism with little overt reference to social or political contexts. Which now seems to be very difficult…
My degree taught me to have an analytical mindset and look deeper into texts and ask questions about them. This is a mindset I cannot seem to shake. I can’t even open books such a Bridget Jones without being sucked into complex themes such as repressed feminism. I imagine musicians must be the same – tormented by being able to dissect a soundtrack and being unable to just enjoy a song in it’s rawest form. Joy.
I now find myself buying books more for the front cover art or the inner OCD tendencies within me that like rectangle and square things to line up perfectly. *dreamy sigh*
If you happened to stumble upon my Kindle, you’d find it full of trashy young adult fiction or romances with floored story lines and shallow characters. These of course, still have their place in the modern literary canon but will never be the great works of Shakespeare or Shelley.
This is not to say that I didn’t like the books I read at university. I was exposed to some great books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have read. I fell in love with some works such as Frankenstein, Song of Solomon or Brave New World and would read them for pleasure again in a heartbeat.
And herein lies the issue. A degree forced me to finish reading books that I didn’t enjoy. I couldn’t decide to put a book down because I didn’t like. I had to see every book through for the sake of essays and exams. This mindset has also stayed with me in adult life. I find it impossible to put down a book that I loathe out of shame/habit. It was only last week that I started reading Amnesia by Peter Carey, got 100 odd pages through and realised I was wasting my time. Back on the bookshelf it went. I did feel a tiny bit guilty but also had a great weight off my shoulders knowing I didn’t have to subject myself to said book any longer.
Could it be that my taste in literature has been elevated to new heights? Maybe I am looking in the wrong places for a book that is going to change my life again? Maybe I need to get over myself and force feed myself some fiction.
Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels disenchanted with literature. For now, I’m going to wait for a superpower which tells me whether I will like a book just by looking at the cover…