I cannot stress this enough: books never appealed to me. To sit down somewhere, open up a book and read it seemed the most boring activity on Planet Earth. I would rather spend my time in front of a screen binging on Netflix, playing video games or watching YouTube – staring aimlessly at backlit pixels for what would turn out to be forever.
Maybe it’s the fault of James Joyce, William Golding or Carol Ann Duffy – the authors of certain books/poems we had to read at school – but books and reading in general, has never interested me. It was a chore rather than a hobby and one that would never be completed.
Then we were hit with a big one; a massive summer assignment in my first year of A-Levels that beckoned doom and had me crying out for mercy: Read a book. The substance was a little more than that and the book in question had to be part of a specific era/genre, but all that crap made no difference to me.
Failure was an option.
By this point, I probably hadn’t willingly read anything for over three years. It was 2012 and any book I had read prior was with the aid of some very helpful chapter summaries from Google. Any book I had read prior was for school and not for pleasure. It was almost like I had forgotten how to read, or more specifically, forgotten how to enjoy reading.
When I begrudgingly picked up What the Day Owes the Night by Yasmina Khadra, much to my surprise, my initial attempt was adequate enough. I’d made it past page four in just one sitting. But I don’t remember much after page four. And that’s because I stopped reading the book.
“It’s not you, honestly it’s me.”
“I’m just not ready to make such a big commitment.”
“Don’t just sit there staring, at least say SOMETHING!”
And by nothing I mean, I felt nothing. I had no remorse, no regret, if anything putting down that book never to be opened again was liberating. But now, over five years since that unfortunate incident, I find myself ogling the book again, eager to read it. And this feeling is as surprising as it is reassuring.
It must have been a few weeks after putting down that book, that my sister offered me another: The Help by Katherine Stockett. It probably didn’t fit the spec for the type of book we had to read, but it had black people in it and so, being a black man, I was in. Simple as that.
Not only was I in, I was hooked. I had successfully managed to read the first chapter in one sitting and from there I just carried on. It must have taken me a month to read the whole thing, but that was a monumental accomplishment. For me to read a book of 400+ pages, scribed in small type font, in 30 days was unheard of. It had me worried. Like, I had to check if I was okay.
I was fine, thankfully.
Now I have Katherine Stockett to thank for getting me back into reading. Here’s the part where I say it was all plain sailing from that point onwards, and it was mostly. Not too long afterwards, I read Wonder, by Raquel Jaramillo (R.J.) Palacio and then not long after that, I read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. Both quickly became new favourites of mine.
But then I went to university where it would be necessary to trade the books about slavery, love and facial malformations for computers, binary and the Java programming language. These weren’t the books I wanted to read, so I didn’t. And I didn’t read anything else either. Almost too quickly I found myself again in front of the backlit pixels. I knew it wasn’t healthy for many reasons, but at the same time I didn’t make any attempt to alter my actions. This even continued throughout the early stages of my career; the job I got after university where it would actually be required to stare at screens for eight hours a day, excluding lunch. But in the lunch break if it wasn’t YouTube, it was Candy Crush. And if it wasn’t YouTube or Candy Crush it was Netflix. And on my commute it was a mixture of the aforementioned with a bit of the news. Not a newspaper, instead, articles on my phone.
I had developed a seemingly permanent loathe for paper.
But I guess in a way, my obsession with the digital helped.
Helped me to read again.
There’s this film which was released not too long ago called Paper Towns.
‘Idiot, it was a book turned into a movie.’
I really wanted to watch it. That would be the obvious thing for me to do. But then something shifted inside of me suggesting I should read the book before watching the film.
“It’s John Green, you love his books!”
That I do.
“It’s about American teens, you love America!”
That I did; well, before Trump.
So, I gave it a shot. I actually asked for the book as a Christmas present. It was the one book I had attempted to read during Summer 2016, but I couldn’t make it all the way to the end. I got up to the part where Q and Margo had just finished their nightlong whirlwind adventure and stopped. History was repeating itself in an all too familiar way.
The book continued to lay on my windowsill for days, then months and in total 1.5 years. Until, I just couldn’t anymore. I had watched every Try not to Laugh Challenge on YouTube. I had streamed every episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Stranger Things on Netflix. Now, as I lay awake one morning staring without purpose at my ceiling, I knew I had to read again.
So many things have happened since, all of them surprising, yet all of them reassuring. I hadn’t been lost to the internet. My eyes would again glance at sharp, black, printed letters. I haven’t even finished reading Paper Towns and yet here I am, undeniably yielding to the fact that for the first proper time in my life, I enjoy reading. I haven’t even finished reading Paper Towns and yet I find myself going to purchase two other books, from two different book stores, because both stores didn’t have both books in stock; these books belonging to the following list:
Ayotunde Ikuesan’s 2018, Wonderful List of Books to Read.
The title is extra. I know that, I understand that, but that’s not important. What is important is that there’s five freaking books existing on that list. When literally just days ago, that list didn’t even exist.
At long last, I am a complete nerd. I code, I wear glasses, I play video games, my laugh is wheezy and worrying, I have this horrible acne/rash type thing on my neck and now, finally, I read.
I guess the last thing to say for now is, any recommendations?